Outgoing Councilman Reflects on Political Career
Bob Wagner notes choices made, while others thank him for service.
When Bob Wagner joined the Township Committee in January 2004, his son Connor was just second grader, he said at Tuesday's committee meeting, his final as a member.
"He now has got his driver's license...my years went by kind of fast," Wagner said, looking at his teenaged son.
He said it wasn't always easy being a father and a committeman for he and Mayor Carl Suraci, his running mate through the years and a father, also.
"Decisions needed to be made; things were missed," Wagner said. "As they grew up, baseball games, soccer games, field hockey games, whatever—we had to make a choice whether to carry on as a parent or do what we needed to do here for the township.
"But I did want to thank you specifically, Connor, because there were times when I wasn't there," he said. "I hope you saw the reasons why I did that and why it was very important for me to have you here this evening—not only to hear the very nice words and everything everybody was saying about your father, but also to thank you for allowing me to have that opportunity."
Wagner thanked his fellow committee members, as well, along with township staff members, volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members, the police department and Chief Paul Kaminsky, and the support of township voters.
He was first elected in 2003, after getting involved on the township recreation commission.
"My sister, Kathy, had been a committee person in Bedminster where I grew up, she had mentioned that I should see about getting involved on some of the committees in Hillsborough," he said Wednesday. "So I did, this is where I met my soon-to-be-running mate of three terms, Carl Suraci."
He said both he and Suraci were alternate members of the commission at first, pondering whether or not to take on more responsibility in the township.
"I think the biggest concern was the amount of time it would require while also balancing a career and family," Wagner said. "Always in the back of my mind once I made the commitment to run was, what happens if I lose the election?"
During his comments at Tuesday's meeting, Wagner said he enjoyed meeting so many young residents, often as members of a Scouting group or athletic team being recognized by the township.
"It was an honor to see these boys and girls of our community grow up over the time I was on the committee," he reiterated Wednesday. "They are our future replacements I wish each and every one of them well.
"On a personal and selfish note, it was setting an example about being a part of a community and setting a good example for my son, Connor," Wagner said.
Wagner served as mayor in 2005, and deputy mayor twice (2004 and 2009), and during his nine-year stint faced some tough times and critical issues, including the decision to layoff police officers in 2011, which he said was the toughest choice he had to make on the committee.
And he said anyone considering getting involved with the township—especially at the level of the township committee—should plan on spending a considerable amount of time studying what's happening in town.
"A lot of what we work on at the township are programs or projects that are in motion, we do not have the luxury of starting things new at the first of the year or having them wrap up at the end of the year," he said. "I would suggest to anyone who is interested, come to the township meetings and listen to what updates are being given, listen to what is being discussed, hearing what others are saying or asking questions so you become familiar with the projects and programs that are being reviewed and worked on by your elected officials."
He said he thinks it takes most new commitee members about a year to become familiar with "all the “stuff” that goes on in our town."
"If someone says they can pick it up by attending a few meetings and reading some news articles they are sadly mistaken," Wagner said. "There are many facets that go on when running a town like Hillsborough it is a second full time job."
With his term as a committeeman over, Wagner said he will be happy to serve on a board or commission for the township—which Mayor Suraci said they "could probably find a spot" for him on soemwhere.