Former Assemblyman Rick Merkt knows the ins and outs of government, but after accepting the nomination for mayor in Mendham Township for 2013 at Wednesday's reorganization meeting, the Brookside resident was quick to name committee work as the most effective.
"It is an honor and a privilege to serve the people in my hometown," Merkt said. "We live with the consequences of what we do. Every two weeks we face the public."
Newly-minted Deputy Mayor Maribeth Thomas agreed. "We hear it if they don't like what we are doing."
Merkt, who served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1998 to 2010, where he represented the 25th legislative district won his first full term on the township committee in the November general election. Merkt and new committeeman Chris Baumann were sworn in before both Merkt and Thomas were nominated and unanimously confirmed for their 2013 roles.
The new mayor reminded those assembled Jan. 3 that their form of government was different than that of their neighboring communities.
"We don’t have a mayor and council. We are a group of equals drawn from people who care about this town. There are many times I have come into a meeting with thoughts on an issue and had my mind changed by arguments of our group," Merkt said. "I think that makes for government. We must never forget whom we serve, the residents of our town. It isn’t about egos or personal accomplishments it is about trying to serve the community."
Merkt said that transparency and accountability were a large part of the plan for 2013, and the mayor said the township committee planned to push the ball forward on the work down by previous mayors Sam Tolley and Frank Cioppettini.
"Each year we try to improve on what we do," Merkt said. "And by moving the mayorship around we get to start afresh each year."
Responsible budgeting was also a major focus for Merkt and Thomas.
"We need to be responsible with your taxes. We’ve had some extraordinary expenses but we need to work hard and be responsible with your money. It is going to require discipline over the next few years," Merkt said. "Achieving a responsible township budget is going to be everyone’s highest priority."
Merkt said he was pleased with the team that was assembled and touted Thomas, the chair of the finance committee as one of the most thoughtful people he knows.
"And I don't just mean considerate. She really looks at the issues and studies them from many angles," Merkt said.
Thomas told Merkt she had been doing some research about how to handle not only the current budget but the Township's debt, as no one on the committee was willing to "kick the can" down the road.
"This is your government. We are just stewards of it for a period of time," Merkt said. "Thank you for lending us your authority."