RARITAN, NJ - A graduate of Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Dianne Bautista said she considers herself lucky to live in Raritan, and wants to be part of the future in revitalizing Raritan, which is why she is running for one of two open seats on the borough council on the Democratic ticket.
“I am a highly passionate, creative and strategic individual who enjoys bringing people together,” she said. “It does not matter if people were born and raised in Raritan, or they moved from another town or they migrated from another country, every single Raritan resident’s voice still matters, and I would like more people to be involved in revitalizing Raritan.”
Bautista and her family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 2005. She said they sold all their possessions and bought one-way tickets to America.
“We started with nothing where we could not even afford a $1 Cadbury chocolate bar from Quick Chek,” she said.
Bautista said everything she has accomplished she owes to her parents and grandparents because they taught her the value of having strong faith, working hard and being a steward of the community.
“My family and I have been very lucky to live in Raritan because of its small-town values, historic character and scenic beauty,” she said.
A 2009 graduate of Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Bautista received the NJ Stars Scholarship, which helped her earn her associate degree in nursing from Raritan Valley Community College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Now, she is working on her Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Health degree at Rutgers University, graduating in December 2019.
“Currently, I am the president of the Rutgers Black and Hispanic MBA Association, with the goal of bridging the gaps of ethnic and racial wealth disparities through mentoring programs, networking events, professional development workshops, speaker events and career fairs,” she said.
Since 2013, Bautista has been working as a registered professional nurse at RWJUH Somerset and at Bridgeway Care and Rehab Center, and she is an ANCC certified geriatric nurse.
“Additionally, for six years, I served as a reader and parish council member at the Catholic Church of St. Ann, where we advised on revitalizing our communication techniques, increasing our visibility, changing Mass times and providing strategies to better serve our community,” she said.
In revitalizing the borough, Bautista’s first focus is the Raritan Economic Development Committee, which she said has a goal of retaining existing businesses and attracting new ones.
“Raritan is lucky to have devoted EDC leaders making an impact with very limited resources,” she said. “I would like to boost EDC’s initiatives through asset-based economic development and community revitalization. Strengthening and showcasing Raritan’s unique cultural, historic and scenic assets fosters community pride and long-term vitality.”
Bautista said the borough must embrace the assets already in town, including bakeries, hair salons, music shops and restaurants.
“I envision hosting monthly events, like baking contests, hairstyling competitions, talent shows and barbecue challenges,” she said. “This approach will create some type of buzz that our town is vibrant and that it supports its local businesses.”
In addition, Bautista said, she would like to see a map developed to showcase all of Raritan’s businesses, historical landmarks, apartments and religious sites.
“This map will not only showcase Raritan’s assets, but also identify major gaps in our town, like a major supermarket,” she said. “Eventually, the local government and investors can utilize this tool to understand where to invest so that they can fulfill the needs of Raritan residents.”
Finally, Bautista said, reviving a Raritan Chamber of Commerce would empower Raritan business owners, and bridge the gap of communication between businesses and local government.
“I am a strong proponent of building a spirit of collaboration and co-creation among residents, business owners and local government to retain businesses and to attract new ones,” she said.
And despite Raritan already having a number of amenities for residents – including places of worship, a historic library, public parks and major transportation infrastructure – the downtown must be revitalized to attract new people, Bautista said.
“First, to complement the Raritan Facebook group, I envisioned the creation of the Raritan Pride group that will welcome all Raritan residents and business owners, and will champion pride projects that will bring all residents together like hosting block parties and organizing an exclusive town-wide contest designing lamp posts, murals and benches throughout town,” she said.
The group, Bautista said, will discuss issues, concerns and important agenda items from local board and committee meetings so they can be actively involved in the decisions shaping Raritan.
Bautista said it will be important to develop the commercial district to attract new people.
“I can utilize my expertise in project management, advertising and marketing to influence celebrating Raritan’s rich history and ethnic/racial diversity by partnering with local Raritan businesses and Downtown Somerville Alliance, and organizing interactive, fun and memorable town-wide events,” she said.
For the constant construction on the roads in Raritan, making it difficult to navigate, Bautista said the borough needs to hire a superintendent for the Department of Public Works, a position that is currently open in the administration. She said they must also designate a road crew to continue ensuring that Raritan is safe and clean.
Bautista said the borough must also continue to work on roads and sidewalks that have not been repaved or repaired for several years.
“Road networks are important to the mobility of goods and people, especially since we have a strong initiative in developing a pedestrian and bike friendly town,” she said. “We must work on these concerns to retain residents and attract new ones.”
To do this, Bautista said, she would like to consider implementing performance-based planning and programming, where every five years the conditions of the roads are evaluated and categorized as poor or in good condition.
“Roads that are categorized as in poor condition should be prioritized first,” she said. “The repairing, repaving and patching schedule of pipes and roads should be set on an annual basis and must be visible to the public so that Raritan residents can make the necessary arrangements to continue with their daily obligations. Transparency, authenticity and integrity must be followed to reduce the frustrations regarding road constructions and to instill the trust in Raritan residents.”
Bautista said she wants to serve on the borough council because she cares about Raritan’s quality of life and its future.
“As a performance-driven individual and a compassionate community steward, I can provide a fresher, more data-driven and alternative approach to the issues that Raritan faces, setting the welfare of the people as my top priority,” she said. “In every leadership position I’ve held, I have not been afraid to ask tough questions, speak up and make difficult decisions.”
Bautista said she wants to give back to the town.
“I believe that Raritan is the hidden gem of Somerset County and I want to see it through that the plans for the Raritan Riverfront, the development of the Raritan downtown and the pedestrian and bike safety of our roads will be discussed, planned and executed well,” she said. “I enjoy bringing communities together, organizing projects, eliciting opinions, leveraging social media and making a difference in other people’s lives.”