HOWELL – Democrat Theresa Berger and Republican Evelyn O’Donnell were sworn in to begin serving new four-year terms on Howell’s governing body during the Jan. 5 reorganization meeting.
Berger, who will begin serving her second term as mayor, congratulated O’Donnell, who will begin serving her second term as a councilwoman.
In Howell’s form of government, residents directly elect the mayor, who serves as a member of the five-person Township Council. Berger and O’Donnell are joined on the council by Democrat John Bonevich and Republicans Thomas Russo and Pamela Richmond.
In her mayoral address, Berger said, “To the citizens of Howell, thank you for your confidence which was evident with an overwhelming re-election. I will work hard to fulfill our dreams of good, positive development, and maintain your trust.
“I look forward to working with the governing body and the township professionals, and tackling issues of transparency, over-development, (issues with) Optimum/Cablevision (service), open space and bipartisanship, which is the only way we should govern our town. We should run this town by voting for the betterment of Howell as a whole,” Berger said.
Berger said she fought for a flat municipal budget for the last four years, but, unfortunately, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic there are obstacles preventing that from happening.
“I fully intend to continue to set budget goals to prevent taxes from increasing,” Berger said.
She thanked Police Chief Andrew Kudrick, the police department and the community’s first responders for their efforts during a year that was filled with COVID issues and raging storms.
“And our Department of Public Works, which seamlessly has dug us out of snowstorms and picked up a ton of downed trees. I look forward to working with both departments in the future. (When) we all work together, our community thrives,” Berger said.
During 2020 while residents dealt with the pandemic, the mayor said, “We were able to start a farmer’s market which was very successful. I would hope council would work with me to expand the market to be a year round program and open it up to different types of efforts.
“I look forward to having more community events, obviously once we have a handle on COVID. Those (events) should include music, food trucks, possibly turning Howell Day into an Octoberfest, and hopefully bringing in a beer garden.
“Events such as these are important to our residents. It allows a sense of community to grow as you recover from the past year,” Berger said.
The mayor said one of her goals in a second term is to establish a mentoring program with professionals who can work with Howell High School students. She said high school administrators have been receptive to the idea.
Berger said she would like to work with the Chamber of Commerce to look at new and innovative ways to bring businesses to Howell, and to start a “Shop Howell” program that would help existing businesses.
“I believe it is more important than ever (for residents) to get involved with the Township Council. I need your voices to be heard when we make decisions for our town. Please attend meetings and have your voices heard.
“In these hard times, I believe we must continue to support our Howell families in need; please continue to donate to the food pantry. Let’s remember our seniors and veterans who still might need help with shopping or getting their medications,” the mayor said.
In conclusion, Berger addressed several areas in Howell that need upgrading.
“Strip malls with no businesses in them, roads in need of repair; because of this I want to convene a committee of members of each (area of the township), so we can discuss how a project in one area affects our entire town. I will have more details to come on that,” she said.
Berger said it has been an honor to serve as mayor for four years and said she has been humbled by being re-elected.
“To the citizens of Howell who want to grow our town responsibly, I will continue to support you and I thank you for investing yourself to ensure we keep our rural charm by keeping the needs of our community above developers,” Berger said.
O’Donnell said as Howell moves forward, she is happy to have served on the council for four years and is looking forward to the next four years as a member of the governing body.
“I think we are quite a unique community. I know this is the first evening of the rest of Howell’s future and together many things can happen, and many things will happen. Many projects are underway, many projects are still to come,” she said.
O’Donnell thanked her family and everyone who stood by her during the election.
“I would encourage everyone to think of Howell as being on the verge of a new beginning, because certainly 2021 is a new beginning. So thank you very much,” the councilwoman said.