Serving on Council, I’ve been impressed by our City Staff rising to the daily challenges of keeping our City running during the shutdown:  ensuring pedestrian safety, addressing food security and senior citizen concerns, navigating unemployment resources, and -- of course -- managing our COVID-19 response. Yet in a well-run, well-resourced town like ours, the effort might not always be visible.

What unites Council, Mayor and City staff is a strong sense of accountability to Summit residents, and to local businesses and service organizations. While we may offer different solutions -- that diversity of thought is a good thing! – we never begin with, “What’s best for me or my neighborhood?”  Instead, we all begin with: “What’s best for Summit?  What’s best for the varied stakeholders who live, work, play, and pray here?”

From my decades of experience on committees and in volunteering, I know accountability is threefold: taking responsibility, ensuring appropriate action, and evaluating the quality of results. 

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Tropical Storm Isaias presents an ideal example. We worked hard before, during and after the storm to ensure safety, continuity of services (such as by providing charging stations during the power outage), and business stability. We are grateful that Summit suffered no injuries. The utilities -- primarily JCP&L -- were responsible for repairing damage and service restoration. As the “ears” of the community, Council and Mayor Radest listened to you and relayed your needs to City departments; guaranteed resource allocations; and immediately assessed outcomes so that we learn and improve.

On this third point: Council President Marjorie Fox has formed an ad hoc task force including members of our Council Administrative Committee to join Mayor Radest in reviewing JCP&L’s shortcomings and how we can address these with them. As discussed at our emergency August 18th meeting, it is the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) that oversees JCP&L, and it is from them that we may be able to seek redress.

Watch the whole meeting here.

Some are suggesting that we petition to have our electric service handled by PSE&G, but even if this were achievable, it is not necessarily a good solution.  Residents on Kent Place Blvd. who have been suffering through a long PSE&G project involving tearing up the road would likely not view that company particularly favorably.

Fundamentally, I want to assure you that we heard your concerns.  Many residents were justifiably unhappy with the lengthy outages. I absolutely know, from personal experience, how frustrating it is to work in the dark and manage family meals without refrigeration or a stove -- especially amid a global pandemic. How much more inconvenience can we tolerate?! Like our patience, our sensibilities are being seriously challenged.

But I also know that we’re up to the challenge. Though our town fared worse than some municipalities, we did far better than others. We are not resting on our laurels, but continuously evaluating our successes and failures: our accountability to you.

What helped Summit most through that long week? The strong bond Summit residents feel toward one another. I’ve heard countless reports of families with generators offering room in their freezers or a phone charge. We supported restaurants that lost food inventory. Once again -- as throughout the pandemic -- we reached out to help each other. We all call this town home, and it’s a home we share. Well done, Summit!

As a Council member, I’m most accountable to you. I invite every one of you to contact me with specific suggestions or to alert me to seemingly unsolvable problems.  I vow to listen, follow up, and help you find resolution.  Reach me at votesusanhairston@gmail.com.  And thanks, once again, for getting to know me through these statements.

Susan Hairston - Candidate Summit Common Council, Ward 1