Editor’s Note: This continues the Meet the Leaders profile series in The Alternative Press of South Plainfield. The objective is to provide our readers the opportunity to hear from South Plainfield’s leaders in government, public safety, commerce and other areas, regarding South Plainfield’s present and future outlook, their background and what they enjoy doing in their private life. In order to keep the format consistent, The Alternative Press presented each individual with the same five questions. We are publishing their answers unedited.
Meet the Leaders – Glenn F. Cullen, Borough Administrator and CFO
South Plainfield is the only home I know. I was born and raised in South Plainfield. I attended Kennedy School, the Middle School and South Plainfield High School. After graduating South Plainfield High School in 1985, I went on to Middlesex County College and then Kean University. I hold a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Accounting from Kean University, and I received my Masters in Business Administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1995.
My wife, Darlene and I have six children. The oldest being Darlene’s son Andrew and the youngest being my son Brian. This year Brian will be entering his junior year at South Plainfield High School. Christmas Eve is a very special day in the Cullen household. It is one of the few times during the year everyone can get schedules coordinated to make sure we are all together.
My mother and father have lived in South Plainfield since 1956, and they have been a big part of my life and my children’s lives. My mother is an avid gardener, and she can be seen regularly gardening at their house on South Plainfield Avenue. My father can be seen cruising in his blue Honda watching my kids sporting events. I have two brothers, Frank & Kevin, and a sister Kathy. In total there are 15 Cullen grandchildren.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Government?
In 2002 I left the hospital industry to become the CFO of South Plainfield. I had been in the hospital industry for about nine years, and the move was a difficult one to make. I worked at Hackettstown Community Hospital, and I feel, I was with a great finance team making a number of good things happen. South Plainfield, however, represented the opportunity to run the finances of the town I called home. It was a significant career change that put me close to home and I looked forward to a new challenge.
In 2002, when I started in South Plainfield, my goals were simple. Make fiscally sound decisions. In the twelve years I have been South Plainfield’s CFO we have had practically the lowest municipal tax rate in Middlesex County, and we have had two ratings upgrades when other government agencies have had their financial positions eroded.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing South Plainfield today?
The biggest opportunity facing South Plainfield is South Plainfield itself. We have a great community, a low tax rate, a great mix between residential and commercial real estate, and as Administrator I am responsible for, the best Borough workforce in New Jersey. South Plainfield’s workforce showed their true colors during Superstorm Sandy. The employees worked countless hours, and South Plainfield was cleaned up and running weeks, if not months, ahead of our neighboring communities.
The biggest challenge is maintaining the same level of services while aid from the State has been flat or declining. I think the term aid is actually incorrect. It is our money coming back. South Plainfield residents pay a lot in income tax, sales tax and corporate taxes to Trenton, and the services that are mainly delivered to residents are from the Borough and Board of Education. State Aid to South Plainfield from Trenton, just for the Borough, is down nearly $900,000 from what we were receiving in 2008.
What are the top priorities on your “to do list” as Administrator?
My top priorities are to continue managing an effective Borough workforce, while maintaining a fiscally sound organization. In addition to the day to day operations, the Library Expansion and the Hollywood Avenue Bypass are the top project priorities. These are no-longer just ideas or theories. The Library Expansion is set to begin right after Labor Day.
What do you do in your spare time?
There is not much spare time. When I do have it I enjoy quiet dinners, traveling and being TAP into South Plainfield’s beat sports reporter.
Five Words that describe South Plainfield are……………..
Home, family, community, resilient, strong