I would like to start my letter this week by thanking the citizens of Westfield for your interest, attention and enthusiasm during this election cycle. It has been inspiring to meet so many engaged neighbors and friends and talk with them about their hopes and aspirations for the Westfield of tomorrow. 

I would also like to spend some time distinguishing between the “experience” offered by the current administration and the experience Shelley Brindle and I and our running mates will bring to the council.  

The current mayor and council have a lot of experience if you are looking for years of experience keeping everything the same. With them, you can have the same commissions, the same long wait for a reply, the same one per per year pace for road repaving, and the same lack of communications on important topics like affordable housing. Our mayor has had 12 years to think about pedestrian safety, controlling speeding, one-seat rides during rush hour, and environmentally protective ordinances; 144 months to be proactive in his approach to address shifting shopping habits; 624 weeks to find real parking solutions for downtown, and 4,380 days to think hard about ways to keep our property taxes from increasing more than 60 percent since he entered office. I don’t dispute that he has logged a lot of hours as a volunteer, and we appreciate his service.  I, however, endorse a different kind of experience and leadership — proactive vs. reactive, inclusive vs. exclusive. 

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Far from being novices, Shelley and I are committed to leveraging our years of experience as executives and business leaders. I am a business owner, a 30-year finance professional, and a volunteer leader in our community, and Shelley served as a corporate executive leading HBO from a low point of complacency in 2010 through a period of disruptive change to re-establish itself at the top of the market.  Shelley has everything we need in a mayor — one who will lead us forward to look at fresh solutions to decade’s old problems while taking full advantage of the experience of our own’s current council members and our current Town Administrator, just as she did at HBO. Inside Shelley’s vision for Westfield, I see all residents collaboratively providing input on a new and innovative master plan. This plan would borrow the best practices and proven solutions of successful small towns across the country — ones that have solved for parking challenges, taken on today’s challenges to retail, introduced new streams of revenue AND become a buzzing hub of activities for kids, adults and seniors.

I see residents staying in their Westfield homes after their kids graduate from our schools, encouraged by the increased services, re-investment and new non-property tax revenues. And, I see open communications platforms pushing out important news to all of us on a daily basis. No longer will residents face the inconvenience (or often, the feeling of humiliation) involved in attending a town council meeting just to have a simple question answered. Every citizen will be invited to engage and to participate. And as your Ward One councilwoman, I look forward to the opportunity to be right there next to Shelley, driving Westfield ahead to work better for every one of us.

Please consider the report card of our opponents and judge for yourself whether their experience will help our great community move forward. If you like the status quo — pop-up Halloween stores, lots of parking tickets, a tired 2002 master plan with a couple of minor updates, a seeming disregard for the importance of historic preservation — cast your vote for the incumbents. As for me, I am all-in for Shelley and look forward to helping her to achieve the inclusive, proactive solutions we need in the Westfield of tomorrow. That’s the kind of experience I’m voting for on Nov. 7.   

 

Linda Habgood

Westfield, NJ