There is a reason why the Westfield primary turn-out was historically high this year. Westfield residents are hungry for change. I, for one, give credit to the incumbent mayor for his accomplishments. After 12 years in office, some are to be expected. Length of service in politics is a double-edged sword; it can lead to complacency. The best thing about this election year is that it has caused some attention to town issues and maintenance items.
Take, for example, downtown development. There has been a problem with downtown development for years; our town has an 11 percent vacancy rate next to Cranford’s 3.5 percent. Yet the incumbent mayor’s report of findings and initiatives regarding this issue was unveiled only a few months before the election, simultaneous with the announcement that the incumbent slate was running for re-election. Just in time for the previously un-attuned voter to take notice. Sound familiar? We’ve been down this road before with this administration. Some streets are now being paved for the first time in 29 years.
We shouldn’t have to wait for election years to get some modest initiatives and long-overdue maintenance underway. While we should all thank the incumbent mayor for his service, he has to know that he is not entitled to an endless reign in office — neither because of how he originally attained the position (appointed by the town council to fill a mid-term vacancy), nor due to anything that has happened since.
It is understandable that it is difficult to have a full-time job and be mayor of Westfield. Being mayor of this town really does require a full-time commitment. Through December 2016, the incumbent mayor has missed nearly 25 percent of council meetings due to his trying to manage his career and this office at the same time. His absence rate has risen in 2017 to 29 percent.
Shelley Brindle will not have that problem. She has retired from her career as a management executive of a 4.5 billion-dollar company, and has pledged to work without pay for this town on a full-time basis, and to observe Westfield’s traditional two-term limit for mayor.
After three terms in office, it is time for the incumbent mayor to pass the torch. The Westfield Municipal Candidates will debate the issues in the public forum sponsored by The Westfield Leader newspaper on Wednesday, Oct. 25 (7 p.m.) at the Municipal Building Council Chambers. The public is invited to attend and to send questions desired for discussion in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing more from Shelley on this date.