In the 13 years my wife and I have lived in Bloomfield, we've gotten to get to know an amazing number of residents who have devoted much of their free time to making our town a better place to live. None receive a dime for their services. Some work on a variety of boards and committees. Many keep a low profile while others act as gadflys, standing up at public meetings expressing their heartfelt feelings and asking important questions about what still needs to be done. Here, in no particular order, are our top 10 nominations:
Gary Iacobacci is a former councilman who has managed the political campaigns of many successful and unsuccessful local candidates. He has played a leading role on many groups including the Rec Committee, Library, and Bicentennial Committee.
has planned and managed most of the major Bicentennial events this year. She is the newest member of Oakside Mansion's trustees.
Jeff Coltenback is the owner of Paradise Pets who trains and rehabilitates dogs with several rescue groups. His efforts to adopt Memphis, the pitbull, have unified thousands of animal lovers from the Bloomfield area and beyond in a campaign to challenge Board of Health policies at Bloomfield's animal shelter. Their petition to the Council and Board of Health collected over 47,000 signatures.
Pat Gilleran is retiring from chairing the Open Space Committee, possibly as a result of her outspoken comments at Council meetings. She is best known for speaking up at meetings of the Council, Planning Board, and Board of Health meetings with the documented results of numerous Open Public Record Act(OPRA) requests.
Karen Banda co-founded the town's most popular unofficial Facebook page, "Save the Bloomfield/Bukowski Shelter" in 2011. With over 6700 fans, the site started as a vehicle for maintaining adequate funding for the shelter, but evolved into a communication center for the dozens of volunteers fired by Director Karen Lore early last year. Although the needs of her ailing mother kept her from attending public meetings, she has remained active online.
Carlos Pomares is a college history professor who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2010. He joined the parking authority and quickly made alliances with other members to challenge the existing majority. He has also been a member of the Historic District Review Board, and the Collins House Preservation Committee. An antique car buff, Pomares participated in most cruise nights.
Rich Rockwell who also ran with Mr. Pomares for council, got involved in a neighborhood zoning dispute to the extent that he wound up joining the Zoning Board. He has rescued and restored hundreds of historic photographs for the Historical Society of Bloomfield -- making most of them available to all on their website. He also presented a virtual tour of the old Morris Canal before leading two walking tours on the Canal route.
Susanna Sotillo founded the Halcyon Park Neighborhood Association and has been secretary for the Bloomfield Neighborhood Association Committee. She has also been on the Planning Board for 12 years where she is often a minority voice against out of control developments.
Mary Shaughnessy chairs the most active board in town: the Board of Education -- the only board that requires an election campaign. She is now working to resolve problems concerning overcrowding in our schools and deals with questions from teachers and parents alike at the BOE's biweekly meetings.
Maria Probst led her neighbors along with other concerned residents in a six month long battle with the Zoning Board to prevent T-Mobile from constructing a cell tower at the corner of Broad and Bay. Although T-Mobile has withdrawn their application and the "No Cell Tower signs are down -- for now, she has persuaded the Council to consider a new wireless ordinance by speaking up at many Council and Planning Board meetings on this and other issues. Maria has also done an amazing job of alerting her extensive network of residents to forthcoming Council and Board agenda items as soon as they are made public,
Of course, there are hundreds more neighbors that deserve recognition and our appreciation. Feel free to add your own names and become a volunteer in 2013!