HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – Two words come to mind when one observes the makeup of the current Township Committee: diversity and firsts. Rodney Guishard is serving as the first minority member on Township Committee. Also, with the election of Judy Link, for the first time women make up the majority of the group.
Senior citizens also constitute a majority of the committee; however, Amy Gatto has been the youngest mayor in the township’s history.
The newest members of the governing body took their seats at the annual reorganization meeting Jan. 7. Both Guishard and Link have been visible in the community for many years.
Guishard came to Hamilton Township in 1980 with his wife, Helen, after a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, where he served in Vietnam and retired as a captain. He joined the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., and subsequently moved to what was then NAFEC and is now the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center. The couple raised two boys and three girls, all of whom attended Hamilton Township public schools and Oakcrest High School.
Born in Orange, Guishard was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is a graduate of Howard University.
He and his wife have served in a number of community based activities: Ed Funds, street cleanup, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, community plays, etc. He served on the Hamilton Township Education Fund for several years and on the Hamilton Township school board from 1991-1997, including three years as president. During that time, the Hess School opened, a substantial number of excellent new employees were hired, the district was recognized for its innovative and cost-saving actions, and the Hess School won state and national awards for educational excellence.
Guishard also served as a representative on the New Jersey School Board Association’s Legislative Assembly. During his 42 years of federal government employment, he held a variety of management positions and worked with people from all parts of the country and world.
Guishard has had a lifelong love of cycling. He has been a member of numerous bike clubs and has participated in weekend events that covered hundreds of miles. Before his retirement he could often be seen commuting by bike from his home to the Tech Center, and he still rides at least 100 miles a week.
Link also has an extensive recreation background. She has owned and operated two skating centers in Pennsylvania as well as Young’s Skating Center in Mays Landing. Her parents at one time owned that skating center as well as Lenape Park. She was raised in Ventnor and attended Atlantic City High School.
She graduated from Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. with a bachelor of science degree in biology, and got her masters from West Chester University. She became a biology teacher at Wissahickon High School in Ambler, Pa. where she taught for 12 years.
She has been involved in many civic and charitable causes, including serving as a member of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Philadelphia Orchestra associations. She has also been a member of the Mays Landing Rotary since 1995, and served as president in 2003.
Link has been a member of the Hamilton Township Environmental Commission since 2000, and in 2009 she was appointed to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission by Gov. Jon Corzine. She served on the budget and science committee, where she assisted with the development of the annual budget for the commission as well as reviewed operation expenditures, making recommendations to the full commission as to the requirements for resources and their allocation.
She has been active in many charitable and civic organizations, including the Mays Landing Rotary Club since 1995.
Both new committee members have specific plans and goals for their tenure in government.
Guishard said a key focus is to get more cultural and ethnic representation and participation.
“We tend to see the same handful of people at township meetings,” he said. “We need more active participation.”
He said he would like to see an improvement in the quality of life.
“I once resided in Columbia, Maryland, a model community that was broken down from city to villages to neighborhoods. While we have associations in some of the developments, I would like to see more neighborhoods come together not only for social and recreation opportunities, but also to form neighborhood watch programs and represent their neighborhoods at township meetings.”
Both he and Link said they like to improve programs for senior citizens. Link said she feels that this can be accomplished through help from volunteers and community organizations.
“It would be great to see our vibrant seniors be afforded the opportunity to participate in social events such as bingo, yoga and Zumba,” she said. “I would also like to see a speakers bureau set up to present educational programs, such as Medicare and Social Security benefits explanations, help with tax preparation, etc., perhaps in some of the over-55 development clubhouses or elsewhere.”
Both said they see a need to upgrade recreation facilities and programs.
Guishard said he would like to set up a task force for recreation that includes all of the stakeholders. He said recreation is vitally important for many reasons: It shows the value of hard work and teamwork, provides exposure to other cultures and is critical for maturation.
“We were given a sizable mandate in November, so I believe the residents supported our ideas,” Link said.
However, both said they want to see critical services provided in an efficient manner, and funds are limited. They agreed that good things have been accomplished recently, and they want to build on that.
“Too many people think their civic duty ends when they vote,” Guishard said. “It doesn’t. They need to participate in the process.”
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