BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - According to a CNN Money poll from 2011, Berkley Heights is ranked as one of the top 10 best places to live in the country and Joseph Bruno couldn’t be prouder to be the mayor of the town.
After 38 years of working in various management positions with JC Penny in N.Y. and N.J., Bruno recently retired and has his mind focused on Berkley Heights.
Bruno was elected mayor in January of 2011, served on town council for five years and spent nine year on the school board. In total, Bruno has been involved with the local government for 15 years.
“I enjoy what I do so I keep doing it,” Bruno said.
He feels his extensive background in business and finance will help develop business in the community. While Berkeley Heights does not have a downtown like Summit or Westfield, there are many thriving business centers and several stores are starting to fill the empty lots, he said. He stressed he is always available to talk with new business owners about their plans or just to give advice.
“I have a vision of what I want the town to look like,” he said. “I think the downtown development is a key thing.”
One of his goals is to establish a special improvement district in town that will make the community stand out. Bruno said he wants to make a big push to install benches, brick pavers and coach lanterns throughout the town. Ultimately, the community needs to look appealing, he said.
The mayor is extremely proud of his police and fire departments. While the police only have to patrol 6.2 miles and three exits off Route 78, they do an excellent job, he said. The fire department also deserves an inordinate amount of praise because each year the town gets over 900 emergency calls and the entire staff is made up of volunteers, he said.
“We have the lowest crime rate in Union County and we want to stay that way,” Bruno said. “I think they're one of the best trained and one of the best in the state,” he said referring to the fire department.
The school system provides a tremendous education for the students, he said. He is also pleased with the recreation department, which provides numerous activities for children to participate in year round, especially in the summer.
Looking into the future, the biggest challenge is affording everything with the two percent cap, Bruno said. He and the council have created policies to make the town fiscally sound and also started a five year capital improvement plan. More importantly, the council has done a great job in putting together budgets that meet the two percent cap, he said.
Bruno encourages the public to become more involved in the community, attend meetings and have a voice. Communication between the residents and the mayor needs to be transparent, he said.
“When you look at an ideal place to live and raise your family I think Berkley Heights does it,” he said.