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SOMERSET – On the job two months now since her historic countywide victory by 10,000 votes, Freeholder Shanel Robinson embraces her chance to be a servant leader and problem-solver. Leader of the history-making, two-woman team that recorded the first Democratic Party freeholder wins since the 1980’s, Robinson last year coat-tailed mid-term voter anguish over the presidency of Donald J. Trump to win by 10,000 votes, a year after she lost countywide by 1,700 votes.
An Air Force veteran who specialized in the repair of one-seat fighter jets and a former Franklin Twp. Councilwoman with a history of community service, Robinson day jobs it as a technologies manager for St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick. Her work as an elected official complements her professional goal of customer service excellence, she told InsiderNJ over coffee this week.
“There is a lot of distrust in government right now, and in elected officials,” Robinson said. “What I’m looking to do is to be transparent and accountable and present. To be a servant leader lends itself to these times. It means being with the people and leading by example. We don’t need a figurehead or a person with a title who is unapproachable.”
Robinson played a vital, visible, and collaborative community role in the resolution of a massive 2010 high school parking lot melee in her hometown. “I deal with facts in high emotion situations,” Robinson said. “People thought the council made a quick judgment without understanding the people involved.
“I don’t play games with people,” she added. “This is not partisanship. It’s problem-solving, and I am strategic in planning and tactical in execution.”
In that particular case, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office ultimately dropped charges against students and the community won lights and cameras for the impacted area at the high school. As for serving at a time when emotions run high and anger abides as a matter of routine, Robinson said, “Everything doesn’t require an immediate response. Take information and analyze it and based on that analysis, decide if a response is appropriate.
“The job is being responsive,” Robinson added of her current responsibilities. “If someone calls me, I don’t ask them if they’re a Democrat or a Republican. No one has time for those games. I have a life. I work full-time and I’m raising two grandkids. My faith keeps me grounded, as well as staying involved in the community and not getting above or beyond myself.”
This is a significant year in Somerset County politics.
If Democrats pick off incumbent Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh, they will control the five-member board. Robinson doesn’t throw a punch at her colleague, and of the upcoming elections she simply says, “Examine the individuals running.”
Her advice to young politicos considering public service is to exercise knowledge and wisdom, to carefully ascertain where they can do good, and to be part of the solution.
“Not an agitator,” she said with a smile, “or a distractor.”