RARITAN, NJ - A Raritan resident for the past five years, Melissa Harris grew up in a small town like Raritan, with a father who served as council person and was a small business owner, and she is looking to bring this perspective to a position on the Raritan Borough Council.
Democrat Harris is running for one of two open council seats this year.
“With my background, I come in with the perspective of understanding the challenges the business owners face, and the desire and hesitation of a small town to resist growth,” she said. “With that knowledge, I feel I can help gently coax the town to move forward and encourage other people and families to put down roots here and to encourage them to give back to the community through volunteerism.”
Having grown up in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, she attended Misericordia University for two years. She worked for nine years in the banking industry, most recently as a senior assistant branch manager for the Provident Bank, before leaving to take care of her family.
Before moving to Raritan, she lived in Bergen County, and in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas.
Since January 2019, Harris has been a member of the Raritan sports and recreation committee, and is also a member of the PTOs in her three kids’ schools.
“In addition, I am a member of the BRHS Orchestra Parent Association and the Panther Athletic Club, where I hope to get more involved as my children grow,” she said.
Harris said she enjoys Raritan for its diversity of people, among other aspects.
“We come from all backgrounds and ethnicities, and I love opening my kids up to new cultures, cuisines and meeting new people,” she said. “I also love that Raritan has access to highways and malls, and most of the goods and services I need without driving too far.”
Harris said she believes Raritan is one of the hidden gems in Somerset County, and one of the ways to entice people to visit is to improve the downtown area.
“We need to expand our parking options so our business owners have a place for their customers to park,” she said.
Harris said the businesses on main street have been neglected for too long. A starting point, she said, would be to connect with all the business owners and show that the borough is invested in their success.
“The Economic Development Committee is a great beginning, and we plan to encourage this committee to keep growing and highlighting the many shops and restaurants in town,” she said. “Our eventual goal is to have the Chamber of Commerce come back to town.”
Harris said she would also like to see an expansion of recreation programs.
“This is an area we have been striving to fix, and to offer more recreational options for people of all ages,” she said.
In addition, Harris said, she wants to make sure a new superintendent for the Department of Public Works is hired right away.
“Raritan has been without a Department of Public Works (DPW) superintendent for years and although our DPW department is top notch and a hard-working group, without a superintendent they are unable to take on more than the regular maintenance and garbage pickup,” she said.
Harris said she is running for council because she has a desire to make life better for everyone.
“I am a big believer that change is good,” she said. “For a town like Raritan, change is inevitable, and I would be honored to help usher in that revitalization.”