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Zoom doesn’t really lend itself to a lengthy ” State of the Municipality” address, rehashing the year’s challenges and accomplishments…or listing the Borough’s goals for 2021. Those will be published later this month in FACE BOOK postings on my Mayors Page …and in the Pascack Press.
So, tonight I will keep my remarks brief:
I want to welcome back Chris, Erin and Cheryl , and commend them for the unified, dignified and uplifting campaigns that they ran this year. It was exactly what our constituents deserved, perhaps this past year…. more than ever. And it was well received by everyone who was paying attention - even beyond our town’s borders.
This was a very strange Reorg. It doesn’t even feel like a new year. That’s because the virus doesn’t respect the turn of the calendar. Since March we have marked the passing of time on CoVid’s terms; with ITS benchmarks and milestones …consuming our anxious days …. and restless nights.
When I was sworn into the Mayor’s seat last year, I envisioned ...a recommitment to the core duties of local government. Our road infrastructure needed to be re-prioritized, our parks needed revitalization and our PUBLIC Safety Departments – required all the tools necessary to protect us and keep us safe.
Our peaceful lives here in the borough are made possible by our public safety employees and volunteers. When cities across the country, even the great one just across the river, abandon the core duties of local government; the resultant degradation in the quality of everyone’s life becomes dangerously apparent .
But that didn’t happen in Westwood. Our people would not permit it.
In 2020 CoVid took too many of our loved ones and together we mourned their passing. Each one will be remembered, and our determination to fully recover from this plague – will be our testament to their memory.
But it was also a year during which we learned to value the things that really matter. We live in a time when superficial differences are magnified and manipulated to purposefully divide and turn us against each other. Instead , Westwood came together.
We took everything the virus threw at us and we stood shoulder to shoulder supporting each other and our common mission , our only mission – preserving Westwood and enhancing our residents lives here.
Our people performed so many radical acts of organized kindness… that the rare thing … became routine.
Politicians sometimes chastise those who disagree with them, as not representing “who we are as a people”. It’s usually a lot of self-serving bluster, all ”sound and fury…signifying nothing”.
Westwood residents didn’t need to be spoken for. They let their good works silently speak VOLUMES about “who we are”.
I witnessed all my Governing Body colleagues, Borough department heads , employees and volunteers perform magnificently this past year; under the most stressful circumstances.
But Government of, by, and for the people is only as good as the people it serves.
And it was the PEOPLE of Westwood – the EXTRAORDINARY good works of ordinary Westwood residents , whether organizing food drives , contributing to fundraising efforts for children who’d lost a mother ,or a father, to CoVid , shopping for essentials , or shoveling snow for our homebound and elderly ; the people who, with no expectation of compensation, and with no regard for fanfare, or recognition - practiced selfless charity , care and concern. They worked to meet the needs of others – whether helping friends , neighbors or… complete strangers .
Although there was no play book, the pandemic taught us many lessons. As a governing body we had to pivot, react, and adjust to an ever-evolving set of unknowns….AND… to the ongoing roll out of restrictions and regulations. But the real story is how OUR PEOPLE responded to these challenges.
It’s true , I never imagined that I would be dealing with these issues when I was elected Mayor. And I have been the recipient of your generous sympathies; kindly well wishes and numerous prayers.
But I have absolutely no regrets. In fact, I consider myself fortunate to serve as Mayor during these challenging times. Because in this role, from this seat, …I’ve had a clear and comprehensive view watching the people we all serve, reveal their fundamental goodness.
To REALLY understand , and appreciate, the nature of the people we serve… should be a humbling experience. And it should inform how we serve them.
I’m happy to be known as “the guy with the glasses” to Erin’s daughter Sage , or “the guy that drives Uncle Matt around on Memorial Day” , or ”the elf” wearing that ridiculous sweater, cruising with Santa Claus McDevitt. Because we…. aren’t the stars of the show. THEY ARE . We are just the stagehands .
In closing I am thankful for my colleagues on the Governing Body who have helped me work through this, my first year. It was a doozy. And in many ways our work together has only just begun .
However, despite the collective tragedies and sorrows of 2020, witnessing how our people rose to meet them, has only renewed my devotion to our town.
I am EXTREMELY proud to be your Mayor.
Thank you for that privilege.
And may God bless us all in the coming year .