Thank you to everyone who donated, attended, provided services for and otherwise were awesome in helping us pull off another successful State of Robbinsville Township Address and Pay it Forward event April 30 at The Stone Terrace By John Henry’s.

Once the final tally is complete, we will have raised over $60,000 in donations and food for Mercer Street Friends of Ewing and its “Send Hunger Packing” program. We certainly could not have reached our lofty goal without the incredible contributions from all of our sponsors, but especially TMI Trading Company—also known as the dumpling factory in the Matrix Business Park—and Berkshire Bank. Since kicking things off with the Shepherd family in 2015, we have raised over $300,000 as part of the ground-breaking “Pay it Forward” initiative. Very proud of that.

Jeannine Cimino, Senior Vice President of Berkshire Bank, did another fantastic job as the event emcee and we once again had the pleasure of serving our own home-grown lettuce during the salad course courtesy of the Township’s Hydroponic Farm.

As for this year’s township business, I was proud to announce a fourth consecutive municipal tax cut, marking the seventh straight year of a flat or reduced tax rate. Coming up with a good budget every year that adds services, cuts taxes and still finds a way to invest in the future with infrastructure is not easy. Do you know what is easy? Spending money you don’t have. That takes absolutely zero talent. Balancing a budget is hard.

As your mayor and an entrepreneur, I am constantly trying new things. If you get everything right all the time, you are not trying hard enough. If you are not failing your goals are not big enough. Failing is the key to success. I also wanted to stress that elected officials are not role models. We are leaders. There is a big difference. Coaches, teachers and parents? Those are role models. Elected officials are not perfect people. I certainly am not. But if I am doing my job right, I am constantly listening and learning.

In Robbinsville, we have been successful because we put ourselves out there, and we are willing to fail in order to succeed. We set big, scary goals.

We were the first municipality to consolidate a fire district, the first to take over an MUA, the first to turn a freight container into a hydroponic farm, first to institute a hyper-aggressive open space policy that has preserved more than 1,100 acres since I took office in 2005, the most in Mercer County. We asked our residents to raise taxes on themselves to secure more open space and they were willing to invest in our future. By doing this, we worked together to make a substantial dent in residential development and steady school enrollment to keep taxes from skyrocketing.

In March, we added another 158 acres of open space with the acquisition of the Miry Run, which will house our new basketball facility and be used for passive recreation and maybe even a community pool.

You know what else is big and scary?

Being the first town to implement an opioid intervention program (C.A.R.E.) and telling our law-abiding residents that we are going to stop putting people in jail for possession of heroin.

Everyone could have bashed us for it, but it was the right thing to do and a risk we were willing to take. Sending people to rehab is five times less costly than sending them to prison, and almost no one comes out of prison better off. C.A.R.E. is working because we were willing to try, and thankfully our residents trusted us enough to give us the latitude to do what is necessary to succeed.

We don’t hide from our residents. We don’t hide at council meetings. We take questions and give those residents answers in real time. When there is criticism to be taken, we take it. That is the difference between us and other municipalities.

We do all of this because we work for you, and we do it for the future of this great township. Thank you once again for the opportunity to serve as your mayor.

Dave Fried is the Mayor of Robbinsville.