HOPEWELL: Committee bids farewell to Sandom, Pogorzelski

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Vanessa Sandom

Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
It was a bittersweet moment for the Hopewell Township Committee, as it bid farewell to Township Committee member Vanessa Sandom and Township Administrator/Engineer Paul Pogorzelski Tuesday night.
The meeting room was full as the township committee and township residents alike acknowledged Sandom’s exit form the governing body and Pogorzelski’s retirement – both at the end of the month.
Sandom has served on the committee since 2001 – including several stints in the ceremonial posts of mayor and deputy mayor – but chose not to seek a sixth term. She will leave the governing body when her term expires Dec. 31.
Pogorzelski has served as the township administrator/engineer since 2007. He had previously served as the director of Community Services in the Department of Public Works from 2002 to 2006. He is retiring from the top administrative post at the end of the month.
Mayor Kevin Kuchinski presented a proclamation to Pogorzelski. Reading from the proclamation, Mayor Kuchinski said that “Paul Pogorzelski has dedicated his career to passionately protecting and preserving the Hopewell Township community and its quality of life.
“It is entirely proper to state the quality of life in Hopewell Township so appreciated by its residents is maintained in part of because of Paul Pogorzelski’s dedication to it,” Mayor Kuchinski read from the proclamation.
“Thank you, Paul,” Mayor Kuchinski said. Pogorzelski smiled and laughed as the audience members stood up and clapped their hands for him.
“It has truly been my pleasure to serve this wonderful community. Whew,” Pogorzelski said.
Then, Mayor Kuchinski said there was a second proclamation that needed to be read into the record – this one, for a clearly surprised Sandom.
“Vanessa Sandom has always conducted herself with integrity and tact, never wavering from doing what she considered to be the right thing, regardless of whether that action or decision was popular,” Mayor Kuchinski read from the proclamation.
“Vanessa Sandom has earned the respect of every member of township committee, regardless of whether they agreed with her or not, through her grace, candor and tireless can-do attitude,” he read.
“It is with sadness that we lose a friend on this committee, [but] it is with joy that we lose her to the next chapter of her life and know that even moving on, she will continue to be a friend to us and work toward what is best for Hopewell Valley,” Mayor Kuchinski read.
“Don’t clap,” Sandom said after Mayor Kuchinski read the last sentence of the proclamation – but the audience members stood up and clapped anyway.
The accolades were far from finished, as Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes presented Sandom and Pogorzelski with resolutions from the state Senate and the General Assembly on behalf of state Sen. Shirley K. Turner and Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Liz Muoio of the 15th Legislative District.
Hughes teased Pogorzelski as he presented him with the resolution. Hughes told the administrator/engineer that he knew when he asked Pogorzelski a question, he might not like the answer – but he would ask, anyway.
Turning to Sandom, Hughes called her “my once and future mayor” and presented her with the resolution. He commended her for “all of the great things you have done for the Valley. You have made a difference. Thank you, my friend.”
Sandom’s and Pogorzelski’s contributions were acknowledged in another proclamation – this time, from U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12th District). Her brothers, John S. Watson Jr. and Aaron Watson, presented the Congressional resolutions to them.
“These are not words on a piece of paper,” Mayor Kuchinski told Sandom and Pogorzelski, but rather a testament to the fact that they touched so many lives during their service to Hopewell Township.
Several audience members praised Sandom and Pogorzelski.
Former Mayor Jim Bird thanked Sandom for her time and effort, and thanked Pogorzelski for the “exceptional things” he had done – including his ability to work with both political parties on Township Committee.
Jim Waltman, the executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, thanked Pogorzelski and Sandom for their service, adding that they had “earned the respect of the Hopewell Valley.”
Although she could not attend, Hopewell Valley News Editor Emeritus Ruth Luse praised Sandom. In an email, she wrote that Sandom had an “innate desire” to help people.
“A woman of great intelligence, courage, vision, creativity and a sense of humor, she worked tirelessly with Township Committee and the community to reach goals she felt to be appropriate for the betterment of the town she served,” Luse wrote.
Township Committeeman-elect Michael Ruger summed it up when he said, “Vanessa, I am going to take your seat, but no one can take your place.”