New Maplewood Committeeman Greg Lembrich: ‘It’s Time to Get to Work’

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The following is a transcript of remarks made by Greg Lembrich after he was sworn in as Maplewood Committeeman earlier today at the annual Township Reorganization meeting.

Greg Lembrich is sworn in as a member of the Maplewood Township Committee, January 1, 2016. Photo: Cesar Correa

Greg Lembrich is sworn in as a member of the Maplewood Township Committee, January 1, 2016. Also pictured: Town Clerk Liz Fritzen, Alex Carter (wife of Lembrich) and daughter CC. Photo: Cesar Correa.

Happy New Year to everyone! And thanks to the Boy Scouts and all of the musical performers and religious leaders participating in this ceremony. I am so honored and humbled to have this opportunity to serve the town that I love as a member of the Township Committee, and I’m grateful for the trust and faith that the community has placed in me.  I promise that I will work hard to earn it, to keep Maplewood the best place in America to live and raise a family, and to help our community continue to flourish and get even better.

There are any number of ways that I could use this opportunity to address you today.  I could talk about politics or policy, but instead I plan to use nearly all of my time to thank people.  While most of you know that I never have a problem sharing what I think, I am often not as good at expressing how I feel. And on this day, what I feel most is gratitude. I’ll warn you in advance that I’m going to thank many, many people, and nearly all of them individually by name, because I could not have been up here today without each of them helping and inspiring me.

First and foremost, my wife Alex, who not only allowed me to run for this office, but encouraged me every step of the way. She wasn’t just the gorgeous face standing next to me on my campaign literature, but she was also my campaign manager. Despite being a full-time professor at Columbia Law School, directing her own program, and lecturing and mediating all around the world, she devoted countless hours to organizing volunteers, keeping campaign strategy meetings from devolving into brawls, knocking on doors, and helping me to be the best candidate that I could be. You’re the love of my life, my best friend, my biggest supporter, and the greatest mom. CC and I are so lucky to have you, and we love you very much.

To my daughter CC, the other half of my heart, my little buddy, and arguably the best campaigner in town. She threw herself into the campaign with the same spirit of excitement and adventure that always delights and occasionally exhausts her mother and me. She loved handing out literature in the Village, walking door to door, and going to events. She’s my everyday inspiration to make sure that Maplewood remains a wonderful and truly special place to grow up for the next generation. CC, thanks for all of your great help on the campaign, but mostly thanks for being you. I love you.

I’d also like to thank my parents, who always led by example and showed me the value of civic engagement and public service from a young age. My father Tom served on the Branchburg Township Committee, including a term as Mayor, and was involved in organizing events and activities for seniors, youth, and everyone in between. My mom, while working full-time, was consistently a leader in the PTA at our schools and has always been the first to volunteer to help family, friends, and neighbors when they are in need. Between them, while I was growing up, they seemed to play a leading role in every event and organization in town and at our schools. From a young age, I recognized that the true leaders in any community are the people who show up and make things happen, and I aspired to become one of those people in my own community someday. Mom and Dad, you are two of the best people I know, I am so proud of you and I hope to live up to your example.

To my sister Ellen. This year, in the midst of expanding professional responsibilities at her job, she made the time to help set up for my campaign events, make calls to voters, and work hard on Election Day. Thanks for putting up with your big brother when we were growing up, and thanks for stepping up for me this year and every other time that we need you.

Thanks as well to my wife’s family, especially my mother-in-law Vera, who blew up balloons and stood out in the rain on Election Day at the train station handing out cookies and helping with the final push.

Next I want to recognize my primary campaign co-chairs, Fred Profeta and David Huemer. Both of you have taught me so much, and I will always be grateful that you put your own considerable reputations in Maplewood on the line to support me. Not only did your backing give my candidacy credibility, but it gave me the confidence to run. I would not have entered the race, much less won it, without your support and hard work.

Fred, thanks for your passion and commitment, as well as your wisdom, even if I didn’t always agree with it. I came to believe in me because you did, and I’ll never forget that. Your generosity of time, spirit, and resources got the campaign off the ground and kept it going. And to you and Sue, thank you for opening up your home for multiple campaign events, and supervising CC while I met all the voters who only came to listen to me based on your recommendation.

David, I cannot thank you enough for not only organizing my field operation, but personally walking with me around every neighborhood in town. You not only introduced me to thousands of voters, but were able to tell me their kids’ names, what activities they did in high school, and where they went to college. You made it fun, and helped to get me comfortable introducing myself to people and asking for their votes. I’ll always cherish those memories. Your generosity of time, energy, and caring was genuinely appreciated, and Alex and I are so pleased to call you our good friend.

Thanks to my deputy campaign manager Danielle Perrotta. Dani Dynamo. My secret weapon. Your infectious enthusiasm for my candidacy really helped build our momentum, and we won District 12 by the sheer force of your will. You and your family have become a part of ours, and we are blessed because of it.

To my campaign treasurer Dave Pressel, thank you so much for stepping up to tirelessly do a difficult and tiresome job. As a mortgage banker, you had seen your fair share of paperwork, but ELEC forms were a whole new animal for both of us, and I deeply appreciate your patience, dedication, and most of all your friendship.

I want to recognize our professional politico, Jim Madden, one of the best campaign minds in New Jersey.  We were so fortunate to have your help, and I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

Thanks to Frank McGehee, a great campaigner and community leader, for all your help this year. We can all expect great things from Frank here in Maplewood, and our community is lucky to have him.

Thanks to Brett Carrick, one of my best and oldest friends, for being our campaign lawyer and for all of your support over the years, and in particular through this election.

Thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers who devoted their time and talents to helping with the campaign. Putting up lawn signs, hosting events in your homes, talking to your friends and neighbors, handing our literature at the train station, you were the key to our success. It was especially gratifying that so many of our volunteers were young parents, who took time away from their busy schedules to support me.

A big thank you to my Mom Mafia. Deb Engel, thank you so much for letting us use the space at your awesome business, Work and Play, for our successful phonebanking events. Beth Janson, Heather Kasdan, Lisa Landers, Reshma Ketkar, Joanna Klein, Dina Pressel, Danielle Mann, Meredith Katz, Jess Murphy, Jerusha Oleksiuk, Devon Summersgill, Sharon Salvatore, Malia Herman, Nalini Rubenstein, Sherry Sutton, Paula Watts, Mariela Dybner, Tracey Sigalos, Lara Tomlin, Cristy Mendoza, Sherri Sparaga, Kristin O’Connor Saslovsky. The Mom Mafia rocks!

And let’s not forget the Dads: Tim Wolfinger, Michael Rubenstein, Dave Kasdan, Corey Wolff, Shaun Landers, Jeff Wolfe, Anthony Salvatore, Matt Engel, Dave Herman, Ariel Dybner, Shawn Watts, Jason Sigalos, Mark Thornton, Gene Mollica, Franck Lazare.

Thanks to the young people who enthusiastically joined the campaign, especially Theo Grayer, Devon Douglas-Bowers, and Louis Kraham.

And the Kid Brigade.  CC had lots of help from her friends.  It was so much fun to see all the kids that got involved in the campaign.  They loved the stickers and the lawn signs, and more importantly will grow up seeing the importance of local government and the value of being involved in the community.  Some of my best events were our campaign play dates, giving me a chance to hear concerns and answer questions from parents who care deeply about our community but often cannot come to town meetings due to their schedules. I’ve got your back.

Thanks to everyone else on my campaign committee. Dirk Olin for always helping to make the campaign about me rather than forcing me to be about the campaign. Gideon Romann for single-handedly gathering enough signatures to get me on the ballot, walking every street in his neighborhood, getting up lawn signs, and being a great ambassador. Al Kuehn for showing up early, staying late, whether in bitter cold or scorching heat, and roping even the most difficult pedestrians over to our campaign table.  To everyone who opened their homes and reached out to their personal networks to vouch for me. Dave Helmkamp and Pandora Setian, John and Helen Harvey, Risa Olinsky, Steve Weber, Inda Sechzer, Bruce Schafer.

Thank you to Rachel Zorel and Jamie Meier, two more SOMA moms, for your amazing branding, website design, social media, and photography work. You are both amazingly talented and we were lucky to have you on our team.

Thank you to SOMEA and the Village Keepers for your endorsements. And to Carol Buchanan and the Hilton Neighborhood Association for hosting our candidate debates and forums, and also to Irene Dunsavage, Kurt Kiley, Art Christensen, and Maplewood Senior Share for hosting the senior forum and helping to bring attention to senior issues in the campaign.

Thanks to Julie and Tom Pauly and the rest of their team at The Able Baker for making our 1,000 Election Day cookies. It is so great to see a tremendous local business not only thriving, but expanding.

Thank you to all of the donors who gave generously to my campaign.

Thank you to my running mate, and new Deputy Mayor, Nancy Adams. Nancy, I appreciate your work ethic, your sense of humor, and your willingness to tell it like it is. It has been such a pleasure to get to know you and Sal, and I look forward to working closely together to do great things for Maplewood.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Erin Scherzer, the campaign manager of our joint campaign. You took on a tough role, especially given the widespread fatigue after the primary (shared by candidates, volunteers, and voters alike), but you motivated us, merged the campaigns seamlessly, and steered the ship skillfully and successfully. I know that you will continue to play a big role, not just in College Hill, but for the entire community, and you will always have my trust and support.

Thanks to our joint campaign treasurer, Tom Carlson, who must be really good because he actually owes me money. To the rest of our joint campaign committee: Robin Moree, Steve Sigmund, Barbara Heisler, Sal Renda, and Jaina Lally. Thank you.

Thanks as well to Ian Grodman and Garnet Hall, the Chairman and Vice-Chair of the Maplewood Democratic Committee. Your hard work for our party is so important to the political vitality of our community, and I admire your dedication.

Thanks as well to all of the District Leaders who devote time and energy to helping candidates and building the party.  I’d especially like to recognize Bill Steinbrunn, who is a tireless and outspoken advocate for his neighborhood, and who personally walked with me to nearly every home on every block of it.

I want to recognize and thank our outstanding State Assembly representatives, Mila Jasey and John McKeon. It was an honor to campaign for you and with you, and a pleasure to get to know you.  I know that we will work hard together to make positive changes in Trenton that will benefit the people of Maplewood, especially in the areas of education, economic development, and the environment.

Also thank you to your hardworking staffs, especially Mary Theroux and Lloyd Naideck, for all of their help in coordinating the campaigns so that we could support one another. You both deserved the huge margins of victory you won in Maplewood, but they wouldn’t have been as large without our teams working together to get out the vote.

I want to offer deep thanks to Kathy Leventhal and Jerry Ryan, not only for your decades of service to Maplewood, but for your personal generosity to me.  For the past six plus months you have both offered advice, mentoring, and guidance, and I appreciate all of the time and support you have given me. You are both the epitome of grace and class, and I can only hope to serve the town with the same dignity and dedication that you have.  You both leave very big shoes to fill, and I know that you will each continue to make positive contributions to Maplewood.

To India Larrier and Marlon Brownlee, I look forward to the opportunity to get to know both of you better. I admire the thorough attention and thoughtful consideration that you bring to each issue, and I know that I will learn a lot from both of you as we work together.

Thanks to Mayor Vic DeLuca for all the hours you have spent preparing me to serve and showing me the ropes. Your devotion to Maplewood is unparalleled, and your leadership is a perfect example of all that a public servant should be. I hope to one day be able to sit in your chair, and I’m excited and grateful to have the opportunity to learn from you in the years to come.

On the subject of thanks largely in advance, I want to thank Liz Fritzen, Sonya Harrison, Joe Manning, Cesar Correa, Roger Desiderio, and all of the other wonderful Maplewood township employees. I know very well that they truly run the town day to day, and they do a great job. I have already grown to respect and appreciate their professionalism and dedication. I can’t imagine better teammates, and I’m excited to be on board.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the voters of Maplewood. In an off-year election, you were engaged and came out to the polls in large numbers. In fact, our town had one of the highest turnout percentages in the state in the primary.

To those who opposed me, I offer a sincere thank you. You challenged me to learn more about the issues, consider different points of view, and be better prepared to assume the responsibility of this office. You have also shown me how strong and close-knit our community ultimately is. We may disagree with one another, but we do so respectfully and without forgetting that we all want what is best for Maplewood. 2015 was a divisive year at times, but both in victory and in tragedy we came together to show what our community is made of. We’re all neighbors, and what ties us together is much stronger than what pulls us apart.

To those who supported me, I am so grateful for the trust you placed in me. I’m relatively young and inexperienced, so it was a bit of a leap of faith, so thank you for believing in me. I promise to work hard to reward your trust, and to make you proud to have voted for me. I’ll do that by striving every day to be the man my wife married, the son my parents raised, and the father my daughter deserves, and by bringing the same level of passion and dedication to my work for this town.

I truly want to serve this entire community, every neighborhood and every demographic. I’ll do so by staying true to the reasons that I ran for this office. Not only celebrating and preserving the things that make Maplewood great, but recognizing the ways that we can be even better.

As Chair of the Communications Subcommittee, I will work to make local government more accessible to our citizens by expanding our use of social media, leveraging technology to better inform and engage Maplewoodians about our goals and what we’re doing, and to create more opportunities for people to share their views with us.

As Chair of the Recreation and Human Services Subcommittee, I aim to bring more people directly into the governmental process. The lifeblood of Maplewood’s community is our volunteers, and we need new blood on many of our boards and committees to keep us fresh and vital. I hope to use the momentum from our campaign to engage younger people, especially fellow parents, to take advantage of the opportunities to get involved and serve Maplewood. I also want to focus on improving and expanding programs for seniors, including ways to make Maplewood more active and more affordable for those that helped build our community.

Maplewood has a well-earned reputation for its commitment to diversity and sustainability. I plan to work to continue to strengthen both. Our town should be not only diverse and welcoming, but our community should be more fully integrated.  This challenge will be difficult, but is an essential step if we are to continue to be a true leader and example to others. The same is true with regard to the environment. Our green actions locally can help to further set trends nationally and globally. I am proud to step into the footsteps of Fred Profeta and Kathy Leventhal as liaison to our Green Team and Environmental Advisory Committee, as well as to serve on our town’s newly created Sustainability Committee.  Together, we will continue to keep Maplewood on the forefront of these crucial issues.

In the coming years, I plan to devote as much time and energy as necessary to address the state funding issues that are choking our school system. We in Maplewood and South Orange pay among the highest property taxes in the nation, yet our schools are overcrowded and underfunded. This is largely due to an unfair and inequitable state funding formula, as well as the fact that the formula itself is underfunded.  Our district is underfunded by approximately $5 Million each year as a result. This is a huge problem, and a priority that needs to be addressed. I plan to work together with the Board of Education, our school administrators, with South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, and the South Orange Board of Trustees to fight for our community’s fair share of state education aid.  I call on our representatives, Governor Codey, Assemblyman McKeon, and Assemblywoman Jasey, to stand beside us. We will also join forces with other communities like ours, especially “first suburbs” adjacent to Abbott districts, to fight for our kids.  And we must make sure that any candidate for Governor that seeks our community’s vote recognizes that this issue cannot be ignored any longer.

I look forward to serving on Maplewood’s economic development subcommittee. We have such a strong base of wonderful local businesses that help give our town its unique character, and the challenges and obstacles that remain are not insurmountable, but instead valuable opportunities for further growth. I’m also excited to explore and pursue further potential paths for shared services with South Orange and other surrounding communities to expand and improve services at equal or lower cost to taxpayers.

The great New Jersey philosopher Bruce Springsteen once said, “Remember, in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins.” This will be my mantra as I take my seat on Maplewood’s governing body. I will do my best to represent everyone in this community, and strive towards the goal of all of us winning together. Thanks again for giving me this opportunity to serve Maplewood. 2016 is here. It’s time to go to work.

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