Friday, June 21: Borough Hall will be closed in observance of Juneteenth.

2023 State of the Borough address

Posted on January 2, 2024

Somerville, NJ

Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Invited Guests,

As the holiday season passes into our collective memory, we gather once again to both reflect with pride on the past year here in Somerville and to anticipate the continued success that surely lies ahead. Progress does not happen overnight, nor does it happen by accident. Hard work and thoughtful decisions by countless individuals and groups have laid the groundwork for the Somerville that we see around us today. Time constraints make it impossible to mention every positive initiative in town now, so I will limit my comments to a few of the more significant highlights of 2023.

Opportunity and optimism continue to define Somerville. People want to live here, businesses want to open here, and private capital wants to invest here. Your local government remains focused on matters of public safety, as evidenced by reduced speed limits throughout town, enhanced signage, and roadway improvements being done in collaboration with our public utility partners. The long-awaited Emergency Services Complex on Gaston Ave. is well underway and should be in service by the end of 2024. The newly opened Somerville Civic Center has opened its doors, and over time will become the hub of civic engagement and community life so vital to the heartbeat of town. The privatization of our sanitary sewers will ensure stable user rates and improved system operation for years to come. An aggressive tree planting program, promotion of community gardens, and innovative solar initiatives will not only beautify Somerville but shape the environment we leave for future generations. Borough parks and playgrounds are being rehabilitated with funding from all levels of government, and the return of warmer weather will bring with it the joyful sounds of children at play.

As you travel around Somerville, you will hear welcome sounds of a different sort filling the air. New buildings are rising from sites that lay dormant for too long. A stable municipal tax rate and our willingness to promote public-private partnerships are attracting quality mixed use projects that are reclaiming underutilized properties, attracting new residents, and generating additional revenue for the local budget while bringing new consumer dollars to our already thriving downtown. A changing landscape and new energy will continue to mark Somerville as a vital community that is both proud of its past and confident in its future. Quality of life may be hard to define and equally hard to measure, but it is alive and well within our two square miles.

As I prepared these final remarks as your Mayor, I found myself thinking back to my first trip across the Outerbridge in early September of 1973 as I traveled west for my first day at VanDerveer School. In what was truly a lifetime ago, the bridge toll was fifty cents, gas cost thirty cents a gallon, and I had a full head of hair that actually needed combing! My new Toyota Carolla, with its ninety-eight horsepower motor, pushbutton AM radio, and manual windows, was my daily companion at the start of an adventure that I could never have imagined. Along the way I became a master teacher, a husband, a homeowner, a parent, a community volunteer, a Borough Councilman, a grandparent, and ultimately a mayor. Over the years I had the good fortune to meet so many good and caring people with whom I worked collaboratively in guiding Somerville through a variety of economic cycles, an unprecedented pandemic, and the challenges presented by an unpredictable and often unforgiving Mother Nature. I may have come to Somerville to teach others, but I have learned a lot from those around me, and for that I will always be grateful.

I wish to express my sincerest appreciation to the voters of Somerville for their support over the last twenty-eight years. Over that time, I spent many hours at Borough Hall in meetings and doing paperwork. As I passed by the gallery of Mayor’s portraits, I often thought about my role as a steward of that office and the great responsibility given me by the voters. I hope that I was deserving of that public trust and that my legacy will add to that of those dedicated men and women who preceded and will follow as Somerville continues to thrive.

I offer my heartfelt thanks to my family, and especially to Marge, my loving wife these past forty-seven years. Being married to a public official demands sacrifice, patience, and lots of leftovers, and these I had in abundance! My daughter Heather followed me into the teaching profession.  I counted on her editing skills to keep my speeches short, much to the relief of the audience. And finally, my beloved Meredith, whose musical talents were often on display all over Somerville, most especially on this very stage where, fittingly, my public life concludes in a few minutes.

I end with words of encouragement to our incoming Mayor and Council. You have the hopes and dreams of many in your hands. I know you are up to the task. Trust one another and rely on your collective strength and wisdom as challenges arise. I would offer the following advice penned by the noted American author Ralph Waldo Emerson, and often quoted by another Harvard graduate and one of my personal heroes, Robert F. Kennedy. They gave me strength in time of need, and I hope they will do the same for you:
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Thank you.

Dennis Sullivan
January 1, 2024

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