“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”- Former President Teddy Roosevelt
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve the people of Monmouth County for the past three years. I am proud of my accomplishments which began with promises I made three years ago.
Monmouth County is now a major developer of clean, renewable solar energy at no additional cost to taxpayers. This effort provides environmental and economic benefits now and in the future. User-friendly computers offer the public a chance to learn about our solar savings in real time at four county locations. This initiative has served as a model for other solar projects that are being planned and developed throughout Monmouth County.
A key element in Government must be transparency. I proposed using digital technology so that everyone in the public can hear unedited proceedings of our meetings. Today it is simple from any computer via www.visitmonmouth.com. The home page has a button “Listen to Freeholder Meetings”. This is transparency, but only a start.
Our Legal Department was restructured due to past instances of excessive billing. We hired an in-house counsel to serve in a full-time capacity. This brings accountability and efficiency to our legal matters and has saved over 1.3 million dollars in just over two years.
I lead the expansion of the Veterans Interment office to include professional Veterans Services. Through the passion, diligence and long hours of our trained Veterans Service Officers and Veteran volunteers, this office is busy helping veterans in Monmouth County every day.
A comprehensive Aging Advisory Board brings energy and ideas to helping our seniors. We introduced the free Wellness Discount Program for all residents which offers discounts on prescription medication and other health products and services. Through the Office on Aging, we also established the first caregiver respite program in our county.
I called for changes at Brookdale Community College in order to take it in a better direction. This call came after researching and questioning budgets, meeting minutes, policies and procedures. We need to do what is in the best interest of our students, while providing a premier learning environment, quality education and facilities to our college.
The backbone of county government is our staff, taking us through the day-to-day operations. Many are on the front line directly helping residents care for their health and well-being, improving the safety of our roads and bridges, maintaining our justice system, imprisoning criminals at the jails, disposing and recycling our waste, staffing our libraries, parks and many functions residents do not see.
As liaison to Human Services during my tenure, it is my hope that my successor has the passion to serve as a voice in helping our neighbors who are most vulnerable. This requires an understanding of the needs of those who are less fortunate. They are our neighbors, friends, families and constituents. These individuals and families may be homeless, unemployed, hungry, home-bound, emotionally or developmentally disabled, handicapped, seniors, caregivers, troubled youth, drug and alcohol dependents, returning veterans and so many more. Our staff tends to these needs with a case load which has been growing weekly during these difficult economic times. While the demand for services is that much greater, they have still been able to hold the line on their budgets.
I must point out the areas where I believe there is more to accomplish:
- Boards and Commissions which are autonomous require Term Limits. Many residents don’t realize that these entities control spending of millions of tax dollars and influence policy. The makeup of the boards should also be diverse. Turnover would make for a healthier environment. Lack of turnover is contrary to the oversight expected from residents.
- Continued consolidation of duplicative functions.
- Transparency needs much more work. Meeting Minutes of all autonomous boards and commissions need to be online. I already made this request twice. The website is only as good as the information contained within it. In addition, we should list all employees and new hires online (name, position, department, salary, start date)
- Ethics reforms are needed. The Democratic majority instituted an Ethics Board in 2009 which was reversed by the Republicans at their first opportunity. This voluntary board would have been quite busy given the questionable situations which have arisen. Government should not be left to police itself, and history tells us there is too much at stake here to be ignored.
- Advertising Panels on our bus fleet will serve many purposes including a new revenue stream. My suggestion is that we start by cross-promoting our Care Centers to bring awareness and fill additional beds which will be a revenue source. After testing the program, we can promote this program to outside entities for advertising revenue.
In the words of John Quincy Adams “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I hope that my leadership will inspire more residents to ask questions, get involved and exercise their right to vote. Let’s never forget that this is a government “of” the people, “by” the people and “for” the people. Anything short of this is unconstitutional.
[Freeholder Amy Mallet graduated Cum Laude from Hunter College, City University of New York, and holds an MBA from Baruch College, City University of New York. Amy Mallet has lived in Fair Haven with her husband for 25 years, where they raised their two children.]