This one is a no-brainer.
As a more than 40-year resident of the First Ward looking forward to staying put in the town where we raised our children and where our grandchildren are being raised, as a senior-citizen taxpayer, as someone who has keenly observed Westfield governance over the long term and has been duly impressed by the innovation, positive change, and accomplishments achieved over just the past four years, I heartily and enthusiastically endorse the reelection of Linda Habgood as our First Ward council representative and urge my neighbors to support her candidacy.
As many Westfield residents are, or by now should be aware, Councilwoman Habgood is a financial management and finance expert who has led the way in bringing best-practices financial management to Westfield. Here’s what has transpired since she took over as chair of the council’s finance committee in 2018 and began her stewardship of the town’s finances and budget:
• The lowest four-year average municipal tax rate increase in town history. The 1.1 percent average increase was less than half the rate of inflation and included a 0 percent annual increase in 2019 for the first time in decades.
• Revision of moribund, outdated budget policies to make prudent reductions in a bloated, unproductive budget surplus. Right-sizing the surplus helped the town cope with a pandemic-related drop in revenue while holding down municipal tax increases and facilitating investment in new equipment, infrastructure improvements, and new services.
• A reduction in the interest rate the town pays when it borrows funds. Banks are now offering Westfield a .21 percent rate, the lowest in history.
• As the pandemic challenged the financial stability of many municipal governments, Westfield maintained its AAA bond rating, a further reflection of the confidence financial institutions like rating agencies and lenders place in the town’s finances and financial management.
Councilwoman Habgood has brought to the council years of academic and business achievement that merits a quick review: a presidential scholar at the College of William and Mary; an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; co-chair of Delphos International, a global financial advisory company. She’s been an active volunteer in the community almost from the time she and her family moved to Westfield in 2000. She helped lead the Citizens Action Committee that enabled the creation of Lincoln School in 2005. She’s served as finance chair of the Presbyterian Nursery School and Kindergarten Board, fundraising chair of the Westfield High School PTSO, and was a two-time producer of the Washington School Show. She is also a board member and active fundraiser for the New Jersey Festival Orchestra.
As a constituent, I can personally attest to her responsiveness and willingness to engage and communicate with residents on issues of concern. And, as someone who in my own professional career interacted with elected officials at all levels of government, Councilwoman Habgood stands out. It is, indeed, rare to encounter someone in public service who is just so good at her job. We need to keep her doing that job. Let’s reelect Linda Habgood as councilwoman in the First Ward.