Mayor David Runfeldt's 2023 Message to Lincoln Park
I would like to begin by welcoming everyone here tonight for the annual re-organization meeting of the Borough of Lincoln Park. Thank you to Pastor Tom Berninger of the Abundant Life Church of Lincoln Park for his wonderful invocation to start this meeting. I would like to offer a special thank you to the elected officials from throughout the county and state who have made the effort to join us this evening, including State Senator Pennacchio, Assemblyman Brian Bergen, County Commissioners Cabana, Mastrangelo and Shaw, and Sherriff Jim Gannon. And, of course, a special thank you to all the residents of our great town who have taken the time to be here tonight.
As I begin my fifth term as Mayor, I remain honored and humbled to serve the people of Lincoln Park. This is a privilege that I continue to take seriously and I am grateful for the support and trust this great community has shown to me.
Congratulations to Councilman Seise on your re-election and to your re-election to the position of Council President. Your being named to this position again shows the faith your colleagues have in you. Likewise, I believe that you and I have created a very good working relationship over the years and I look forward to continuing that in the coming year.
Congratulations to Council members Thompson, Moeller and Gurkovich on your re-elections as well. The margin of our victories shows the not only the appreciation our residents have for our past leadership, but more importantly the trust they have in our ability to lead Lincoln Park forward and to keep it a safe, well managed and vibrant community.
It has been a pleasure working with our remaining Council members Ross, Gemian, and Antonetti this past year and I expect that we will continue to do so in 2023. I continue to challenge each of you, and myself, that with every decision made, to do what is in the best interest of this community now and for our future. I would encourage that all of us in this community do the same. As I have mentioned during many re-organization speeches, it is important to look past what is good for “each” of us and look towards what is good for “all” of us. I have also said that “party” politics in small towns like Lincoln Park has no place. Those of us involved in town government should be concerned with providing our residents the most amount of service, in the most efficient manner, to save the most amount of money.
2022 was the 100th Birthday of Lincoln Park. We celebrated our Centennial in many and great ways both honoring our history and promoting our future. The first phase of Centennial Park was completed and the park was officially opened. Much of this park was provided through a recreation grant from the State of New Jersey and from the generosity of many or our residents and businesses.
2022 saw more interest in development than in many previous years. Investment in our down-town commercial area continues with the growth of our retail space, eateries and residential units. I am confident that due to the progressive and smart planning of our land use boards, re-development agencies and the governing body that Lincoln Park is now prepared to move into our next century of existence as a great place to live, work and visit.
In 2022 my administration and your elected council have continued to provide you with a minimal municipal tax increase, along with ongoing delivery of top-notch services. We remain committed to the all-important goal of having minimal increases to our operating budget much less than the amount the state allows. We continue to be less reliant on use of surplus funds in our budget. We continue to increase our Fund Balance. A healthy Fund Balance provides tax stability and contributes to the orderly provision of services from year to year. A healthy Fund Balance also protects our taxpayers from unexpected changes in financial conditions such as cuts in state aid and/or a natural disaster emergency.
Zero based budgeting, anticipating future budget needs rather than focusing solely year to year, and instituting a 10 year capital purchase plan have all helped us get to where we are today. And, where we are today, has helped us get to a place where we are well prepared for the future financial needs of the town. We now self-fund large capital purchases whenever possible, rather than borrow and increase our debt. We continue to be on track to have Lincoln Park totally debt free by 2030 and in all probability even sooner than that. All of these components are possible and begin with the watchful eye that our CFO Fabiana Melo and Business Administrator Perry Mayers keep over our budget. The cooperation and willingness of all of our department heads to be as economical as possible also aids us in providing great service at an effective cost. I am confident that these steps will help us in a positive way with future year’s budgeting and continue to ensure that the future of Lincoln Park as a community is a vibrant and prosperous one!
In 2022 we took on the task of starting improvements on our aging sewer lines to minimize the amount of infiltration in the system. This has already shown significant reduction in flow through the system, and we are hopeful that this will soon have a positive impact on our sewer bills.
Quality of life issues which are so important in a community of our size and make up have been and continue to be a top priority of mine and the Borough Council. Although COVID continues to be a health concern throughout the world, we have largely returned to normal here in town. 2022 saw the return of many of our health and recreation programs that had been temporarily interrupted due to the pandemic. We have also continued to bring new and exciting activities to our residents. Kathy Skrobala in the Health Department and Janet Cassidy in the Recreation Department do a tremendous job in making these activities accessible to our community and keeping them exciting. Both of these departments are staffed by wonderful people who strive keep us healthy and active.
Often unacknowledged, but ready to serve us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is Rick Beyer and the members of our Department of Public Works. These dedicated men and women ensure that our water comes in, recycling and trash goes out, roads can be traveled, public spaces are clean and so much more.
Our Building Department has undergone some significant changes since Sal Marino has been dealing with some health issues. I am positive that the department is in good shape, is performing all of its duties and continuing with the great service it has provided to our town in everything from major commercial developments to small questions. We continue to keep Sal and his family in our thoughts and prayers and wish him improved health in the future.
Court Administrator, Ashley Fritz and those involved in our court system provide a fair and balanced environment for justice and resolutions of disputes.
Fabiana Melo and the men and women in the Finance office go above in beyond in making things like tax collection, paying bills and tax assessment as pleasant as possible for our residents.
Perry Mayers and Dina Valente-Stoel in my office and Courtney Fitzpatrick and our new Deputy Amanda Giacon in the clerk's office are always happy to help residents and I thank them especially for the assistance they give me throughout the year.
With regards to your safety, I continue to stand by my belief that we have the best of the best in Lincoln Park. Fire Chief Joe Fede, along with EMS Chief Beth Anderson lead a dedicated group of volunteers who leave their family and the comforts of their own home whenever called to lend assistance to your property and your loved ones.
Your safety is also well watched over by the men and women of our Police Department. Chief Joe Zammit and his staff officers oversee the finest department, dedicated to serving your safety and protection.
Lastly, I would like to thank my wife Andrea and my daughters Brielle and Camryn for their support and understanding of how important I take this position and the time away from them it requires.
Lincoln Park is a community made of many people, diverse nationalities, assorted religions, different races, varied sexual orientations and gender identities, young and old. Those who immigrated to this country and those born here. Some have spent their entire lives here; others are new to our town. Yet, with all these differences, we make up one community...one great, wonderful, thriving, safe and accepting community! I am proud of the part I have contributed to this community, I am thankful to our elected officials for their support of this community and am proud of each and every one in this community for being part of it.
I wish you all the best of Health, Wealth, and Happiness in 2023 and beyond.
Dr. David A Runfeldt / Mayor, Borough of Lincoln Park