A life in public service isn’t exactly glamorous: as outgoing Jefferson Township Mayor Russ Felter and Town Administrator Jim Leach recalled their experiences during a farewell luncheon in their joint honor on Sunday, there were stories of late-night meetings, post-storm traffic management, toilet installations, and getting scolded at public meetings.
But the event left no question that such a life can be a good one. As Morris County Freeholder Thomas Mastrangelo said to the scores of attendees at Casa Bianca in Oak Ridge, “Public service is very rewarding when you do the right things for the right people.”
Speaker after speaker, from local organizational leaders to state legislators and officials, told stories and shared words of appreciation to Russ and Jim, who received several standing ovations. Kerry Kirk Pflugh of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, who sat alongside Russ on the Lake Hopatcong Commission for several years, listed off the qualities needed in a good public servant: loyalty, service, honesty, flexibility, listening skills, and a sense of humor. The honorees, she said, certainly demonstrated those traits.
The first project the Lake Hopatcong Foundation ever funded was in support of the hiking trail at Prospect Point, behind Liffy Island, way back in the summer of 2012. Russ and Jim both attended one of our earliest board meetings, showing us maps of the intended route and sharing cost estimates for the trail. We were thrilled to support that effort to enhance lake-area recreation—a cause that continues to be a pillar of our mission. And it was the first opportunity for us to partner with one of the four towns around Lake Hopatcong, which is now part of our everyday operations. I will always be grateful for that first agreement, which helped us establish ourselves and move forward with our mission.
It was a joy to work with Russ and Jim on several initiatives during their time at the helm in Jefferson, and it was an honor to celebrate their time as public servants before they both retire from their positions in the township. As Assemblyman Jay Webber pointed out, they have 76 years of service between the two of them. For that, and for all they did to try to make Jefferson and Lake Hopatcong a better place, they should be deeply proud.
Congrats, Russ and Jim! Enjoy this next chapter, and don’t be strangers to the lake in the years ahead.