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I am a daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, a working mom of two, a special education teacher, and President of a local non-profit organization.
As an avid volunteer and teacher in the Warren County community, I understand first hand what the families and residents of Warren County need. Warren County can be a great place to live, work, and raise a family. We need leadership with vision that will advocate not only for our current needs, but for our future as well. I am that voice that will bring Warren County into the 21st Century, so that our businesses and our children can compete with the rest of the nation, while protecting Our Quality of Life that we all work so hard to enjoy.
I have been working in education for over 20 years, promoting the welfare of children, schools, and the community. I hold a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida, and an Executive M.A. in Educational Leadership, Management, and Policy from Seton Hall University. In my professional career, I have been a member of the District Technology Committee, as well as chaired several committees, including the School Safety and the Faculty Advisory Committee. I have proven to be a strong advocate for public education, working on educational issues at the local, state, and national levels in my role as a local union representative, as part of the Negotiations Team, and currently as Vice President of WHREA. Our children rely on public education, and I will continue to ensure that all of our children have equal access to the many opportunities that a great education brings.
Community involvement has also been a top priority for me. From volunteering as former Committee Chair of Harmony Cub Scouts Pack 503, coaching for Harmony Township Youth Athletic Association, team manager for ENCO Soccer Club, to secretary for Harmony PTA and Belvidere Wrestling Booster Club. Through these various community efforts, I have gained an invaluable, diverse perspective and sense of the needs of our Warren County communities.
I have learned my advocacy skills from my father, Vietnam Veteran Thomas G. Bender. In his role as former Chairman of Government Affairs for Rolling Thunder, and a former chair of the N.J. Veteran Advisory Council, Mr. Bender was nationally recognized as a POW/MIA Activist of the Year by the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families for his efforts. I will continue to advocate for the needs of our Veterans, right here in Warren County.
Currently, I am the President of the non-profit group Citizens for Sustainable Development, CFSD. In this role, I have increased public awareness on local land use policy and the threat of warehouse sprawl, inappropriate developments in our area, and advocated for local municipalities to review and update zoning to align with current Master Plans.
As a working mother of two, I am well aware of the challenges that families face making ends meet. Fiscal responsibility, developing viable economic opportunities, delivering high quality services like broad band access, and encouraging agricultural development are important aspects of maintaining and improving the Quality of Life for the people of Warren County.
Warren County is a beautiful place to live, work, and raise a family. There is so much potential here to make our county a thriving community, not only economically, but in terms of quality of life as well. Warren County is definitely faced with its challenges.
Currently, Warren County is dealing with the burden of warehouse development. It has really become a front and center issue, as our infrastructure of roadways and bridges are not able to support the amount and type of traffic that comes with these megastructures. Our emergency crews, who are often volunteers working full time jobs, will also be faced with handling an increase of traffic accidents, transportation issues when roadways are clogged and ambulances are traversing through the rural corridors, and not to mention warehouse fires. There has been a meeting with County Emergency leaders on this very issue, and the result was that it is a significant concern. Public health, safety, and welfare should be at the root of every decision made by leadership. When first responders are at risk due to overdevelopment, leaders have to step back and really question which type of development benefits all members of the community. Roads and bridges are under the purview of County Commissioners, and so is public health, safety, and welfare. When our infrastructure is met with increased risks to our public health and safety, the County Commissioners must step in. I will make this issue my number one priority, and work to come up with viable solutions. Eminent domain and expansion of our current infrastructure will only cause significant tax increases and force many families to leave their life-long homesteads. It is time that County leaders honor their commitment to the communities that they serve.
This leads me to the next challenge, which is broadband and internet access. Our technology infrastructure needs significant upgrading. When Warren County is able to compete with the 21st Century, we will be able to attract the type of industry that will provide job security, sustainability, and the disposable incomes needed to boost our local economy. The county was given over $10 million in the first round of federal funding with the American Rescue Act, and is slated to receive another significant amount with the Infrastructure Act. These funds were slated for technology infrastructure upgrades. Warren County needs leadership with vision to understand how those funds will be most effective in meeting the needs of the residents. Currently, the majority of those funds have been used on remodeling the County Courthouse. Transparency of where these funds are allocated, and a timeline of technology upgrades/projects would be another top priority. Our businesses and our children rely on technology to compete in the 21st Century.
The last challenge that I will talk about affects our Veterans. My father was a Vietnam Veteran, and resided in Clinton for the remainder of his life. He needed to go to the VA in Lyons or East Orange for his medical and health services. Accessing these services from a distance became quite a challenge for him. I can only imagine how challenging this is for our Veterans here, in Warren County. To have to travel over an hour for help is a huge burden for our Vets. There are some Veterans that require services 2-3 times per week. They are left with the choice of seeking the service, or skipping because of the travel difficulties. Our Veterans should never be put in this position. We can do better in Warren County; our Veterans deserve better. We can create satellite offices that are easily accessible, right here in our own county. Warren County currently provides shuttle transportation to some areas within the county, which would be a great relief to our Veterans who have limited transportation access. Meeting the needs of those who served our country would be a great accomplishment.
I have knocked on many doors, and have had quite a few conversations with the residents of Warren County. These concerns seem to be the most important challenges that directly affect all of us, and seeking viable solutions to these issues would directly benefit the county as a whole.
I will continue to volunteer in the Warren County Community. I will also actively seek public comment and input on identifying and addressing issues. I would ask for feedback from all stakeholders, not just a hand-selected group that I know will go with my vision. Adversity and diversity in communities exist, and as an elected official, it is very important to hear from all perspectives. I would strive to entrust the residents, to value opposing and similar opinions, and to maintain open and transparent government.
My top priorities would be the issues that I am running on: stopping warehouse sprawl, increasing broadband access, attracting sustainable, high income industry, establish accessible veterans’ services, and improve government transparency. Making informed decisions with the intent to advance these goals would be my main focus.
First and foremost, I believe in an open and transparent Government. All public comments and opinions would be welcome, whether I agree or disagree with what the people have to say. It is everyone’s right to be heard, and if someone is willing to stand up and state their mind, then as an elected official, it would be my duty to listen to what they are saying.
The public has a right to know what decisions are being made, and the rationale behind those decisions. This will be done in an open public meeting forum, not behind closed doors. I will ensure fair public access to open government meetings, and I will ensure that the public has accurate information as to why decisions are being made. I will do my due diligence in collecting data and research to make informed, proactive decisions that are beneficial to the future of Warren County, and not rush to make knee jerk decisions that are reactionary. The residents can be assured that any decision that I would vote upon, would be for the benefit of all of us who live, work, and raise our families in Warren County.