Stephen Yellin: 2 Major Changes Needed for Selecting Volunteers (TAP Series)

Stephen Yellin: 2 Major Changes Needed for Selecting Volunteers (TAP Series)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

Week 3 Question: How would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees? What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?

How would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees? 

One of the best things about Berkeley Heights is our incredible community spirit, and that includes volunteering to serve on Township appointed committees. To volunteer, you currently have to fill out an application and be approved by the Mayor. But I believe there is a lot of room for improvement here. There are two major changes that should take place:

  1. A larger, more diverse group of volunteers should be appointed. There are many residents – myself included – who have applied to serve on these committees but have not been chosen by the Mayor. Meanwhile, others have been appointed to two or more committees, many of whom are vocal supporters of the Mayor and his running mates. This imbalance must be corrected if all residents are truly going to be welcomed to participate in local government.
  2. We must do a much better job in recruiting residents who may be excellent committee volunteers but haven’t been asked. Westfield’s new Mayor, Shelley Brindle, and her team created a townwide, online application drive for committee volunteers, and several hundred residents responded for the first time! We should do the same thing, and put an easily accessible application on our website instead of forcing residents to file a paper request with the Clerk’s office. This will also create a much larger “talent pool” for other volunteer opportunities, including the Fire Department and the Rescue Squad.

What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?

If elected, my responsibility will be to put Berkeley Heights residents first. That means building a stronger, more effective partnership with Union County in order to get back more of our tax dollars, and that is what Angie Devanney, Alvaro Medeiros and I will do if elected.

This approach has had real results: just 15 years ago, an all-Republican Township Committee worked with an all-Democratic county Freeholder Board to create Snyder Park, instead of letting it become a 259-unit housing complex. One of the key people in making that happen was then appointed by that Republican Township Committee to be our Business Administrator: none other than Angie, whose record showed that having a (D) or (R) next to your name doesn’t matter when it comes to making local government do things better.

Union County’s role should be to act as a partner in our efforts to win every possible grant, develop reasonable shared service agreements, and support programs that protect the environment and promote inclusion. This partnership must be a two-way street, however. We must ensure our residents get a voice at the table and are treated as fairly as any other town, and that is a goal Angie, Alvaro and I will strive for if elected.

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