SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield Library Board held its 2018 reorganization meeting earlier this month.
At the Jan. 9 meeting, the nine-member board unanimously elected Cheryl Nagel-Smiley as president as well as re-elected Gary Jones as vice president and Melissa Katsingris as treasurer. For 2018, the board also includes members Robert Bengivenga, Frank Lemos, Ray Rusnak (mayor’s represenative), Annmarie Stoeckel (superintendent’s represenative), and Stephanie Wolak, along with Anne Troop, who was appointed to a five-year term at the borough’s Jan. 6 reorganization meeting. Darlene Cullen, who served on the board for five years – including four as president – did not seek a second term.
Nagel-Smiley first became involved with the South Plainfield Library Board back in 2001. She served as the mayor’s representative until 2004 and, from 2005 to 2010 was a trustee. In early 2015, South Plainfield Mayor Matt Anesh reappointed Nagel-Smiley to the board as his rep and the following year became a trustee.
“I want to thank you for electing me president…I hope with your support I can be as productive and successful as my predecessors,” said Nagel-Smiley.
“It is very nice to join the board,” said Troop, a former librarian and volunteer at the South Plainfield Library. “I have been a member of the South Plainfield Library for 47 years; one of the first things my husband and I did was come to the library and get a library card.”
During the meeting, the 2018 South Plainfield Library Board also recognized Cullen, presenting her with a plaque in honor of her service to the library and South Plainfield community. Former board member and current Councilwoman Christine Faustini as well as past president and current board attorney Eric Aronowitz were also on hand to extend thanks.
A member of the board for five years, Cullen served as mayor’s rep in 2012 and as president from 2013 through 2017. According to Nagel-Smiley, under Cullen’s tenure, the library was doubled in size and a ‘beautiful addition’ was built.
“Darlene worked diligently to give the best [to the] South Plainfield community, almost as if she laid every brick, hammered every nail, and poured every bit of the cement,” said Nagel-Smiley. “This community, board, and patrons owe her a debt of gratitude for getting us this state-of-the-art facility.”
According to Rusnak, for over 10 years, the issue of building a new library was a ‘political football’ that Cullen helped make a reality. “With Darlene’s guidance and her perseverance, she kept pushing it and pushing it and it came to fruition,” said Rusnak, a former councilman who served on the borough committee charged with moving the library project forward. “I am proud to have been a part of that committee.”
“I don't know how we would have done it without you,” added Stoeckel. “You are certainly going to be missed.”
“From my point of view, sitting here, putting up this building…it was not an easy task…and every time we had a problem it was straightened out. I really tip my hat off to you,” said Lemos, adding, “I hope the board will continue what Darlene started.”
Katsingris said, “I do not think we would be where we are today, in this building, if it weren’t for you.”
Wolak also extended her thanks and encouraged Cullen to remain involved in library events. “Under Darlene’s direction, a lot of good things did happen. Everyone worked hard but you really had your feet in there with everything,” said Wolak, “I hope you will stay in touch with us and continue to be a part of our library family.”
“Darlene was at the forefront…along with Christine [Faustini],” added Jones. “People do not know how hard it is to be president. A lot of effort and time... I hope the public understands just what you do.”
Faustini, who served on the library board for five years prior to her appointment on the council in 2016, also recognized Cullen for her service and dedication. “You worked very hard and I learned a lot from you. I think the South Plainfield community is certainly in a better place because [you] served on this board and I am happy to call you a friend.”
“Darlene is probably the most dedicated, focused person I have ever dealt with…” added Aronowitz, comparing Cullen’s efforts in getting things done to those in a playoff football game. “There is a certain point where you bring the ball down the field, get it into the end zone but you need someone to carry it across the goal line. And that was Darlene. She is the Heisman Trophy winner of the board.”
“Thank you for the accolades but it was all of us as a team that made this library possible. I enjoyed working with everyone and formed some really great friendships…over the last five years,” said Cullen, adding, “I wish the board well and hope the new board just brings us to bigger and better things now that we have been established in the community. I want to thank the board along with [Library Director] Linda Hansen and her entire staff for their guidance.”
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