We are continuing our “Meet the Mayor” series with Summit NJ’s dynamic mayor, Ellen Dickson. Over coffee at Summit’s Batavia Café, Ellen shared her thoughts on Summit, a town which the Mayor said is on the “verge of greatness.”
First a little background.
Ellen and husband Chip moved here 18 years ago. They settled in Summit because it seemed like a place where “everyone – from whatever backgrounds – can feel comfortable.” Their three children, now grown, all graduated from Summit High School.
Before moving to Summit, she earned an MBA, and like many Summit residents, worked in the financial services industry.
But Ellen is no stranger to politics. She grew up in Dedham, Mass. and was the town’s youngest elected council member. During her college years she was elected as student trustee. Ellen has served on Summit’s PTA, Zoning Board and Town Council. She began her four year mayoral term in January.
Downtown Summit – a NJ Heritage Site
Ellen is enthusiastic when discussing all that Summit offers. “I’m never bored here. Almost every night I’m out at events, many free.” And in fact following our interview the peripatetic Mayor was off to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Summit’s First Aid Squad.
She is proud of Downtown Summit, which she described as bubbling with energy: more than 200 stores and restaurants call Summit home – not to mention easy access to the Short Hills Mall, The Short Hills Hilton, Grand Summit Hotel, Summit Playhouse, DeBary Inn and the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.
But its not just great stores and restaurants. Summit also is home to world class businesses like Celgene, and attracting more. She noted that McKinsey, the top ranked consulting firm, just leased the top two floors of the newly built Summit Executive Center (formerly the Summit Medical Center).
That newly built facility is remarkable, she said. It’s kitted out with a rooftop garden, an outdoor café, comfortable lounge areas and 200 parking spots, many underground. No doubt its approaching full occupancy in record time.
But with development comes challenges. She said town parking is a recurrent issue. And to improve parking Summit appointed a committee to come up with practical recommendations. Their findings are due this year.
Summit NJ – An App for that?
Ellen embraces technology to help inform town residents. While she only became Mayor in January, she believes that reliable communications during emergencies, such as during last fall’s storm, is a must.
And both Summit and the Mayor maintain informative websites. In addition, she is a social media pro. You can friend Ellen on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Her passion for technology is evident. In fact she also hopes to expand free WiFi in downtown Summit and even develop a Summit mobile app.
Summit Recreation – Want to Kayak on the Passaic?
When we talked about future initiatives, the Mayor became animated: “I want to open up the Passaic River” which separates Chatham and Summit. “Bruce Harris [Mayor of Chatham] and I both have an interest in accessibility. I would love to see more access. At least walking trails. Perhaps even a boat launch for kayaking.”
Working with Chatham’s Bruce Harris, the Mayor is investigating the cost of cleaning up a portion of the river. If it is reasonable, she believes it could happen.
We ended our conversation talking about Summit’s people, its greatest asset. She said this community is lucky to have some extraordinary people. “Some of the best and brightest people live right here in town. We need to harness that strength.”