UNION COUNTY, NJ — On Sunday, January 8, Union County held its reorganization meeting at the County Courthouse in Elizabeth. Freeholders Linda Carter, Bette Jane Kowalski and Sergio Granados were sworn into their new terms. Freeholder Bruce Bergen was appointed to his second year as chairman, and Granados was appointed to his second year as vice chairman. Freeholders also voted to fill numerous positions on county advisory boards and adopted the 2017 board schedule.
“I thank my colleagues on the board for their support as incoming vice chairman once more, and I look forward to working with our chairman in furthering his initiatives that we have seen become successful in benefiting our residents, along with the new ones that will be announced at our Union County Reorganization meeting,” Granados told LocalSource in an email. “I will continue to champion programs furthering community outreach, charitable service, workforce initiatives and educational improvements. These are ideals that my colleagues on the board have shared and have also emphasized through the years of Democratic party governance.”
Kowalski also expressed appreciation regarding her re-election.
“I’m very grateful to the residents who have re-elected Freeholder Carter, Vice Chair Granados and me,” Kowalski told LocalSource in an email. “It’s my privilege to serve the people of this county.
Bergen’s initiatives for this year include helping those in need. Kowalski looks forward to helping him carry out these plans.
“We plan to continue our efforts on behalf of working families and those in need,” Kowalski said. “In recent years, I’ve worked on maintaining important services, such as Meals on Wheels, rental assistance and transportation for seniors and people with disabilities.”
Bergen made note that the county’s success depends greatly on the freeholders.
“I’m humbled and honored to be reappointed to my second year as chairman by my colleagues,” Bergen told LocalSource over the phone. “The progress of the county depends on the nine freeholders. As chairman, I oversee a lot of the meetings and complete a lot of administrative work, but the county depends upon the nine equals working together.”
Kowalski is a supporter of public transportation, and she plans to expand the service to transport commuters to New York.
“I’ve always supported improving public transportation, and have worked with the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition to establish direct service to and from New York,” Kowalski said. “We have succeeded in getting a one-seat ride during off-peak hours, and we will continue to push to expand that service.”
Arts and culture is another initiative which Kowalski supports and plans to improve upon this year.
“Another focus has been our parks department’s cultural programs to expand arts and recreational opportunities,” Kowalski said. “Our grants to public libraries for children’s programs and to local organizations for community gardens have made a difference in many people’s lives, and I’m proud to have participated.”
Granados also has plans to improve County parks and preserve land.
“In the past few years, I’ve also worked on the Parks Advisory Board, which continues to oversee improvements throughout the parks system, including a new skating rink at Warinanco Park and the very first inclusive playground built within the county of Union open to the public,” Granados told LocalSource. “This year, I will chair the Open Space Recreation and Historic Preservation Committee, which has worked to preserve hundreds of acres of green space, while assisting municipalities to rebuild and construct new recreational facilities for our children and active adults.”
An ongoing concern has been the flooding of the Rahway River. There is now a plan to alleviate flooding which residents can view and comment on if they visit the Union County website.
“Being a resident of one of the towns along the Rahway River, I have a special interest in flood control,” Kowalski told LocalSource. “With Chairman Bergen and other colleagues, I have had many meetings with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, legislators at both the state and national levels and the local Mayors Council. We have developed a viable plan to alleviate flooding, and residents can see it online and submit comments.”
Granados will listen to residents’ concerns and continue to address them.
“I look forward to continuing to work for all the residents of Union County by listening to their concerns and working alongside my freeholder colleagues to make sure we continue to be the destination to live, work and raise a family,” Granados told LocalSource. “I will also continue to work on the Workforce Development Board, to create a greater amount of public-private partnerships which worked to create well over 1,000 employment opportunities this past year alone for county residents, and train hundreds of others for new, in-demand careers.”
When contacted by LocalSource for comment, Carter didn’t respond prior to press time.