As Kinnelon's elected officials gathered to welcome the new year with a swearing-in ceremony and reorganization Wednesday, they could not help but reflect on a year that one councilman described as starting off like a lamb and ending like a lion.
"It was a great year for pride in Kinnelon," Councilman Jim Freda said in his remarks, noting several moments in 2012 when he, and others, were proud to be from the borough.
A Year of Highs and Lows
Earlier, Mayor Robert Collins described the "highs and lows" of 2012, beginning with mention of Jonathan Batista, the 22-year-old soldier from the borough who was killed in Afghanistan. As Batista's body was brought home in July, Kinnelon Road was lined with residents waving flags to welcome him.
"The amount of respect and support that we gave the Batista family, I think, was very telling of how Kinnelon recognizes its own," Collins said.
Freda also recalled the homecoming and said it was a proud moment for him and his family. At first, he said, he was concerned that residents would not show up to welcome the hearse, but he was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
"When I got to [Piccolo's], my son and I high-fived and we were just filled and filled with pride," he said.
One of the "highs" Collins described was the Kinnelon High School varsity football team's state championship win. Collins said the players will be honored at a later meeting, but also acknowledged other athletic teams and the high school as a whole, reminding the audience that the school was ranked No. 5 in the state by NJ Monthly magazine.
"When you put the pieces together, I think it just speaks well about the community," Collins said.
The mayor described Superstorm Sandy as both a high and a low, explaining that while he hopes the borough is never again faced with a weather event like the storm, he was inspired by the way the community came together. He particularly acknowledged the members of the Kinnelon Volunteer Fire Co. and the work the firefighters put forth in ensuring residents' safety.
Later in the meeting, Councilman Gary Moleta thanked all borough volunteers and residents who spend their time serving the borough and their neighbors.
"I can't tell you how honored I am to have so many of our residents who volunteer on our commissions," Moleta said.
Second Female Councilwoman Sworn In
One such volunteer Moleta was especially appreciative of was newly elected Councilwoman Carol Sventy, who was sworn in at Wednesday night's meeting as the second female councilwoman in borough history. Sventy has served on the Kinnelon Open Space Advisory Committee, as a leader of the Friends of the Kinnelon Public Library organization and has been heavily involved with the Center for Lifelong Learning.
Each council member, in addition to Collins, offered words of encouragement to Sventy and said they look forward to working with her.
Sventy said she was "extremely honored and humbled" to be elected by Kinnelon voters and said she would put her whole heart into her new role.
"I promise to work hard to help maintain the Borough of Kinnelon for all residents," she said.
Looking Toward the Future
The officials also spoke about their hopes for the new year in their remarks, many of which included continued work on issues from the past year.
Both Councilmen Ron Mondello and Freda said they hope to continue their work in trying to have an artificial turf field constructed in the borough. Mondello noted the state support he has tried to receive for legislation that would create parity between New Jersey Highlands allowances for artificial turf fields on borough and school district property. Freda said he would continue to seek a way for a turf field to be constructed while being financially conscious.
Freda named two other goals he has for the coming year, including creating another baseball field in the borough and having a youth or senior center.
Councilman Dan O'Dougherty said his goal, and something he looked forward to, was the constrcution of a new Department of Public Works garage addition. He also thanked voters for re-electing him and promised to serve the residents of the borough to the best of his ability.
Councilman Stephen Cobell spoke about finances and the challenges that the borough will face in 2013. He said the borough continues to have trouble acquiring new ratables, which causes difficulties in keeping tax increases low.
"We will have another challenging year, but I promise we will do better than Washington," he said.
Collins had his own set of goals, which included working with other elected officials to potentially relieve some of the pressure from Highlands restrictions that prevent new ratables in the borough, continuing to keep the Kinnelon Public Library operational and making borough business more transparent through the website. Collins said he would also like to see the council limit new legislation in the new year.
"All too often, we see legislation put in place that, ultimately, doesn't serve the public well," he said.
Collins said he would like the borough to consider entering into more shared service agreements that create efficiences for and that benefit Kinnelon. The mayor also took a moment to reflect on the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and explained how he is working with school district officials and Kinnelon Police Chief John Finkle to ensure the safety of the borough's children.
"Being proactive is not a bad thing," he said.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Collins made a promise that the elected officials would be mindful of taxpayers with each dollar they spend.