To the Editor:

            The Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce is to be commended and congratulated for its outstanding efforts on many fronts in support of our business community, including its recent 21st Annual Spinnaker Awards event. A massive undertaking with hundreds of guests, the festive evening celebrated volunteerism, public service and commitment to our community.

            These attributes are more important than ever as we collectively continue to confront the challenges placed upon us by Superstorm Sandy, doing whatever we can to help our neighbors, our businesses and the area at large. The EMACC has been especially pro-active in aiding the area’s business community. I congratulate all this year’s winners – Albert A. Zager, Esq., (Volunteer of the Year); the Guild of Creative Art, (Arts & Culture Award); Danny’s Grill & Wine Bar of Red Bank, (Community Service Award): Arrow Limousine, (Corporate Good Neighbor); Lunch Break, (Non-profit Organization of the Year) and the City of Asbury Park, (Economic Development Award). All exemplify the values and rewards of community service.

            When I learned I was to receive the Spinnaker Award for Public Service this year, my immediate reaction was, “What did I do to deserve this honor?” The genius of our democracy is its participatory nature. The duty of citizenship – that is what so many Americans feel, and bring to public service. Whether it is fund-raising for a soup kitchen, volunteering as a firefighter or serving on a local planning board, the shared commitment to providing for the public good is strongly ingrained in the American character. Everyone chooses their own path to public service and no one is necessarily nobler than another.

            I have followed a lifelong course grounded in my love of history, learning and the natural world, working to preserve our heritage and protect our fragile environment. I recognized early that it was through government that these goals could be best accomplished. When the opportunity arose, I offered to serve. When the offer was accepted, I was privileged to take my efforts to new arenas – first at the municipal and now at the county level.

            Every day I am reminded of the enormous responsibility and high expectations that come with public life. Great as these obligations are, the rewards are more than equal to them. Every time we preserve another farm, or parkland that protects drinking water for literally hundreds of thousands of county residents, I am rewarded. As I work to help transform Fort Monmouth into a vibrant combination of public recreational resources, housing opportunities and a new economic anchor for the county, as well as a port for our homeless veterans and veterans in need of services, I feel very fortunate. And as I work to support our unexcelled county high schools and continue to build our county library system and college programs, I get a true sense of personal fulfillment.

            Owning and operating a successful business in Monmouth County for over 30 years has helped me understand the importance of connecting with one’s community. The EMACC does a superior job in connecting businesses to businesses, businesses to residents and helping cement the foundation of a successful county economy, despite the challenges we share and face today. Our county slogan is, “Monmouth County is the place people want to be.” That is true in part because of all the EMACC does every day.

            My wonderful family, my public life and all the people I am able to interact with as a result, make me feel truly fortunate. To be honored with the prestigious Spinnaker Award along with six exceptional individuals is beyond any expectation. I promise to continue doing what I have always done in an effort to live up to this wonderful recognition. Now, it will be with a new sense of pride, purpose and responsibility.

            I urge all residents to find their own paths of public service to lift our neighbors and our community at large. It is true that your own life will be greatly enhanced in the process.  

Lillian G. Burry

Monmouth County Freeholder