Dear Editor:

Eight years ago, when Hurricane Sandy hit, I was staying at my parent’s house in Scotch Plains while my father was in the hospital recovering from brain surgery. It was a highly stressful time for me as well as for my neighbors, aggravated by the lack of emergency communications in town. It exposed how far Scotch Plains had fallen behind and failed to prepare adequately for disasters.

The following year, I moved back to Scotch Plains permanently, and while the township made great strides forward, the weaknesses were once again revealed when a freak storm ravaged the south side of town last year. I remember Mayor Smith expressing his frustration at a council meeting and his exasperation gave voice to the concerns of residents throughout the town; his public demand of a better, more timely response to emergencies and better communication mirrored the feelings of me and my neighbors. I was glad to have someone in power set the challenge to do better.

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Based on the response to Tropical Storm Isaias, I would say he was successful in his goals.

I want to thank our DPW, OEM, and all our first responders for working together with town hall to get us through this. But most of all thank you, Mayor Smith, for being the leader who inspired this outstanding change. Your drive for results got us timely and constant communication via text message, Facebook, and pre-recorded phone calls. You listened to those of us whose trees were heavily damaged and gave us an extra, unscheduled branch pickup. Not even Westfield is providing their residents one! We lost a tree that blocked our street, and the DPW was there in moments to clear it. My neighbors were amazed.

I was raised in Scotch Plains and lived here for decades before moving back. Our town employees are hardworking, dedicated people. Unfortunately, in the past they have not always had the right leadership to inspire them to make tough choices and the changes our town needed. Thank you, Mayor Smith, for being that leader and for bringing Scotch Plains into the 21st century for emergency preparedness. I thank you and everyone who worked together on this storm for doing an outstanding job. 

Last election was the first time as a registered Democrat that I ever voted for a Republican, and that vote was Mayor Al. It is a vote that I have never regretted and one I plan to repeat in November.  Mayor Smith has been a leader throughout these trying times, whether it has been natural disasters, public health crises, or economic challenges like improving our downtown, he has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership.  We are lucky to have him as Mayor.

Robert Anthony Pitera
Scotch Plains, NJ