Thursday, January 03, 2008

Council - Courier -Gibson to lead, promises open door

Published in the Courier, Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gibson to lead Plainfield city council; promises open door


PLAINFIELD — Spreading a message of compromise and open government, Plainfield's new City Council president is pledging to promote public involvement during council meetings in 2008.

Harold Gibson, who won the presidency Tuesday at the city's annual reorganization meeting, predicted a strong working relationship between the council and Plainfield's administration as political leaders continue to review the city's fiscal year 2008 budget.

"The council and mayor's office probably will be able to work very well together," Gibson said Wednesday. "I don't see any particular issues where we'll be like two pieces of sandpaper rubbing against each other."

Gibson, 73, joined the City Council in August 2006, when he was selected by fellow Democrats to replace the late Ray Blanco. He then won the general election three months later to continue serving as an at-large councilman.

Now heading the Union County sheriff's new Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Gibson has served as the county's public safety director for the past 10 years. Gibson's 35 years in law enforcement have also included more than two decades with the Newark Police Department and a role as chief of detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Gibson — the brother of former Newark Mayor Ken Gibson — also has worked as Plainfield's public safety director and city administrator.

"I don't believe in trying to appeal to or appease to individuals," Gibson said. "I think that we are elected to serve the public, and the public deserves our trust. I believe they will gain our trust as this year goes through ... I believe I have the capability of leading the council in a way that will satisfy the needs of the city as best we can."

Gibson said that means making promises he can keep and and promoting an open-door policy for residents who want to discuss local issues with elected officials. Gibson also said he will champion public input during City Council meetings by giving residents their full allotment of speaking time and researching answers to questions if they can't be provided on the spot.

The new council president added that he might schedule meetings with community groups to get a better handle on residents' concerns.

"We don't work for ourselves," Gibson said. "We work for the 48,000 people (in Plainfield) and I think we should do what we can do to provide legitimate answers — and to give them the services that they're paying for — as best we can."

Although Gibson said it's nice to have a new political title, he said if council members "can't functionally accomplish that which the role requires, then I would think, very frankly, that we're useless."

"And I don't want to wind up in history as going down as that," he said.

Online story here. Archived here.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.