BRIDGEWATER, NJ - As the campaign season is underway, Nidhi Makhija is looking to bring a contemporary perspective to the governance of Bridgewater and inviting residents to have a voice in planning the future of the town.
“With some planning and foresight, we can address existing problems and prevent further decline,” she said. “We must battle complacency and passive acceptance of deteriorating conditions which inevitably lead to the ‘frog in the boiling water’ syndrome. I don’t want us to be that frog.”
Makhija said she moved to Bridgewater because it was rated one of the best townships to live in.
“But it has fallen in the rankings over the last decade,” she said. “I want to change the trajectory. I have attended some township council meetings, and, while it is clear that we have real issues, it is not clear how decisions are being made and what criteria is being evaluated to arrive at the decisions.”
“We need more inclusive and transparent governance,” she added. “I have been talking to constituents and they are not happy with the status quo.”
As to her background, Makhija said she grew up as the youngest daughter in a close-knit family where community values run deep.
“My father who just passed away this summer was my role model and inspiration, he showed me how to live with integrity and purpose,” she said. “I have always followed his direction.”
Makhija earned her Bachelor of Science degree in telecom engineering, a postgraduate MBA in finance and a professional certification in project management from the Project Management Institute.
“I was also selected and sponsored by BearingPoint to participate in leadership training at the Yale School of Management,” she said.
Throughout her professional career, Makhija has worked with a number of highly respected firms including Siemens, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG Consulting and BearingPoint. She said she consulted with General Motors, Pennsylvania State Government, Sisters of St. Mary Healthcare and Symbol Technologies.
“As a consultant to the government of Pennsylvania, I worked on streamlining the back-end processes to enable an online presence for the organization,” she said. “This project had a positive impact on 90,000 state employees across various departments, introducing efficiencies in accounting, performance management, appropriations and improving the information flow between citizens and government.”
Makhija said she is known as a motivated and forward-planning professional, and has a track record for strong financial acumen, sound business intelligence and a passion for progressive ideas.
In the community, Makhija has been a volunteer judge for the local 4-H public speaking competition, helped raise funds for the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Foundation, taught Sunday School and organized a talent show as co-chair of the PTO at Adamsville Primary School.
“My business experience and community involvement prompted members of our Democratic township committee to recruit me to run for mayor,” she said. “I accepted the challenge because I believe I have the skills and the vision to make Bridgewater great. I want to foster an environment that provides both roots and wings, not only for our children but for all of our residents.”
Makhija said she has seen that rising taxes are placing a burden on working families, and the delivery of basic services has been inadequate.
“We are losing ratables as the corporations are leaving town and the current administration finds themselves scrambling for quick budget fixes through poorly planned development which then comes at the expense of lowering property values of homeowners which degrades their quality of life,” she said.
And in the last few years, Makhija said, the township has dealt with the expenses of failed lawsuits and hefty settlements.
“Technology is entering our lives like never before, but our government is not yet at the cutting edge, and needs transformation,” she said. “We can improve the efficiency of providing services to our residents by simple cost effective solutions.”
In the campaign, Makhija said, she is putting her focus on fiscal responsibility, smart development, transparent and inclusive government and improving the quality of life in Bridgewater.
Makhija said she believes the key to making Bridgewater smart is to maximize the capabilities of technology and sciences to address needs, while being committed to responsible land use.
“We should actively seek development that adheres to the principles of the master plan without causing negative impact to the community,” she said.
As for fiscal responsibility, Makhija said there needs to be a new model of fiscal oversight for balancing the budget and cutting government waste.
“My administration would bring fiscal management best practices to the township, thereby developing a long term strategy of oversight, forecast and benchmarks for key performance indicators of good fiscal management,” she said.
In addition, Makhija said, the township needs to come up with options to keep pharma and biotech employers nearby, while also encouraging small business owners to improve business and job growth in Bridgewater.
“I believe the township, in cooperation with the county and state, should provide the infrastructure and tools to develop a talented workforce, invite corporate investment and grow small businesses,” she said. “These will ensure a healthy and viable Bridgewater.”
As for transparency, Makhija said she believes bids and contracts should be made available on the website, and township meetings should be broadcast to accommodate for the busy schedules of residents.
Finally, Makhija said, it is important to re-examine the quality of basic services in town, and they need to implement more efficient and cost-effective processes.
Makhija said the appeal of Bridgewater is its location, education and residential spread.
“It has been called the golden triangle by some realtors due to its easy access to three major highways,” she said. “It also attracts lots of shoppers from surrounding towns due to the sprawling Bridgewater Commons Mall, which is probably the highest taxpayer in the town.”
Plus, Makhija said, the town has a variety of housing options, all interspersed with commercial establishments.
“We have the potential to develop into an economic powerhouse,” she said. “We need to have collaborative programs to develop a small business and entrepreneur base in town.”
If she is elected mayor, Makhija said, she will bring her philosophy of lifelong learning, purposeful vision and living with excellence to the role.
“These very beliefs are the catalyst for my candidacy and they are what compelled me to stay in the race despite the unexpected loss of my father in June,” she said. “I have called Bridgewater home for the last 10 years. It is where my husband and I are raising our two daughters, and where we plan to host festive family gatherings for our future grandchildren. I want to build this community for my family and for every resident of Bridgewater.”