NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Phil Calabro, the chairman of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, took a moment at the beginning of the June 27 meeting to publicly thanked Jennifer Dix for her service to the community.
Dix, who resigned from the board effective June 30, accepted an engraved plaque from Calabro in recognition and appreciation for her years of service on the board from 2014 to 2018.
Dix, who will be relocating to New Hampshire with her family in July, received applause from the supervisors, the administrative staff and from members of the audience.
“Tonight is very bittersweet, but I have given all that I could for the past 4 1/2 years to serve the residents of this township, to do things that will strengthen our community and put the residents’ best interests first,” she said. “However, it is always a team effort. I’m only one of five and there are always consultants and township administrators that I collaborated with. I can’t take credit for anything on my own, but I appreciated working with each and every one of you, including the administration and our consultants.”
Addressing her township colleagues, she first directed her remarks to Supervisor Kyle Davis, the only Republican on the five member board.
“Kyle, we ran against each other in 2013. And we’re from the other side of the aisle, but we always found common ground. We found ways to respect each other and work together and I appreciated that,” she said.
Dix said about supervisor Linda Bobrin, “Linda, you’re one of the newer board members and you stepped up to the plate to run, which is not easy to do. In the six months you’ve been on the board, I’ve already seen how you’re an asset to the township. You’re a voice of reason and you’ve demonstrated that you’re a team player. And I’ve really appreciated working with you.”
Dix spoke next about departing manager Kurt Ferguson and assistant township manager Micah Lewis.
“Kurt, you’ve always been my resource to get objective advice and I’ve always appreciated that,” she said. “You are 110 percent dedicated to your job. You are a financial wizard. You have come up with so many creative ways to save this township money. You’re hard working. You’re honest. You’ve shown what I call formidable courage to take on an institution that needed reform. Newtown Township’s loss will be Lower Makefield’s gain for sure.”
She continued, “Micah, I’m glad we have the opportunity now for you to step up to the plate even if it is some big shoes to fill. You have always been very responsive in working with us and I especially appreciated your efforts with the township trail program, getting that going.”
And finally she spoke about her longtime colleague on the board, Phil Calabro.
“Phil, this is going to be the hardest one,” said Dix. “I’ve worked with you the longest of anybody up here. You are the most dedicated, humble public servant that I have seen. You’ve been on this board for 12 1/2 years and never missed a meeting. If you think about it that’s close to 400 meetings with perfect attendance. That is incredibly impressive.
“But more than that, I would characterize you as the true champion of people,” Dix said. “You know when to fight and when to compromise. You’ve done an excellent job so far this year as our chairman.”
Dix, a Democrat who served much of her time on the board in the minority, found a likeminded colleague in Calabro, also a Democrat. Earlier this year, the two watched and celebrated as their party took the reins of township government after decades of Republican control.
“Together, the two of us in the board minority did lots of things,” said Dix. “We stood up against builders that we felt were being greedy. We stood up against businesses that wanted political favors. And we stood up against appointments we felt smelled.
“Sadly, Newtown has had decades of self-serving leadership and I’ll even be as bold to say to some degree corruption,” said Dix. “It’s led to a toxic environment of greed and entitlement and I know that will hopefully begin to change. It’s not going to change overnight. And I put the charge to the rest of my board members to work on turning that around. I know all of you can do that.
“I’ve been proud to work on both of your campaigns,” she told Calabro. “You’ve been a mentor and an advisor, a loyal friend and a true model of a humble public servant.”
In concluding her remarks, Dix said she has dedicated the last four and a half years of service to “some of the people who are no longer with us, but inspired me to run for office ... Scott, Paul, Paul, Helen and Herman, this was all for you and I hope I made you proud. I’ve enjoyed this journey working with all of you. I learned from each of you something new.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of this community as your supervisor,” said Dix. “I wish all the best to my fellow board members. I know I’m leaving the township in good hands,” she said.
In response to her remarks, Bobrin expressed thanks to Dix. “You’ve been a big support to me from the day I started this,” she said. “I’m very happy for you, but sad to see you go.”
During public comment, resident John D’Aprille questioned Dix on the corruption allegation raised during her parting words and asked her to elaborate.
Dix was happy to oblige, sharing that earlier this year “the FBI came knocking on my door to investigate two former supervisors and some of their ties to a certain little project here in Newtown as well as some of the corruption in Lower Southampton. I’ll just leave it at that,” she said.
“I guess it was the Democratic FBI guys under Comey,” responded D’Aprille to some laughter from the room.
D’Aprille also noted that he had not walked out of the room when Calabro gave Dix a plaque “like you and Phil did when they gave (former supervisor Mike) Gallagher a plaque for his service. That wasn’t very nice, especially since you were on the board. Just because you didn’t agree with him, there was no reason to disrespect him and walk out of the room.”
Shaking her head over what she just heard, another resident came to the podium to thank Dix for her service. “You’ve been upstanding,” she said.
Rose Wuenschel, who served as the chief of staff to former State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, also spoke publicly about Dix, commending her for her years of service and wishing her well.
“I could always look to you for good analytical understanding of what was going on in Newtown and appreciated everything you did for Newtown like the trails. I know that was something that meant a lot to you and is making Newtown better.”
Wuenschel also conveyed good wishes from Santarsiero, who also thanked Dix for her service.
“I could always count on your professional leadership and your tenacious community engagement for the betterment of Newtown,” he wrote. “Your departure leaves very big shoes to fill, but we are grateful for the service you have dedicated to all residents.”