The words “madam president” can now be heard in four mainland City Council chambers.
Recently appointed council presidents include Maureen Kern, in Somers Point, and Lisa Brown, in Northfield. They join Donna Taylor, in Linwood, and Judy Ward, in Pleasantville.
“Well that’s exciting. We should get together and have a party or something,” Kern joked Friday after being unanimously voted president by her peers.
In Northfield, Brown also was unanimously voted council president at Friday’s reorganization meeting.
“It went well and was an easy transition,” she said, adding that right now the council will focus on the budget.
The economic climate means municipalities need to be more fiscally conservative, Brown said. Among the items that will be scrutinized are vendors that provide goods and services to the city.
“We don’t want to pay for services we don’t need,” she said.
With the economy slow to improve, Brown said, the goal is to help ease the burden on residents.
Kern agreed that “fiscal responsibility is very important.”
With the two major storms and a required property revaluation, she said, Somers Point is faced with the challenge of keeping taxes at an affordable level. In addition, repairs from Hurricane Sandy and ongoing infrastructure programs are a priority.
It will take time to repair damage to parks and beach areas. John F. Kennedy Park was recently reopened to the public, however, the boat ramp and water access are still closed.
Ward is also concerned about the waterfront areas in her city, Pleasantville. She said that focusing on the positive aspects and what the area has to offer are goals of council this year.
“We really are the best-kept secret in South Jersey,” Ward said of the bayfront area.
The city will be looking at the crime levels and hopes to change people’s mindset. “We hope to be violence-free,” she said.
The women agree that their gender does not affect their role in council and that fellow council members respect and support them.
“I have strong support from my peers,” Kern said. “And it isn’t any different from home,” where she is the only female in a family that includes a husband and three sons.
Ward was first appointed in 2010 and was the first female council president in Pleasantville. She remains the sole female council member in her city, as is Kern.
“What timing, though,” Kern said. “I am very much looking forward to my new position on City Council.”
Linwood and Pleasantville will each hold a reorganization meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall. A council president will be named at the meetings, which may change the current number of local female presidents.
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