BRIDGEWATER, NJ - An era came to an end at the final Bridgewater Township Council meeting of the year, which also served as the final meeting for councilwoman Christine Henderson Rose after her decade of service on the municipal governing body.
“It’s been great working with you the past 10 years,” said council president and mayor-elect Matthew Moench, who added that he had enjoyed sitting next to her on the dais in years past and hearing her comments and even criticisms. “I thank her for her service on the council, and I’ll presume I’ll see you in some future capacity. Thank you for your friendship.”
Rose’s daughter, Erin, took the podium during the public portion of the meeting, to thank her mother for her efforts as a parent, volunteer and councilwoman in the Bridgewater community.
“I publicly thank Christine Rose for her 30-plus years as a volunteer, and I’m proud to call her my mom,” she said.
She recalled how her mother had come through some of the toughest times in the history of the Bridgewater-Raritan board of education, as that body’s president, and had continued to serve after with the township and on its various boards.
“As a resident and a daughter, I thank you for everything you do,” she concluded, to thanks from her mother.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla spoke just prior to Rose’s farewell speech, and thanked her for all her work over the years.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with and alongside Chris, and (see) her desire to serve all the residents of Bridgewater,” said Kurdyla, who had also served with Rose on the school board and the town’s open space committee.
“Paramount is her ability to listen and make decisions benefiting all,” he added. “We’re losing a good public servant, and I wish you the best.”
“I will be back, in a different capacity,” responded Rose, before recalling how she had gotten to this point in public service.
It had started off with her working with the Girl Scouts and later the Elks, and having concerns about the possibility of schools closing in Bridgewater when her son was attending school here.
“You have to be at the table to be heard,” she said of getting into politics.
After the first of several setbacks in her career, Rose ultimately won a seat on the school board in 1987. She proceeded to serve six years on that body, including one point that she believed “was the darkest hour in the history of the board,” with fears of high school consolidation, and mistruths being bandied about.
“Truly it was the worst of times,” said Rose.
She recalled how she had actually been fired as a committee volunteer by a past mayor, but then went on to help put together the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Foundation, which she said is still going strong today. She also recalled such events as the successful celebration of the 100th anniversary of the local school system, and the birth of the Bridgewater Commons Mall.
In 2001, she joined the Bridgewater Zoning Board of Adjustment.
“It truly sets the face of the township,” said Rose. “It’s the board of ‘no.’”
Rose then joined the council in 2009, where she will serve until the end of the current calendar year. In preparing to leaved the council, she recollected working with volunteers to save the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, which had been in danger of closing its doors, along with championing restoration of the venerable Lane-Voorhees House, a local Revolutionary War icon she helped get placed on the historic registers of both the state and the nation.
Rose said she also remembered working with the Boys Club and the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders to purchases 180 acres of land owned by the former, and establishing the Friends of Bridgewater History to help preserve the town’s past.
“Some decisions, I might want a do-over,” she said, “Maybe, but hindsight is 20/20.”
She lamented that the air of camaraderie on the council (and perhaps the town) no longer seemed to exist, with social media “stirring the pot.” She also labeled the Bridgewater Township Planning Board “the board of ‘yes,’” including its recent approval of the much-maligned Center of Excellence project.
Rose said the council will have the final say on that matter, with regard to approving the redevelopment project, but said she personally believe that the Center in its current form is “dead and waiting to be buried.”
Returning to social media, Rose said she has not looked at Facebook in many months, and added that no one is without guilt in social media matter.
“It’s not the Bridgewater I used to volunteer in,” she said, of the place where she raised her own family, and now wants her grandchildren to grow up. “I hope the pendulum swings back.”
She said the requisition of open space in the township is dwindling, and she feels it is time to perhaps reinstate the open space tax, so as to have funds available for preservation.
“I have no regrets in terms of how I served Bridgewater residents,” said Rose, who told residents to let their voices be heard, and to consider walking in her shoes by engaging in public and volunteer service.
She also left word with each of her council colleagues, as they prepared to move on without her starting next year.
She asked Kurdyla to “continue to do what is right,” and praised council vice president Howard Norgalis and his “attention to detail.” She said she hopes councilman Filipe Pedroso will “rid himself of the past year” and be kinder and gentler, and wished Moench success in his new role as mayor.
Rose said she wishes for “a short learning curve” for her successors on the council, Michael Kirsh and Timothy Ring, and she also thanked the township clerk’s office for their assistance and friendship, and wished them “smooth sailing.” She thanked outgoing township administrator James Naples for his passion and dedication, even if they had not always been on the same side of issues.
Rose also thanked the township employees and volunteers for all their hard work, and praised outgoing Mayor Dan Hayes, who she said she believes will come to be more appreciated in time by what he has accomplished for the town.
“It’s been a pleasure to serve the residents,” said Rose,