Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Diwali, my sincere hope is that you have a peaceful and safe holiday with your family and friends.

Our country remains an incredible melting pot of cultures and belief systems. In response to a concerned resident during the great Christmas Tree vs. Holiday Tree debate in 2013, I referred to our nation as “a flavorful stew that makes our country the greatest on Earth.’’

We need to embrace all of our customs and cultures proudly. What we do not want is for that pot to be boiled down to nothing or, even worse, to the point where we are all the same. Remember, differences are good. Differences are healthy. Division is neither. A little less talking and a lot more listening would benefit us all.

From an operational perspective, it’s been another very productive year at Robbinsville.

Since my primary role is to keep you and your children safe, our biggest achievement was working with the Robbinsville School District and our fine police department to add two full-time school resource officers to Sharon School and Pond Road Middle School. We now have three experienced and dedicated officers—veteran Detective Kevin Colgan, Patrolwoman Melyssa Alonso and Patrolman Edward Vincent—along with K9 “Rigo,” on-site at all three schools.

Thanks to the hard work of our department heads and business administrator Joy Tozzi, we were able to cut the municipal side of your tax bill for the third straight year. As hard as we tried to find another town in Mercer County that has ever done that since, well, forever, we did discover Robbinsville has been the first to do it since the recession of 2007-08.

Pennmark Properties purchased the Foxmoor Plaza in August via auction for $7.5 million and has a plan to revitalize the shopping center. Pennmark has a proven track record of retail development and our hopes are high that we can finally begin moving Foxmoor in a positive and profitable direction. Thank you to the residents who have continued to patronize the businesses there through these lean years, and to those businesses for continuing to persevere through some very tough times. Council and the entire staff in Robbinsville have dedicated a great deal of time to this effort and I want to thank them for all of their hard work.

Phase 1 of the Washington Woods/Edinburg Village restoration began in November at no added cost to taxpayers. Future contracts at the site will stabilize and plant the remainder of the site so that soil erosion is eliminated as much as practical and proper landscape is installed.

In addition to receiving another AA+ rating by Standard & Poors, we celebrated the Village of Windsor and its bicentennial in September. Everyone at the township could not be more proud of its residents for their efforts and advocacy in assuring Windsor remains the bedrock of present-day Robbinsville.

Our staff and legal team are working diligently on Miry Run, the new Project Freedom, Mercer Mobile Home Park, a fair sewer agreement with Hamilton Township, our own independent ZIP code, an indoor basketball facility and a new police headquarters and courthouse.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson last month issued Robbinsville a final judgement of compliance and repose of affordable housing litigation between the township and Fair Share Housing Center. That fulfills our affordable housing obligation through 2025 as we continue to be among the Mercer County leaders in barrier-free, affordable and community housing.

Upgraded technology throughout the township this year includes the addition of Internet faxing capability, security cameras and a voice-over-IP phone system that delivers superior quality and message delivery to better serve our residents.

We are so proud of our Recreation Department for stepping up to the plate following the passing of our beloved Joe Barker in February. Camp enrollment is at an all-time high, while our big, home run hitting events—Community Day and the C.A.R.E. Fishing Derby—continue to deliver.

Speaking of C.A.R.E., the groundbreaking initiative started in 2016 has now been adopted by every town in Mercer County. Thanks to the generosity of so many, we generated over $118,000 for the program through the 2018 State of Robbinsville Township Address and Pay it Forward event May 8 at The Stone Terrace by John Henry’s.

Opiate/opioid addiction is a worldwide epidemic and Robbinsville is by no means immune, but we are determined to do our part by providing a pathway for recovery. Although we cannot save everyone, we certainly cannot arrest our way out of this problem, either. Donations to the C.A.R.E. program are used for travel and lodging expenses en route to recovery and other essentials items necessary for treatment.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve as your mayor. It is truly an honor. May God bless you all.

Dave Fried is the Mayor of Robbinsville Township.