BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Mayor Angie Devanney received an unexpected present at the March 19 meeting of the Township Council – a handcrafted wooden sign with the words “Civility Spoken Here” engraved upon it by its creator, Noah Hickman.
The sign was a gift from Council Vice President Susan Poage, who said the idea for the sign came from a speaker at the orientation for newly elected municipal officials which she attended last year, a week after she was sworn in to office. She doesn’t remember the speaker, but did write down the words the speaker suggested for a sign to be put up in every town hall, “Civility Spoken Here.”
“The meeting after that orientation, I mentioned it in my council report. It has stayed with me and I recently acted on it,” she said. Poage said she saw Noah’s work at a fundraiser for the rescue squad and reached out to him to see if he would make the sign. Noah had been a student in the first Kindergarten class she ever taught, she said.
“I left the creative part to Noah. I just told him the words I wanted it to say. So today, Madame Mayor, I would like to present a gift to the township to hang here until the new building is ready for occupancy.
“I appreciate the way you have this vision for residents to come and speak freely and feel comfortable and I’ve heard some feedback about how wonderful that is, so I want to gift you with a little present,” Poage concluded.
Hickman handed the mayor the sign before speaking. “I have a connection to almost everybody up there in one way or another. I went to school with your daughter and your daughter,” he said pointing to council members. “I am best friends with Mr. Medeiros’ daughter; Mrs. Yellin read me stories in school, Mrs. Poage was my first teacher and,” he said looking at the Mayor, “I still have to get to know you.
"Some of you might look at the sign and think its quite plain ... Three simple words that together convey a very important message. Regardless of your political affiliation, it’s a reminder of why we are all here. We all need reminders sometimes that we are here to make progress and put forward our best feet for our town. I hope it will be up for a long time in this and the new building. I’m very happy Mrs. Poage reached out to me and hope you guys like it.”
The mayor thanked him and Mrs. Poage for the sign and asked Hickman to sign the back of the plaque for her, which he did.
“Thank you Susan, that was a nice surprise,” the Mayor said.
Poage made a point to reassure those who are budget conscious that she paid for the gift herself, not the township.