1/1/2022 - “A Community Tested, A Community Responds” 2022 Annual Address

Dear friends, neighbors, and honored guests,

After what seems like an eternity we gather once again in fellowship to usher in the new year.

Tradition would dictate that I stand before you to present a comprehensive review of last year’s accomplishments filled with a litany of over-used buzzwords like “shared services, infrastructure improvements, planning initiatives”, and the like. But not today. That review would then be followed by a soaring treatise into the lofty goals of the year ahead, complete with the inevitable “vision for the future, stable taxes, and fiscal responsibility”. But again, not today. Instead I offer a few heartfelt remarks about Somerville and her people, as together we face the unknown challenges that the year 2022 is sure to bring.

At the height of the original pandemic, our community faced a time of uncertainty and confusion. Routines were disrupted, livelihoods were threatened, and families were isolated. Yet even as we grieved for those lost, we pulled together as one community in a spirit of collective sacrifice that no virus could defeat. Over time, normalcy started to return. Public health initiatives slowed the spread of disease, commerce mounted a slow but steady comeback, schools were poised to welcome students back with enthusiasm and new backpacks, and it seemed like all of our individual and group efforts had paid off. Order was returning to our world.

And then the rains came.

We watched with anxiety, and perhaps fear, as Mother Nature unleashed her fury, leaving behind scenes of destruction and suffering that touched us all deeply. We marveled at the heroism of our first responders who risked all to save lives and property. No words can ever express our gratitude to these brave men and women who are our friends and neighbors in ordinary times, and who become superheroes in times of crisis.

As the skies cleared and the waters receded, the true goodness of Somerville and its people started to shine forth. We reached out to one another and looked for simple ways to comfort those in need. Homes were opened, meals were cooked, clothes and supplies were collected, and hope was rekindled when all seemed lost. The old adage of “It takes a village” may be overused, but it certainly was in force here in Somerville in the weeks following Ida. Then, as if Somerville had not been tested enough, a tragic house fire tore at our collective heart and soul just as the holiday season was beginning. The immediate outpouring of prayer and resources will never replace the family’s loss,  but will help in the long healing process we face together.   When future historians document our town’s memorable events, I know the fall of 2021 will have a prominent chapter, not simply because of what happened here, but because of what neighbors did for one other out of limitless love and compassion.

As we continue to rebuild lives and property, our institutions are well-positioned to aid in that effort. The Police Department has added several highly trained officers to its ranks, and their enthusiasm and experience will promote increased traffic safety and enhanced community policing initiatives. The Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management welcome new leadership, and I know that both individuals have the skills needed to do the job, as well as the confidence and support of the entire community. Borough Hall continues to adapt to changing conditions and mandates to provide efficient services, and I look forward to working with the Borough Council to manage the affairs of state and your hard-earned tax dollars.

As the past two years have shown, life does not come with a script, a user’s manual, or a crystal ball. It takes hard work for a town to succeed, and succeed we will, because Somerville has the most important ingredient for success. We have each other.

Thank you.

Mayor Dennis Sullivan
Somerville. NJ
January 1, 2022

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