Mayor Kristin McLaughlin has drawn a line in the sand – abusive or threatening speeches will not be tolerated at any Hopewell Township Committee meeting.
The mayor’s message, delivered at the Hopewell Township Committee’s Jan. 14 meeting, was triggered by a threat made to her at a Jan. 10 open house to show concept plans for a housing development on Scotch Road.
“As two members of the public were leaving, they stopped to give me some advice on what I could do to be a successful mayor. The advice ended with – as closely as I can remember – ‘If you don’t, we will kill you,'” Mayor McLaughlin said.
“‘We will kill you.’ I doubt that those words were spoken with a thought of true physical harm to me,” McLaughlin said.
Nevertheless, she spoke to a police officer, who left it to her to decide whether she felt physically threatened and wanted to take action, the mayor said. She decided not to pursue it.
“(But) the threat was clear, intentional and direct. If my vision of what is best for Hopewell Township doesn’t match theirs, I will be made to suffer,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said her vision of democracy and community service does not include threats against those who serve. Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger pointedly called for civility during his remarks at the Hopewell Township Committee’s reorganization meeting, she said.
McLaughlin pointed to her daughters, who were sitting in the audience. She said she agreed to serve as mayor to be a role model for her children – to show them that they can take on any challenge, just as she has done.
“I brought my girls here tonight because I want them to see that their mother will not be cowed by a bully,” McLaughlin said.
The mayor reminded attendees that at the Hopewell Township Committee’s reorganization meeting, she said she saw her role as helping the township steer through the realities of the changes that may come – “some the result of a system I did not design or choose, some simply a function of time passing.”
McLaughlin said that through her service on the Hopewell Township Committee, she derives the satisfaction of knowing that she stood up, did her best and tried to leave Hopewell Township in good shape.
The mayor said last week that she would welcome “constructive, thoughtful and forward-looking ideas” – no matter how controversial they may be – from township residents who want to engage in dialogue for the benefit of the community.
“(But) tonight, I am drawing a line. I will not tolerate abusive or threatening speech from anyone,” she said, as Township Committee members gave her their support.
“We have work to do, and I would like to believe that we can accomplish much together,” McLaughlin said.