LETTER: South Orange VP Collum Endorses Brown, Haskins and Hilton for Board of Trustees

by Sheena Collum
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Disclaimer: All views are my own and don’t reflect the Board of Trustees.

Dear Editor,

It is with great excitement that I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse the team of Karen Hilton, Bill Haskins and Bobby Brown (Line B) for South Orange Trustee.

As the Village President, now in my second term, I have a unique vantage point of what the job entails, the collaborative and determined work-ethic that’s necessary to be effective, and I am going to take this opportunity to share some insight with the community. This team is incredibly humble, and I appreciate that quality, but this an important election and so I’m going to be very specific.

Karen Hilton whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with for four years is absolutely amazing. She has reformed our budget process significantly including engagement with our Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, implementing department presentations in a public setting, continuously evaluating our bonding capabilities and debt service, and she has supported every initiative to share services and promote collaborations both with our neighboring town of Maplewood as well as regional partnerships. She has championed two major projects in our Village including our new Baird Community Center (under construction) which will greatly expand our offerings and functional capabilities to better meet the needs of our public and provide a 21st century recreational and cultural experience for all ages to enjoy. Have I mentioned we’re going to have a field house and activate our outdoor porch with concessions for seniors and onlookers to enjoy as they gaze out and watch all the outdoor sporting events? We’re going to have new multi-purposes spaces for various community groups to meet and host functions.

Our next “biggie” of a project is delivering to this community a library this Village desperately deserves. Karen attends the library planning meetings, follows-up with our consultants, she reviews finances, she assists with grants, and she knows that this is yet another civic space for all residents but particularly a resource for our seniors and children. This woman lives and breathes this community and has shown that with over a decade of volunteerism long before she ran for public office. And for those of you keeping score, showing up and being present for meetings is a must not just when there’s a camera on. She is always well-prepared, responsive to residents, and she has provided so much incredible guidance to our staff and professionals that I’ve simply lost count. I admire Trustee Hilton and it would be a blessing for our community and taxpayers to give her four more years.

Bill Haskins I met through his work with our Environmental Commission and Green Team. It’s truly unbelievable to see him in action as he’s helped secure over a hundred thousand dollars in grants to advance sustainability in a progressive community that has the opportunity to do so much more! I’ve seen some positioning of Bill as the “green candidate” in our community and I take exception to that because I think it diminishes all he has already produced that includes the environment but has massive impacts on municipal finance, public health, and infrastructure. He is leading our efforts to transition away from a broken recycling program and secure better outcomes as we aspire to “zero waste” while potentially saving our residents between $250,000-$500,000 (that’s almost two municipal tax percentage points). He’s led our tree inventory and planting initiatives which is great because we all love trees and their beauty. But the reality is that green infrastructure is absolutely critical for stormwater management throughout our town and again, that’s money savings and cost-avoidance for homeowners.

The Board of Trustees has frequently relied on Bill’s expert guidance and advice on these challenging issues and what a huge win for us to elect him and appoint him to Chair our Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. With major work occurring all throughout the town as it relates to our water system, roads, sewers and becoming a model Village for environmental stewardship and cost savings to taxpayers – we can’t afford not to elect Bill Haskins. He’s also a project manager professionally and there can never be enough of that skillset on the governing body, trust me – we have a lot of projects going on.

Bobby Brown I met when he ran for office in 2019. Many of you may not know this but often in local elections, when someone doesn’t come out the victor, they may just disappear from municipal life. Not Bobby Brown, not even a little. In the past two years, he’s led our Citizens Police Collaborative and greatly assisted the governing body on difficult conversations about policing, youth diversion programs, and most recently, the launch of our Community Care and Justice Initiative as we reimagine public safety, policing and provide better social services in our calls for services. Policing 2.0 will look much different from what it was in the past and that requires law enforcement and community buy-in. I know Bobby is up to the task because his greatest attributes are his caring and compassionate nature and his unique ability to bring various stakeholders together for a common goal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Bobby spends his time coaching youth sports… that’s a big passion for him. What else can you expect from a former professional athlete. While his role in public safety matters will be critical, I also ask you to vote for Bobby Brown because we want the South Orange community to be known for its unmatched recreation and cultural offerings. Playing basketball or soccer or softball isn’t just about having something fun to do. It’s about teamwork, sportsmanship, character building and of course, public health outcomes. When Bobby isn’t practicing law or working on public safety – he’s with our children. He deeply understands the needs for state-of-the-art facilities and to the parents in our community talking about our “fields,” trust me when I say Bobby is your guy! 

Our community deserves these individuals. Our Board of Trustees need these individuals.

On May 11, I am imploring you to vote for Karen Hilton, Bill Haskins and Bobby Brown who will appear as “Line B” on your ballot. If you are still undecided, please visit www.hhbso2021.com to learn more or email them at hiltonhaskinsbrown@gmail.com and ask questions! I know they will get back to you because that’s who they are.

Remember, polls are open from 6:00am-8:00pm next Tuesday, May 11. If you have any questions about voting, please contact the Clerk’s Office at (973) 378-7715 ext. 1 or email Clerksoffice@southorange.org.

Sheena Collum
Village President
South Orange, NJ

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