Monday, November 4, 2019

Why I am Running for Freeholder

Why I am Running for Freeholder 
By Rebecca Williams 
About Me:
            I am a full-time faculty member of the English Department in the Division of Humanities at Essex County College. As a Freeholder, I serve on the following committees: Chair, Policy and Administrative Code Committee; Member, Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund; Member, Parks, Public Works, and Facilities Committee; Liaison, Commission on the Status of Women; Liaison, LGBTQ Ad Hoc Committee. In addition to my legislative work and my occupation as a college professor, I currently serve as Eastern Division President of the Community College Humanities Association (CCHA), a national organization dedicated to preserving and strengthening the humanities in two-year colleges.
Why I am Running:
   I am running for re-election for a full term as a member of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders because I am committed to public service and I see how important it is have a strong body to represent and serve all 21 municipalities within our county. I am proud to be a part of a Freeholder Board that closely examines the county budget to ensure that we are maintaining the high quality of services Union County residents have come to expect while we stabilize and, in some areas, lower taxes. The result is a good, responsible county budget that has stayed below the 2% cap. 
            As Chair of the Policy and Administrative Code Committee for the Freeholder board, I work to review, modify, and update ordinances, policies, and codes to be adopted by the full board. As a member of the Open Space Trust Fund, I work with my colleagues to augment the Union County Parks system by adding more acres for public recreation and conservation. I am in the forefront of LGBTQ advocacy, working with the Union County Office of LGBTQ Affairs on outreach and advocacy events to address housing, senior services, education, health, public safety, community engagement, and other areas of concern. In addition, I continue to advocate for shared services as part of the “Best Practices” continuum to help save tax dollars while maintaining quality services.
  I believe that you should vote for the team that will continue to provide support and resources, as well as the highest quality services available, to all Union County residents. I attend as many events in our municipalities as I am able to and, as a result, have gotten to know many outstanding residents, who share a variety of concerns and ideas with me. I have been on the board about a year and a half, and I am open and accessible to all constituents across the county, and you can (and do!) always reach me. I follow up on your concerns, and I reach back to you to ensure that you are satisfied with the result. I have always been a “grassroots” public servant, and being on the Freeholder board doesn’t change that—I remain mindful of the needs of all our residents as we advance our progressive agenda on your behalf.
            We have focused on improving our infrastructure (especially our roads, parks, and drainage), enhancing our open spaces and activities for the increased enjoyment of our residents during their leisure time, building on Workforce Development opportunities to bring more jobs to the county, and finding additional ways to increase efficiencies. Working with the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition and other elected officials, we advocated successfully for the return of the off-peak one seat ride for our RVL commuters, even as we continue to push for peak service.
            It is my distinct pleasure to be on the ballot with individuals such as Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski, Freeholder Sergio Granadosand Surrogate James LaCorte—all ethical, effective, dependable, and dedicated public servants with exemplary public service records. I am proud to be a part of this Democratic team and I hope that on Tuesday, November 5th, voters will re-elect all the Democrats in COLUMN A to keep moving Union County forward.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

This Weekend: Haunted Halloween at the Plainfield Rescue Squad!

This Friday and Saturday (October 25 and 26), the Plainfield Rescue Squad (located at 700 West 7th Street in Plainfield--corner of Spooner Avenue) will host the PRS Cadet and Explorer 2nd Annual Haunted Rescue Squad and Harvest Festival! Last year, on a rainy and eerie night, the squad played host to hundreds of Plainfielders who came out in support of this fundraiser. I was one of those Plainfielders--it was awesomely scary, and I will be back this year for more! 

However, due to popular demand, the squad has extended the event to two days this year--as they note: "double the fright and double the fun, with different scares and themes for each night!" 

You are in for some fantastic chills and thrills as you enter the spooky atmosphere and try to make your way through the building as zombies, ghosts, vampires, and other creepy entities greet you in the haunted hallways. Don't forget to peer inside the haunted ambulance! If you are the non-scary type, you can still attend and enjoy the Harvest Festival portion, with free movies and popcorn! 

Below are the times:

Fri, Oct. 25: 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm I Sat, Oct. 26: 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm

The cost of admission is $5.00 per person at the door--if you bring a donation of a can/box/package of non-perishable food with you, the cost of admission is only $3.00.* Bring a few extra dollars if you want to purchase some of the Halloween-based refreshments. Come out and support our rescue squad--I look forward to seeing you there!

Click on the link for a preview: Haunted Rescue Squad and Harvest Festival!

*All donations will go to a Plainfield-based food pantry. 



Thursday, Oct. 24: First-time Home Buyer Workshop in Plainfield

Tomorrow, Thursday, October 24, beginning at 6:30 pm, the City of Plainfield will be co-hosting, with Address Yourself, a first-time home buyers workshop. The workshop will be held in the City Hall Library at Plainfield City Hall, 515 Watchung Avenue.

Learn the ins and outs of purchasing and maintaining a home. Among the topics covered will be budgeting, credit repair, down payment assistance, and home ownership counseling.  

Please RSVP to Annette Brent in Community Development at (908) 226-2557 or at

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Voting Machine Demonstration at Plainfield's National Night Out!

Many of you are probably aware that Plainfield will be using the new Express VoteXL voting machines beginning with the fall election on November 5, 2019. As your freeholder, I made a special request that Union County have a machine (along with staff) available at this year's National Night Out event on Tuesday, August 6 at Plainfield City Hall. The hands-on demonstrations of the new machines will take place from 5:30 - 8:30 pm, with trained Union County staff on hand to answer questions. 

Weekly demonstrations of the new machines are hosted at the Colleen Fraser Building (300 North Avenue East in Westfield) every Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. In addition, we want to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the machines, so community groups are encouraged to contact the Union County Board of Elections to schedule demonstrations for their members. Email Administrator Nicole DiRado at or call (908) 527-4123. 

I have added below video demonstrations of the new machines (in English and Spanish). See the press release below for full details on all the demonstrations across Union County. 

Union County - How to use EXPRESS XL VOTING MACHINE (English)

Union County - Máquinas de votación ExpressVote XL (Spanish Language)

Press Release
For Immediate Release: July 30, 2019

Union County Board of Elections to Hold Multiple ExpressVote XL Voter Machine Demonstrations at “National Night Out” Events Across the County

Union County, NJ – The Union County Board of Elections has added additional dates to the schedule of hands-on public demonstrations for Union County’s new ExpressVote XL voting machines this summer. Demonstrations will be held at several National Night Out Events across the County in the month of August.
“Union County was among the first three counties in New Jersey to introduce the new voting machines last year, and we are looking forward to having this new technology available in all 21 of our municipalities,” said Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski. “We encourage all residents to attend one of the upcoming demonstration sessions while enjoying these National Night Out events in their hometowns.”
All demonstrations are open to all Union County residents, voters and non-voters alike. Attendees are advised that photographing and/or video recording of voting machines used by Union County is prohibited. Demonstrations are scheduled at the following events:
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Meisel Park, Springfield – National Night Out
Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Summit National Night Out – 356 Broad Street, Summit
Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Plainfield National Night Out- 515 Watchung Avenue
5:30 – 8:30pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Roselle Park National Night Out, Chestnut Street (Gazebo)
5:00 – 9:00pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Linden National Night Out, in front of city hall, Wood Avenue
Time: 5:00 – 7:00pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Clark National Night Out – Parking lot next to the Recreation Center
430 Westfield Avenue
Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Roselle National Night Out –210 Chestnut Street (Between 1ST and 3rd Ave)
5:00 – 8:00pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Cranford National Night Out – In front of Municipal Building – 8 Springfield Ave
Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm
August 6 – ExpressVote XL Voting Machine Public Demonstration
Scotch Plains National Night Out –430 Park Ave – grass area on Stage House side
6:00 – 9:00pm
Voters in Westfield piloted the new machines in the 2018 General Elections.  Eight additional municipalities started using the new machines starting with the Primary Election on June 4, and the remaining 12 county municipalities will use them starting with the General Election in November.
For those interested, weekly demonstrations are being held every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Colleen Fraser Building in the Union County Complex at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield.  For additional outreach events, visit the Board of Elections’ website at
The schedule will be updated on the Elections Board website at as events are added. A video demonstration of the new machines is also available in English and Spanish, online at
Please contact the Union County Election Board to schedule a demonstration for your community group by calling 908-527-4123 or emailing

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Plainfield's 2019 Summer Food Service Program - Spread the Word!

Plainfield Hunger Heroes and Summer Food Service Program Coordinators Sharon Slater and Carolyn Thomas from the Plainfield Division of Parks and Recreation continue to remind everyone that the program, in partnership with the Plainfield Public School District, is providing free summer meals to children (18 and under) at three sites: Hannah Atkins Playground, Rushmore Playground, and Seidler Field. The meals (Snack at 2:30 PM and Dinner at 5:30 PM) are served on Monday through Friday from now until Friday, August 23. This federal program, administered in New Jersey by the Department of Agriculture, serves nutritious meals to ensure that all of our kids in Plainfield have healthy, nutritious food during these hot summer days. For more information, please contact the Division of Parks and Recreation at (908) 753-3097.
Please share the video and flier to help spread the word!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Pride in the Park - Saturday, June 29 at Cedar Brook Park

Saturday, June 29 (that's tomorrow, folks) from 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM, Plainfield will host "Pride in the Park," at the Parkside Picnic Area at Cedar Brook Park. This free, family-friendly event, presented by the Plainfield Pride Committee and the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, and co-sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, will offer music, food, performances--including Drag Queen Story Hour--and games for kids of all ages. There will also be free HIV testing by Hyacinth AIDS Foundation (National HIV Testing Day is observed annually on June 27). So join us tomorrow for some family-friendly fun as we celebrate Pride!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Plainfield Pride Events - Sat, June 15 and Sat, June 22

I want to thank everyone who came out to our fantastic Plainfield Pride Flag-Raising and Block Party event last Thursday, June 6, and to our Union County Pride Flag-Raising on Friday, June 7. It was my honor and pleasure to serve as the Emcee for these wonderful events. But...Plainfield is not finished acknowledging and celebrating our LGBTQ community during this month of Pride! Please see my other blog (click here: And My Point Is) for the cross-reference to other Union County Pride events!

Join me this Saturday, June 15 as we continue to celebrate LGBTQ Pride in the City of Plainfield. At 10:00 AM at the Plainfield Public Library, located at 800 Park Avenue, we will be hosting Jodie Patterson, author of The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation. Jodie will be reading from her memoir, and we will have a book talk and Q & A after. Here is a short blurb about this memoir, from the editors at Ballantine Books/Random House: 

"Inspired by her transgender son, activist Jodie Patterson explores identity, gender, race, and authenticity to tell the real-life story of a family’s history and transformation. [...] In The Bold World, we witness a mother reshaping her attitudes and beliefs, as well as those of her community, to meet the needs of her transgender son, Penelope— and opening the minds of everyone in her family who absolutely, unequivocally refused to conform. 
Click on the link to read more: The Bold World

Later that evening, at 7:00 PM, we will continue to celebrate Pride with our "Come as You Are" LGBTQ Prom Night Dance Party at the new Plainfield Cultural Center, located at 724 Park Avenue (formerly the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield). This prom is free and open to the public--you must be 18 years or older to attend. Come and celebrate with us--bring your dancing shoes! I look forward to see you at both events!

The following Saturday, on June 22, from 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Plainfield will host "Pride in the Park," in the Shakespeare Garden at Cedar Brook Park, located at 121-147 Randolph Road. This free, family-friendly event will offer music, food, performances, and games.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Thank You, Plainfield Democrats, for Your Support!

I want to just take a moment to thank all those Plainfielders who came out in support of me, Assemblywoman Linda Carter, and the Plainfield team. Your faith in the work the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has been doing held strong. I am grateful for your support, and I am thankful that my Freeholder colleagues, Chair Bette Jane Kowalski and Sergio Granados, and our Surrogate, James LaCorte, were also elected as Democratic candidates. There is much work to be done, but I am glad for the support of the majority of Democratic voters who came out on Tuesday, June 4. I congratulate all the winners in this primary election.

I will be out and about this spring and summer, and I look forward to seeing you at some of our events and meetings. I will continue to post events and activities of importance to Plainfield and Union County residents. I am dedicated to serving you! 

All best,


Friday, May 24, 2019

Pool Opening - Hannah Atkins Park - Memorial Day Weekend

Once again, the Plainfield Division of Parks and Recreation will open the Hannah Atkins Pool on Memorial Day weekend, as the division has done in the five previous years.

As noted in the flier below, the pool will be open on weekends, starting tomorrow, Saturday, May 25. It is only open on weekends until June 22, when the regular summer hours kick in. The other pools, at Seidler Field and Rushmore Park, are being readied for their regularly scheduled openings in the summer. 

Contact the Division of Parks and Recreation at (908) 753-3097 or send an email to the Recreation Division at to find out more information. Enjoy a relaxing Memorial Day weekend!



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Bob Bender, Friend and Comrade: Fighting the Good Fight, 1939-2019

Bob Bender (Photo Credit: Sindayiganza)
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

I am writing today about Bob Bender, a dear friend and comrade who passed away this past Sunday. Bob and Patty lived in Plainfield since the 1960s before retiring to Florida some years ago. Plainfielders will remember Bob as a fearless social justice activist, advocating for justice, peace, labor rights, environmental action—causes that affected the lives of the nation’s (and the world’s) most vulnerable members. As a founding member of the Solidarity Singers of the NJ IUC, Bob was always ready to belt out a song in support of progressive causes. One of my warmest memories is of an evening some years ago when he and Patty joined me and a bunch of our mutual Plainfield friends for a music jam at my house with ukuleles, guitars, and other instruments. Bob and Patty brought along a gift, the Rise Up Singing Songbook, from which we all sang and played some tunes.

Bob and Patty (Photo Credit: Bender Family)
I first met Bob when I worked as the Educational Program Coordinator for the Historical Society of Plainfield back in 2002. I was hosting “Brown Bag Tuesdays,” a series of film screenings of the documentary This is Plainfield. Bob and Patty showed up, bringing popcorn for the audience members. During the discussion that followed, I learned a great deal about Plainfield’s history from Bob and Patty, and we became friends as well as allies. That was just the first of many wonderful days and evenings of breaking bread with the Benders. 

In 2003, Bob became an ally as a member of the New Democrats for Plainfield, the grassroots political movement begun under the late Mayor Al McWilliams. Much of what I learned about grassroots political organizing came from Bob and Patty, who served as Plainfield Democratic City Committee members for several years. I got to know Bob much better when I interviewed him in 2003 for an oral history and photo exhibit I curated for the Historical Society of Plainfield, titled “Plainfield at the March,” a 40th anniversary commemoration of Plainfielders who had attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Bob and Patty had attended the march, and got married soon after. Bob’s remembrance of that signal event in his life is in the society’s archives.

Patty, Dan, & Bob at BLM demonstration in Newark in 2015 (Photo Credit: Nat Bender)
Most recently, the Benders were active in the Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, in Broward County, Florida. Bob’s letters to the editor on local matters as well as global concerns are a testament to his life as an activist. I last spoke to Bob this past August, when he and Patty called to congratulate me on my new role as a freeholder. Bob was on the mend—he had overcome his bout with cancer, and he was getting back into the swing of things. So it came as a sad shock to find that he had passed. My heart goes out to Patty, Nat, Dan, and the entire family. But…Bob has left us with a tremendous legacy—his life and works, and for that, I am grateful. For those of you who didn’t know Bob, you have an opportunity to learn about this great Plainfield treasure—before he left for Florida, Bob donated his archive, which documented his life and activism with a number of organizations in Plainfield, to the Plainfield Public Library. You can find the Robert L. Bender Collection (in English and in Spanish) in the Local History Department. 

The collection, which spans the years 1959-2001, includes Bob’s papers as a member and volunteer of CORE, NJ SANE/Peace, American Democratic Action, Plainfield Joint Defense Committee, Children of the Rainbow, the NAACP, and other organizations.
Although we never really talked much about religion, and I don’t remember any discussions that we had about faith, as I reflect on and remember who Bob was, these lines of scripture from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy come to mind, which I think are apt in the secular realm as I pay tribute to my friendship with Bob, and to Bob's great fellowship with the world:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 
Yes, you have, Bob. La lucha continua.

Your comrade,


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Women's History Month in Plainfield - Masjidullah and P.A.A.A.S.

As you all are aware, March is Women's History Month, wherein we honor the achievements, contributions, and struggles of women from a variety of backgrounds. This past week, it was my pleasure to serve as a panelist and guest speaker at two events in my wonderful home town of Plainfield. On Sunday, March 24, I was honored to serve as a panelist with Assemblywoman Linda Carter and Neighborhood House CEO Carol Presley at the annual Women's History Month event hosted by Masjidullah to benefit the Muslim Soup Kitchen, which is celebrating 30 years of feeding our community. The discussion focused on how we, as professional women in the public sphere, overcame (or are overcoming) obstacles to success. I was fascinated by the journeys detailed by my fellow panelists, and a lively Q and A with the audience followed the talk. I love attending events at Masjidullah, whose congregants always provide the warmest of welcomes. I honor and thank them. 

I visited the Plainfield Academy of Arts and Advanced Studies (P.A.A.A.S.) on Monday morning, March 25, to talk about women in politics and the relationship of politics to art. The talk veered toward a discussion of arts funding and budget cuts, especially in schools. I shared with the students some excerpts from an essay titled "The Sanctuary of School," by artist Lynda Barry. Although the essay was published in the early 1990s, it remains timely and resonates still (see the excerpt below). After I read the quotes, I asked the students for their thoughts, and I heard, LOUDLY and CLEARLY, their eloquent and deeply passionate responses, which can be summed up as: DO NOT CUT ARTS FUNDING. After the talk, we watched two outstanding performances of Shakespearean works by P.A.A.A.S. theater students, and I was honored to be presented with an embroidered shirt and a resolution from the State Legislature. 

I will be attending a number of other Women's History Month events, so I will post them!

All best,