Mayor David Owens
2023 Acceptance Speech
I would like to thank my colleagues, James, Tom, Anna, and Brendan for this honor and for their support and trust in my ability to represent this Governing Body. I know I can count on them to provide council as we move through 2023.
2023 will present us with opportunities and certainly some challenges. Some known and some yet to be revealed. As in the past, we will not overreach but govern with a light touch. I have a great deal of trust in the residents of Branchburg to be responsible and look out for their fellow residents, friends, and neighbors as they have done with each passing weather event and during the Pandemic. Our philosophy as your governing body has and will continue in a manner that is transparent, consistent, thoughtful, confident yet humble and fiscally responsible. We govern as a team and will continue to transition each year with focus and consistency.
I will touch on some current priorities that we will continue to work on as we move through this new year.
- On Taxes: Responsible stewardship of our tax revenues is a keystone. I can not over stress the impact and importance of the decisions made through our budget process. We have a diverse tax base which along with strong leadership allows us to weather challenging times and to continue to support and invest in critical services. To that end, we will work to strengthen this tax base with an increased business outreach program. This will connect our independent businesses and large public corporations in Branchburg to further encourage them to grow and collaborate in ways that will benefit them, the town, and its residents. Additionally, this will provide us with insight into common challenges these businesses face as they attempt to grow and prosper and how we can assist. Many businesses currently have expansions under way or in consideration, that will benefit Branchburg in the short and long term.
- On Education: We are in exciting discussions with Raritan Valley Community College and Somerset County on ways to partner to encourage future enrollment and expansion of their educational offerings. Including discussing how to collaborate with some of our large public corporations to form mutually beneficial skills specific programs. Strong public township schools combined with our Somerville High School, all focused on high quality education and preparing our students for transition to the next level, is a result of a dedicated Branchburg Board of Education and engaged, involved parents. The Township Committee will continue to align and foster our goals of educational excellence and safety.
- On Open Space: This is paramount to the culture and character of Branchburg. We will continue to target parcels of Open Space to round out our portfolio. The parcels will be a combination of passive and active. These may be designated but not limited to activities like hiking, team sports activities, or simply as a buffer between developments. We will also continue to invest in our current parks and open space to provide the best-in-class outdoor experiences. We will look to partner with the County as well, when and where we are in alignment, as with river access and connectivity.
- On Health and Public Safety: We will continue to address the needs and requests of our all-volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service providers with the necessary equipment and resources. We are all proud of the dedication and high standards to which they provide service and ensure the safety of our community.
- On the Branchburg Police Department: As stated many times by the members of this Township Committee, we believe this department is one of the best in the state! Through leadership and recognized national accreditation, their foundation and culture is strong! We are excited to begin the interview process for a new police chief, with Phase 1 beginning this Saturday. This individual will be promoted from our ranks and sworn in this year. We expect that these steps will create additional opportunities in the Branchburg Police Department moving forward.
- On Residential and Commercial development: Developments can have a positive influence on our continued growth as a community, however, it can also present threats to our quality of life as with unfettered warehousing or overdevelopment in residential areas. When these proposed developments are not in the best interests of our community and residents, we will engage and resist when necessary. We have and will continue to take a balanced approach to development with an eye on enhancing amenities that continue to attract new families.
- I would also like to acknowledge the dedication of our township associates in Finance, the Department of Public Works, Zoning, Parks and Recreation, and all of our administrative staff, led by Greg Bonin, as well as our volunteers on our Boards and Committees, many who are here tonight to be sworn in.
- These days, when many shy away from public debate or discussion, we encourage it. Respectful, thoughtful dialogue or questions, promotes understanding and is a foundation of responsible government. Please remember that these boards are comprised of your friends and neighbors and are dedicated to defending and improving Branchburg.
We are accessible and are available for your questions or comments by simply attending a meeting, Coffee with the Mayor, or by reaching out to us via email. In closing, I would like to thank my wife Kelly, daughters Farrell and Avery, my Mom, and all my friends who are in attendance tonight. I would also like to acknowledge the continued support of the residents of Branchburg for their trust in this governing body in carrying out the business of our community.