The Hopewell Township Committee bid a fond farewell to long-standing member John Hart, who will return to private citizen status in January. Hart, a community figurehead, owner of Rosedale Mills, and currently the sole Republican on the Committee, will be ending his second stint as a Committee member over the course of two decades.
“John has been a willing listener and problem solver for the residents of Hopewell Township for more than 20 years,” said Mayor Kristin McLaughlin. “His dedication is notable.”
Hart began his career in public service by joining the Township Committee in 1995, serving as mayor in 1997 and 1998. After Hart’s departure from the Committee in 2000, he rejoined thirteen years later.
Even while off the Committee, Hart continued his service on the Planning Board as a Class II member from 2005 to 2012, the Environmental Commission from 2005 to 2013, and the Agricultural Advisory Committee from 2001 to 2013.
Hart additionally served as a liaison for various to Township departments over the years, such as Public Works, Health, Recreation, and Finance, as well as various boards such as the Economic Development Commission, Shade Tree Advisory Committee, Agricultural Advisory Committee, Deer Management Advisory Committee, and the Affordable Housing Committee.
Members of both the Township Committee and the public spoke fondly about Hart, regaling the Township with stories of his helpfulness and direct personality.
“He’s one of the long-standing veterans of this Committee,” said Committee member Kevin Kuchinski. “We have worked together on issues – we have not always agreed, but I have always respected John.”
Jim Waltman, executive director of the Watershed Institute, recalled Hart’s willingness to volunteer, whether it be donating chicks for the Watershed’s Easter activities or lending out goats for the Township’s “goat yoga.”
“John is one of the few people in the world who can be called an institution in himself,” Waltman said. “He’s helped us out in a pinch countless times.”
Praise for Hart from the Committee continued, with Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger calling Hart’s knowledge of the community “encyclopedic,” Township Attorney Steve Gooddell saying that Hart “offers an awful lot to the Township,” and with the Township’s community development director Mark Katrinyiak telling Hart that he “can ignore the employees-only sign on the door downstairs any time.”
Committee member Julie Blake said that she considers Hart “a friend” and that he will be missed. She also read from a plaque memorializing the planting of ten trees at the Mount Rose Preserve in honor of Hart’s service, which was contributed by the remaining members of the Committee.
Following the remarks by elected officials, staff, and some members of the public, each member of the Committee took turns reading a proclamation lauding Hart’s many accomplishments.
“I feel confident that he will continue to advocate for the causes and people important to him,” McLaughlin said. “Thank you, John, for choosing to spend some of your time working toward a strong and vibrant future for Hopewell Township.”
Moving into 2020, Hart’s seat will be taken by Democrat Courtney Peters-Manning. The Committee will reconvene with its new member in a reorganization meeting on January 2 at 4:30pm.