By AEA President Dave Harpell
In November of 2016, Peggy Gallos, AEA executive director, Pam Carolan, executive director of Mount Laurel Township MUA, and I testified before the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water. Among our recommendations was this: “In contrast, appointed planning board and elected board of education members are required to have a baseline orientation to help them understand their vital role in their respective spheres. Similar requirements for appointed and elected county, authority and municipal officials would be useful. Such new legislation could be modeled on existing requirements for planning board and board of education members – that within the first year of taking office or beginning an appointed term, local officials who will be making decisions about water and sewer funds must attend an orientation to introduce them to the basics of operations and best management practices.”
We made this recommendation because we know that better decisions are more likely to come from leaders who understand their systems and organizations.
I am pleased to say that the final report issued by the task force in 2018 contained this recommendation. More specifically, it stated that, “the Legislature should enact legislation requiring elected and appointed officials who make decisions about water infrastructure to receive standardized education about basic system operations, finance, regulation, and best management practices in their first term. “
At the beginning of the 218th Legislative Session, Assemblyman John McKeon and Senator Linda Greenstein, who had co-chaired the task force, introduced bills (A3500/S1952) that would require training. In addition, a NJDEP official recently said the Department was considering adding training requirements to the regulations implementing the Water Quality Accountability Act.
This is one example illustrating both the value of speaking up and the value of AEA. Comments on legislation or regulations, participating in panels and conferences, and taking part in our state’s dialogue about public policy matters makes a difference. A new idea is like a pebble tossed into the water. It moves out to a wider audience. Once out there, a new idea can be taken up by others. It can and does have an impact. It can make its way into high-profile reports, into proposed legislation, or into regulations.
AEA is the platform from which we can participate and make our voice heard. I want to thank each member –authority, municipal member, associate or affiliate—that has recommitted this year to membership in AEA. When we work together through AEA, we can help our members be heard.