CHATHAM, NJ - Growing up in Iowa is much different than life in Chatham, but Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris said there isn’t a place he would rather be.
Harris, who was sworn in as mayor last year, moved to the borough 33 years ago. However, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that he got involved in the community. He was invited to a neighbor’s house for a social gathering where he met some councilmen and the mayor. After schmoozing with them, they peaked his interest and he told them he wanted to volunteer and help.
Not long after, he received a letter saying the borough was looking for people to serve on the Environmental Commission. Harris jumped at the opportunity and served on the committee for several years. The council liaison to the committee eventually became mayor and Harris filled the remainder of his council term. He enjoyed council and continued to run and stay involved.
“I decided to run for mayor because I wanted to have more of a leading role in what was going on,” he said.
Shortly after being elected mayor, Governor Christie nominated him for a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court, but his nomination stalled in the State Legislature. As a result, he continued on as mayor. Harris said he has relished his time as mayor so far, but it has been difficult. He has had to deal with the tragic motorcycle accident involving Borough Administrator Robert Falzarano and Deputy of Public Works Charles Dziedzic and Hurricane Sandy.
“It’s been a very tough year,” he said. “We learned that we have a very good team.”
The police and fire departments are terrific, especially during the storms, he said. Equally as important, Harris said, are residents who volunteer, because without them many things would not get accomplished.
One of his goals as mayor was to make government more accessible. He attempts to put as much information on the borough’s website as possible. Chatham is one of the first communities of its size to extensively post online and to broadcast council meetings.
“We’ve really tried to communicate with the residents in a very open way,” he said.
Harris said he and the council are doing their best to be fiscally responsible and keep taxes low. The mayor said he loves the community gardens, farmers markets, the downtown and events like the Fishawack Festival.
He said the Borough of Chatham has a bright future and he enjoys being part of a tight, close knit community.
“I still don’t think of myself as a politician,” he said. “I just think of myself as being a community servant and a volunteer.”