By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
It was a bittersweet moment for Township Committeeman Richard Smith, as he looked out into the audience at Township Committee’s Dec. 21 meeting – his final one as a member of the governing body.
Smith acknowledged his mixed feelings about leaving Township Committee, “but life goes on.” He was elected to Township Committee in 2011 and re-elected to a second term three years later. His term ends at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
During his six years on Township Committee, Smith served in the ceremonial post of mayor in 2014 and as deputy mayor this year. He served as Township Committee’s liaison to numerous advisory boards and committees, as well as the Planning Board and the Site Plan/Subdivision Committee.
“I decided to enter the race for Township Committee to give back to the community and to lend my expertise in design, construction and development to help the town grow in the right spots and at the right pace,” Smith said.
Looking back at his tenure on Township Committee, Smith pointed to several accomplishments in which he took pride – from making zoning changes that help to guide development in the Route 206-Route 518 neighborhood, to repaving more than 20 percent of municipally owned roads.
He also took pride in settling some long-standing lawsuits over development, as well as working to encourage a customer-service approach in the municipal departments that interact with the public, such as the Department of Public Works, the Building Department and the Engineering Department.
And although he will not be in office when it is completed, Smith said he was proud to have played a role in pushing for a new Montgomery Township Municipal Building that will eventually replace the current one on Route 206. Plans are in the works to move to the former Convatec office park property, off Orchard Road.
“(The push for a new building) started with a passion to give our Police Department a new home and a better work environment,” Smith said. The Police Department is working in an overcrowded area on the lower level of the Municipal Building.
While he is pleased and proud of what he has achieved during his two terms on Township Committee, “after six years, I decided that my political career had peaked,” Smith said.
Smith chose not to seek a third term because he wants to spend more time with his family. A promotion at work also would not leave as much time for public service as he would like, he said.
But if Smith thought he was going to fade away quietly, Township Committee had other ideas.
Mayor Ed Trzaska and Township Committee adopted a resolution thanking Smith for his service to Montgomery Township and the governing body. Smith has demonstrated a strong commitment to township residents, the resolution said.
“During his years of service, Rich Smith has faithfully performed the duties and obligations of public office, and has given his utmost to the people of Montgomery, who in turn have benefited from his experience, knowledge and love for this community,” the resolution read.
Mayor Trzaska said that during the past six years, Smith had been mayor, deputy mayor, a colleague and “definitely a good friend.”
He also praised Smith for his role in encouraging township officials to consider building a new Municipal Building, starting in 2014 when Smith was mayor. “You did so much heavy lifting to get this to where it is,” he said.
Township Committeewoman Christine Madrid told Smith that it was a pleasure working with him.
“We all do this, especially at this level, because we really want to contribute to the community. You left this place a better place than when you joined this Township Committee,” Madrid said.
By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer