Patch Interview: Bedminster Committeeman Advocates For The Betterment Of His Small Town

Colin Hickey has lived in Bedminster for over 30 years and now holds a public service position to create community engagement opportunities.

At the heart of community enhancement and fortification, local leaders hold pivotal responsibility. Here, we shine a spotlight on an asset to the Bedminster community: Colin Hickey. A Bedminster Township committeeman for the past six years, Hickey’s career background in the technology sector has led him to work with renowned corporations like AT&T and emerging startups. His professional journey has equipped him not only with a profound comprehension of customer requirements but also a strong foundation in utility management, which informs his ongoing efforts in collaborating with local service providers to benefit the community.

We spoke with Hickey to learn more about his community contributions, his role as a public servant and what he loves about Bedminster.

Patch: How long have you lived in Bedminster and what led you to a public service position?

Hickey: As a resident of Bedminster for over 30 years, I feel blessed to have lived and raised a family in our small town. I view public service not as a means to an end, but as an opportunity to give back. I have had the privilege of serving the community in this capacity for the past six years.

Patch: What have you learned as a public servant and how have you impacted the Bedminster community?

Hickey: One of the most important skills any public servant should have is the ability to listen. What quickly became clear to me, both in-person and in social media forums, was a strong (and well-earned) dissatisfaction with our utility providers, particularly electric and cable. Bedminster is a premier town with an excellent reputation for its housing, school and open space. Yet, we were suffering from a public service infrastructure that hadn’t been properly maintained or upgraded in years, causing a significant disruption to the lives of our residents and potentially impacting the values of our homes.

The pandemic only worsened this situation, with everyone suddenly working, studying and playing from home. Our internet service slowed to a crawl, and high-speed broadband — once a luxury — was now a necessity. Simultaneously, our power grid was failing. Frequent outages have plagued our area for years, resulting from a combination of aging wiring, old equipment and dense foliage.

We as a township committee have the ability to amplify the voices of our residents and use the swing weight of local government to get results. For our electric provider, that meant holding public forums to raise concerns, as well as holding the utility accountable for maintaining and upgrading its local infrastructure. While we are by no means done, the tide has started to turn. Our electric provider is inspecting and installing new transformers, replacing failing underground cabling and heavily investing in more aggressive tree trimming — the latter of which accounts for a large percentage of power outages. In addition, we have won a major policy decision, forcing our electric provider to be held accountable for the maintenance of the lines that connect their transformers to the meter banks on our condos and townhouses. These lines, known as laterals, were and will continue to be a source of failure, and by unburdening the HOAs from the expense of repair or replacement, we have won a major financial victory.

At the same time, we have convinced our local cable provider to invest in significantly upgrading the network that serves our community. Currently a Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) network that predates the internet, our cable provider has agreed to rewire the Hills with Fiber to the Home (FTTH). This is being done at no expense to the community or the customer, and should bring Bedminster from worst to first in internet and entertainment services. We are the first community in the state of New Jersey to receive this upgrade. We believe this will significantly improve the performance and reliability of our network [while] also [increasing] the value of our homes.

Patch: What community projects or events have you been a part of and what has made them most fulfilling?

Hickey: I have been involved in planning and organizing numerous community events, starting with my time as chair of the Bedminster Environmental Commission. Seeing the need for more community engagement, we created a series of environmentally-themed events for children and adults alike, including Bat Night and Moth Night. In addition, we began partnering with the school and other local organizations to sponsor green events, including clean-up days, well-testing and presentations featuring guest speakers.

Recognizing the food insecurities that the pandemic suddenly caused, I partnered with Bedminster’s recreation director to create the Bedminster Food Pantry. For 10 weeks we collected, sanitized and distributed food during the height of the pandemic. While it might be odd to consider this a “community event” in the traditional sense, it was in fact that. Our residents were looking for a way to help those in need, and their generosity was both humbling and heartwarming. In the end, we received over 950 donations of food, personal necessities and gift cards, served a total 666 families and contributed 1,800 pounds (two pallets) of food to the Somerset County Food Bank for distribution to other area food pantries and those in need.

I am also a member of the voluntary committee that plans, organizes and runs our weekly Bedminster Farmers Market. Spanning 28 weekends a year, this recurring event has evolved into the town square. In fact, during COVID-19, it became one of the few places folks could congregate and communicate in person, cementing its position as both a community forum and a way to support our local agriculture. It provides a unique opportunity for everyone to see their neighbors and share in the food and drink of area farmers and producers. And yes, I’m one of the folks running around each Saturday helping to direct traffic and park cars — stop by and say “Hi!”

Patch: What is a resource citizens of Bedminster might not know about?

Hickey: I have championed a project dedicated to improving our outreach and notification system called Bedminster Alert. The alert system provides real-time information on events, emergencies, resources and programs sponsored by the town. Residents can sign up here to receive alerts by text message, email, or social media.

Patch: What do you wish people knew about Bedminster?

Hickey: Bedminster is like living in a Norman Rockwell painting. Despite being in one of the most densely populated areas of the United States, we are a small town nestled in a bucolic environment and have a community that embraces our history and heritage. Where else can you watch a Memorial Day Parade and become part of it as you walk down Main Street? Regardless of where you live in Bedminster, you can step outside and within minutes be walking in the rural countryside or riding along our extensive network of trails. Our local amenities, easy access to New York City and our low taxes make Bedminster an ideal place to live and raise a family. Yes, I am proud to be a resident, privileged to serve our community and I am dedicated to keeping that small-town feeling alive and well, because that’s what I love most!

Patch: What drives you to continue to give back to your community?

Hickey: [Former] President Obama [once] said, “We are the change we have been waiting for.” Be a catalyst for change! The ability to make a positive impact is what drives me, and individual actions are the engine of a small town and create a better community. Social media may be dominated by complaints, concerns and petitions, but you alone can make a difference. Homeowners associations, volunteer groups and religious organizations everywhere are lacking one thing — volunteers! Be the person who answers the challenge and becomes a part of positive change.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Bernardsville-Bedminster Patch as part of their Conversations with Community Leaders profile series.

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