As technology changes, so does the flow of information. And Steven Groeger, the former township superintendent of recreation, wants to bring Lawrence up to speed.
He recently launched two township social media accounts where Lawrence residents can find up-to-date information about what’s happening in town: on Twitter and on Facebook. The idea, he said, was to provide more immediate information than the website can. As one resident commented when the pages were created, Groeger said, “It’s about time.”
“I think that websites serve the purpose that if people are looking for information and have the time, they can go on, and they can scroll through and see things that are there,” Groeger said. “They typically are more static. I think people like to know when there are special events, when there’s something that happened they would like to know about. If they’re not aware of it, they’re not going to look for it.”
Groeger’s time as superintendent of recreation sparked his interest in social media and online communication. He started a recreation website during his tenure because, he said, his department needed to interact with the public more than others—field closures, game cancellations and registration were all things his staff had to get out to the public quickly and consistently.
Because of his work on the recreation department’s website, he was asked to help with the township’s website. He retired in 2014 after 30 years with the department, but when Kevin Nerwinski came on as township manager this year, the two started talking about starting up a social media initiative. Groeger returned to the township in mid-September and launched the Twitter and Facebook pages. He also works on the Lawrence Township website and updates the township’s television station.
So far, Groeger has focused on information like flu shots, the township Christmas tree lighting, a local medication drop-off spot and Trenton Water Works updates. The pages work “across the board from department to department,” Groeger said.
“The ultimate goal is to be a conduit of information to people so that they’re aware of these things that we have going on,” he said. “When we do the Memorial Day parade, it’s one of the issues that we used to have all the time. How do we get people to come out and see the parade? Is it because they don’t know about it? Is it because they need to be reminded? Hopefully, those kinds of things that people aren’t aware of or find out about it too late or forget about it, we can generate more information and visibility.”
One goal for the future is to get senior citizens involved. Groeger finds that many older residents do have smartphones, but they may not be connected to social media.
“If we can get them to understand, ‘You don’t need to know how to send out a tweet, you don’t need to understand Facebook, but if you have it, you’re going to get these notifications,’” he said. “That’s a little further down the road. We want to make this informational and helpful to people.”
Groeger’s path to recreation superintendent and then social media professional is a winding one. He has lived in Lawrence for 60 years and was a member of Lawrence High School’s first graduating class. Groeger went on to study electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and worked for the Department of Transportation at Commuter Rails, which ultimately became New Jersey Transit.
Groeger and his wife, JoAnn, a member of the township board of education, have three children and four grandchildren. As they started playing sports, he got more involved with recreation—coaching, serving on the recreation committee, even writing sports for the Lawrence Ledger.
“I started taking classes at Temple in the master’s program and realized that I needed to make a change,” he said. “After about eight years in engineering, I ended up here.”
Groeger says the ability to keep in touch with people across the country and beyond presents the best of social media and ever-changing technology. He has family members in Germany and a former exchange student from Denmark who he’s able to speak to text and email with regularly, “like there’s no distance.”
“I think there are some downsides to all of the technology where people live on their phones, live on their computers and don’t interact directly, but I also think it provides you with the ability to stay on top of everything,” Groeger said. “I think that’s what our intent really is, to give people that up-to date information. This is what happened, this is what’s going to happen, this is what’s going on. I think people, because of their way of life where they’re running around, they need to know that. They want to know that.”