Two Mercer County Commissioners-elect, including incumbent Commissioner Nina Melker and newcomer Cathleen Lewis, were sworn into office at the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners’ annual reorganization meeting.
Melker was sworn into office by Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-14) at the meeting on Jan. 4. She was appointed in 2018 to fill a vacancy on the board and won a full three-year term in 2019.
Lewis, who is a former Lawrence Township Councilwoman and mayor, was sworn into office by Administrative Law Judge Sarah G. Crowley of the New Jersey State Office of Administrative Law.
Lewis replaces former Commissioner Andrew Koontz of Princeton, who chose not to seek re-election.
Once Melker and Lewis were seated, the County Commissioners nominated and appointed Commissioner Lucylle R.S. Walter to serve as its chairman and Commissioner John A. Cimino to serve as vice chairman.
The County Commissioners quickly adopted resolutions setting out its meeting schedule, appointing its attorney, adopting a temporary budget and other routine matters.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes singled out Koontz, the retiring Commissioner, and praised him for his service. Koontz stood out as being among the most thoughtful members of the County Commission, and one who “gained the admiration of many,” he said.
Hughes expressed optimism for 2023 and pointed to work on key projects that had been held up by the pandemic, such as the new Trenton-Mercer Airport terminal that is in the design stage.
Mercer County has an agreement with the Mercer Construction Trades Council that has allowed it to augment the county workforce and to complete several projects and renovations, he said.
Hughes listed a few of the major projects that have been completed with the men and women of the construction trades. Those projects include the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse project, the solar array at Mercer County Community College and the Mercer County Courthouse Annex renovation.
“We have all faced monumental challenges these past few years, and I believe 2023 promises to be a breath of fresh air. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we should recognize that whatever the issue, whatever the circumstance, we can do the most good by working together,” Hughes said.
Lewis, the newest County Commissioner, said in her remarks that her journey to the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners started last year. Acknowledging that the journey was not always easy, she thanked her family for talking about the short-term and long-term impacts that her service would have on them.
Lewis thanked her family for putting up with endless phone calls and events, and for always supporting her “and our shared commitment to our community.” She served on the Lawrence Township Council for 10 years and is also a leader to two Girl Scouts troops.
“It is that commitment (to community) that truly propelled this journey. It would be easy to see the progress that was being made in Lawrence and decide to continue to work with my municipality,” she said.
But her service on the Lawrence Township Council highlighted the need for a stronger partnership with Mercer County – not only for Lawrence, but for the 11 other towns in the county, as well, she said.
“What I learned from my time in Lawrence is that past success cannot continue without a commitment to encouraging new voices and new ideas. As elected officials, it is our duty to meet our residents where they are. We need to learn and to listen to find out how to serve them better,” she said.
Lewis said she is committed to deepening Mercer County’s communication with residents and the municipalities, and to advancing policies that strengthen the county’s commitment to sustainability and economic growth for all residents.
Melker said she was honored to be re-elected to serve on the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners. She said that she and her colleagues worked together to ensure good government during her year as County Commission chairman in 2022.
Melker thanked Hughes, the Mercer County Executive, and his administration for their cooperation during her year as the chairman. Working together, “we were able to accomplish many important projects,” she said.
“Service to our community is something I truly enjoy. I pledge to Mercer County to always serve our constituents. We may not always agree, but know that when I made a decision, it was based on what I believe to be best for the county,” Melker said.