MADISON, NJ – The Chief Executive Council for Madison held its inaugural meeting this morning to discuss ways the council members can join together to achieve collective community impact.
The council was formed by Mayor Bob Conley; Stephen Rusckowski, president and CEO of Quest Diagnostics; and Dr. Vivian Bull, interim president of Drew University, as a way to connect local corporate chief executives living in or leading Madison businesses.
The morning meeting included presentations from Mat Nelessen, CEO of the American Red Cross of Northern NJ who provided an overview of Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts; and two “Emerging Leader” speakers: Lainie Rowland, Madison High School student and National Merit Semi-Finalist; and Esther Lofgren, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in rowing.
“Every aspect of growing up in Madison helped shape me,” Rowland said. Lofgren compared community involvement to being part of a rowing team, and how everyone has to pull together to succeed.
“I think our future is in good hands,” remarked Conley.
The mayor brought up the idea of Madison working with the city of Union Beach, which was devastated after Hurricane Sandy. He said he has spoken to their mayor and their biggest need is that many residents are still homeless after the storm. He said that Union Beach, unlike many Jersey Shore towns, is made up of mostly year-round residents and had a 20 percent unemployment rate before the storm hit. He said the Borough Council, at its regular meeting this week, will be discussing ways Madison can help Union Beach.
Conley then opened the floor to a round table discussion on topics such as opportunities for collaboration; civic engagement; educational excellence; leadership development and ways the borough can support Drew University and Madison-based corporations.
“We have education leaders, corporate leaders, and borough leaders here,” the mayor said. “How can we make your life better?”
Diane Mann, president and CEO of the Madison Area YMCA, said she wished the Y had a generator system so it could have served as a shelter during and after the hurricane. With plenty of space and even showers, she said the Y could have been a valuable part of the recovery, but couldn’t because it didn’t have electricity immediately following the storm.
Bull discussed the difficulties Drew faced with having so many students on campus during the hurricane, how they were evacuated to safety, and the bigger problem of getting everyone back to campus later.
Conley used those comments as a springboard into a discussion about how Madison can support the next generation of leaders.
“There’s a lot we can do,” Rusckowski said. “We can expose them to what’s available here in healthcare science and the broader field of medicine.”
Noreen Beaman, CEO of Brinker Capital, said her company has a great internship program. Greg Robertson, principal of Madison High School, said the school has a Service Learning Program, which involves students doing a service project once a year, although it has limited exposure. He said he welcomes students getting more involved in community projects and although the school does have a volunteer program that has a more sustainable outreach, he welcomes any Madison business or organization to contact him about getting students involved.
Chris Daggett of the Dodge Foundation said there also needs to be creative arts internships for those students who aren’t interested in business or medicine.
Conley also brought up the question of how to entice more businesses to move to Madison. Paul Boudreau, president of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, suggested the borough look into an economic development organization to “help people see Madison as an easy place to do business.”
The Chief Executive Council for Madison will meet again in the spring. Conley said the current plan is to meet twice a year.