Meet The Leaders - Common Council President Rich Madden
Tuesday, September 3, 2013 • 12:40pm
Editor's note: This continues the Meet The Leaders profile series on the Summit Alternative Press. The objective is to provide our readers the opportunity to hear from Summit's leaders in government, public safety, commerce and other areas, regarding Summit's present and future outlook, their background and what they enjoy doing in their private life. In order to keep the format consistent, The Alternative Press presents each individual with the same five questions. We publish their answers unedited.
Background / Biography
Born in Queens, N.Y., as second of five children raised by Brooklyn-born parents of Irish/ German heritage. With Dad’s job transfer, we moved to Connecticut where I skipped a grade. Elected Newington High Student Council President, National Honor Society, Boys’ State, Basketball Co-Captain, and held four jobs. Regretfully, our only sister perished from Cystic Fibrosis at age eighteen. Graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy with a B.S. Engineering, won the Colors, Soccer Goalkeeper and served on the Personal Honor Guard to the President at the White House.
As a Marine Officer, commanded a HAWK Missile Battery that was commended for operational readiness, technical proficiency and personnel excellence. Earned Harvard MBA and pursued general management opportunities. Presided over several start-up companies where leadership and teamwork were essential for success. Generated record sales and profits as first CEO of Adidas, USA, which brought me to Summit thirty years ago, where I met my wife Paula. We now have five married children and eight grandchildren in five different states.
What inspired you to pursue a role in public office?
My wife Paula encouraged me to seek public office five years ago to give back to the community after my successful military and business pursuits and observation that continuous high property tax increases were unsustainable. As a neophyte politician, I established a game plan to meet as many constituents as possible and listen to their ideas. During my first two years 2010 & 2011, was elected Council President Pro-Tem, Chaired Finance/Personnel and Auditor & Solicitor Search Committees, Deputy Public Works, and member of Board of School Estimate and Joint Meeting. Have served as Council President in 2012 & 2013, and was re-elected to Council. Have encouraged several others to continue the pursuit for excellence in municipal governance.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing Summit today?
Summit is a fabulous community that prides itself on the high quality of its residents and employees, its public and private school systems, commuting proximity to New York City, the concentration of medical centers and pharmaceutical headquarters, a vibrant downtown, beautiful neighborhoods, competent volunteers and well organized programs. Opportunities abound to continue to improve Summit in most of these areas. People move to Summit for its schools and direct commuting, so good governance should continue to improve the education and parking processes. Many of Summit’s children attend private schools at their own expense despite the reputation of Summit’s public education program and the taxes required to support it.
The primary challenges that confront Summit are fiscal control and public safety. As property taxes continue to rise, many long term residents consider moving to lower taxed areas, which can create meaningful changes in the community mix. Summit residents pay over $150M annually in State income taxes plus property taxes of $130M for City, Schools and County government, but receive very little in return. Summit must control rising debt service, now over 17% of the City budget, by limiting non-essential capital projects.
Summit pays 11 percent of county taxes from 4 percent of the population. As a trendsetter, Summit should encourage legislative support to shrink the size of County governments. In Union County, we should privatize Runnels Hospital; consolidate three County law enforcement agencies (Sheriffs/Correction/County Police); assign expense of the Prosecutor’s Office and Union County College to the State; and, reduce the County government headcount annually by attrition. These overspending changes could reduce county taxes significantly and Summit’s by $10M+.
Public safety encompasses the security and well-being of our residents from violations of the law, natural occurrences and created emergencies. In today’s world, we must be prepared for the emergency risk management challenges of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, cyber wars and human deviations as well as the standard police, fire, EMS and public safety requirements.
What are the top priorities on your “to do list” as a City Council Member?
Personally, my major goal has been to contribute to the betterment of Summit with honesty and transparency. All of Council and the Mayor have a responsibility to encourage the election of the most competent candidates and the appointment of the best qualified personnel as committee members and City employees. Specifically, we must cover all bases to reduce our County tax burden, standardize and improve our parking for shoppers and commuters, and improve our emergency management capabilities to confront any situation that involves life safety, including a program to train competent backup well in advance of any emergency.
When you are not being a City Council member, what do you do in your spare time?
Communicate with and travel to California and New England to visit five children and eight grandchildren in CA, CT, MA, NJ & VT. Oldest grandchild just graduated at the top of her class from Burlington VT High School; youngest was born at Overlook Medical Center three months ago. Enjoy golf and have organized several group trips to Ireland, Scotland, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst and Annapolis. Active with Naval Academy and Color Company Classmates.
Five words that describe Summit are…