SOMERVILLE, NJ - Somerset County Deputy Freeholder Director Pat Walsh said farewell to her colleagues, county employees, constituents and 26 years of public service at the final Freeholders' meeting of 2019.
Walsh was defeated in her bid for a fourth term in November, losing to Democratic challenger Melonie Marano, who had faced off against Walsh and lost in 2007. Marano's winning margin was 856 votes.
"First I will say how honored and humbled I am to have served as your Freeholder for the last 12 years. I served 14 years in Green Brook and then 12 at the county doing great things, meeting wonderful people and feeling proud of all that was going on – 26 years in public service. At the County about 288 just Freeholder meetings, and I have missed maybe 5. I have enjoyed it and have given my all to maintaining and improving the quality of life in this wonderful county.
"I have written this down so I don’t go off topic and to be able to say all that I want. So get comfortable and take a walk down Memory Lane with me.
"I have served on this dias with 10 Freeholders, My four colleagues here and with Rick Fontana, Bob Zaborowski, Jack Ciattarelli, Peter Palmer, Mark Caliquire and Patrick Scaglione. And with each combination of 5 this Board has always functioned as a Team and gotten things done. There was no I in our team. I want to thank them all for their public service and devotion and passion for Somerset County.
"During my tenure so many wonderful things have happened.
"We added thousands of acres to our open space and park system, acquired many acres of preserved farmland, and increased our Greenway and bike and hike paths. Many of these actions were a collaborative project with our municipalities and other conservation non-profits.
"We did a two-year rebranding committee and it is delightful to see so many of our partners putting the logo on their paper. Throughout the state we are the “Making Things Happen” county. The Business Partnership is our economic arms and sings our praises throughout the state. Other counties, in and out of the state want to mimic our amazing public/private partnerships and collaborative projects throughout Somerset County.
"We started the Homelessness Trust Fund, which has put $150, 000 in the community to prevent Homelessness. We started BoBo Fridays, which grew to include the library system and all the county buildings and has brought in over 100,000 pounds or 50 tons of food.
"We started the Adopt-a-Family program for the Thanksgiving Holiday and have generated $145,000 over the years. When we started we had four agencies giving food to those in need. We are now up to seven whose names go on the flyers. These two activities highlight the generosity of our staff and residents here in Somerset County.
"Seven years ago we began Healthier Somerset. It started with seven people around the table at Somerset Medical Center (and I will say) except for the paid Project Manager, all the rest of us are still there. There are now over 46 health-related businesses, non profit or otherwise who convene monthly at RWJ Somerset Barnabas. There are awesome things going on in the Health Field all over the county.
"And right here in own building at Employee request our own Wellness Committee was born; run entirely by staff, it has received many awards for all that it does.
"And at Employee request our SERV committee was born. Twice a year employees are out in the community volunteering all over Somerset County. This is also run and governed by an employee committee. I will miss those activities.
"The demographics in Somerset County have changed, we are extremely diverse, and we needed to recognize and celebrate the diversity.
"So another employee-run and organized event was our new Diversity Fair. The first was held this year and was a great success.
"We embarked on a Solar Project countywide, Did energy audits of each municipality and have partnered with them on many projects. We are in the process of installing charging stations for electric cars.
"We provided over 300,000 trips to seniors and the disabled last year and provided approximately 160,00 meals to seniors. This county is amazing and is talked about all over the state.
"We oversaw the restructuring of the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center and continue to support the programs that are so sorely needed here in Somerset County.
"The Commission on Women in the last 12 years has honored over 150 Outstanding Women in Somerset County, This was an ongoing event. But this group of women started Project First Class, collecting school supplies and back packs for those in need and Project Warm your Heart which collected new coats for children. Both projects grew and now the Library has joined. The items are given to the Food Bank and distributed. They also have for the last five years sponsored a Stem Program for 90 7th and eighth-grade girls
"We are fiscally conservative and seek always to provide the best service possible at the best price. We have been able to maintain our Triple A Bond rating for many years. It didn’t happen by chance. We have all worked hard to find the right balance.
"The Freeholder Boards during my tenure have hired a new Administrator, a new CFO, County Engineer, Human Resources Director, County Health Officer and Planning Director. I am proud of those appointments and the status of our county proves our senior nanagement team is the best.
"It took a while, but we started and it is thriving The Somerset Health Partnership, a wonderful perk for our employees and as a nurse I know that early intervention in any health issues produces much better outcomes.
"Our social media sites have been developed and subscriptions continue to increase. Once we voted to televise our meetings in real time it took 6 months to put it all together and now we do have residents sitting at home watching it.
"Over the years I have had the honor and pleasure of working with mayors, councils and Ttwnship committees in all 21 municipalities, and we listened to what they needed and have increased the amount of shared services we provide which help the municipalities with their budgeting. And I thank and praise every municipal elected official for all they do here in Somerset County.
"We have had hundreds of volunteers on our various committees and projects to keep our county moving forward. I thank them and their families for all the time and energy they have given to Somerset County.
"I would like to thank the Somerset County residents for the support I received over the years and thank them for all the input, questions and criticisms I received over the years. I have always felt that healthy discourse provides a much better solution to any problem.
"A very special thank you to my husband and family for the unending support and understanding they have given me over the years.
"And a thank you, thank you, thank you to the wonderful staff we have in the Freeholder office over the years, Kathy, Tonya, Andrea and Bonnie. You kept me going in the right place with the right things at the right time. It is my honor to call you friend and I will miss you.
"I am very proud of this county, where it has been, where it is now and where it is going. We are good, but can always get better
"While out and about I have often said that when our employees come to work it is not just a job, but a vocation. They give their heart and soul to each position they hold. They are awesome. I cannot name each one of you, we would be here all night.
"So to my Somerset County family,
"I will never forget your kind words, quick response to all my questions and your friendships.
"I have searched and searched to find the right words to thank you for all that you do. I can only say Thank you. You have touched my heart and the hearts of all you have helped.
"God Bless all of you, and God Bless America.
"To quote Dr. Seuss" Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
"I wish all of you a Very Happy Holiday season filled with family and friends. Make Memories."