Franklin Reporter & Advocate’s 2017 Woman Of The Year: Rozalyn Sherman

Rozalyn Sherman, the Franklin Reporter & Advocate’s 2017 Woman of the Year.

Some people move into a new town and are happy to fade into the background and live their lives in relative anonymity.

Others choose to become a little more involved, joining a civic organization or two, but nothing that will raise their public profile too much.

Then there are the immersers, the folks who run full-throttle into their new town’s social or political structure, looking to make a lasting impact.

This year, we couldn’t find a better exemplar of that third category than Rozalyn Sherman, which is why she is the 2017 Franklin Reporter & Advocate’s Woman of the Year.

Sherman, who will leave the Township Council on Dec. 31 after eight years serving as the Ward 2 representative, has been a Franklin Township resident for only about a dozen years. But in that time, she has created an impressive legacy.

Perhaps her greatest achievement is the creation of the annual Franklin Day Festival, which recorded its greatest success in 2017. The September festival, only four years old, attracted an estimated 20,000 visitors this year, double that of the previous year.

In its short history, the festival has become a Somerset County destination, and this year was nominated for a Somerset County Tourism Award.

A native of Newark, Sherman wasted little time in starting her public service in the township after moving here from Middlesex County. She served as a Planning Board member for two years, and also chaired the township Democratic Party for two years, leading it through a time of transition.

She’s also a founding member of the Franklin Township Interfaith Women’s Council, a founder of the Franklin Township Cultural Arts Council, a member of the Franklin Township Youth Alliance and has been a driving force in reinvigorating the township’s economic development program.

According to Mayor Phil Kramer, it’s that latter effort that will be Sherman’s biggest legacy.

“What she has done is she had the vision of economic development,” Kramer said. “She was the one who really initiated this economic development effort to take care of the change in the economic environment in the internet economy. That’s a legacy that will live on for decades.”

Kramer also credited Sherman’s tenure as Democratic Party chairwoman with leading to more “open government” in the township.

As part of that re-energized economic development drive, the township this year revisited the position of Economic Development Director, filling it with long-time township zoning director Vincent Dominach.

Sherman, Dominach said, has championed economic development for more than a decade.

“From her time on the planning board right up to her last week as a member of council, Roz was the ultimate advocate for economic development in Franklin,” Dominach said. “Roz was always pushing for proper planning and quick implementation to ensure the best for all Franklin residents.”

Sherman, said Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large), is a “dedicated co-worker who wanted Franklin to be the best. She would search the newspapers for ideas and then pioneer them.”

“Franklin Day Festival, the Cultural Arts Council and Franklin Youth Initiative are some of the examples of programs she made possible,” he said. “Franklin and its residents are all better off for it and her service.”

Township Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) praised Sherman for her work with Franklin Day and her other initiatives.

“Roz’s greatest contribution, obviously, is Franklin Day,” he said. “Her second greatest is the Cultural Arts Commission, though it is less visible now than when she was active in it. Another great contribution is being the prime mover behind the Economic Development Committee and the study of economic development.”

“Her greatest disappointment was losing the 2011 mayoral race to Brian Levine, by only 120 votes,” he said. “We all should have worked harder for her then.”

An example of Sherman’s delivering for her constituents was her advocacy for the creation of pickleball courts in the township. Pickleball, for the uninitiated, is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, and is gaining in popularity in the township.

Somerset Run resident Joel Reiss helped bring the game to Sherman’s attention.

“Back four or five years ago when I saw that Franklin was bidding out the reconstruction of the two Castleton Park tennis courts, I contacted Roz, who contacted the Townhip Manager and Alice (Osipowitz) at Recreation to paint pickleball lines on those courts, which were our first courts,” he said. “Roz knew the importance of the fast-growing sport to the area players. We now have four more courts at Inman Park, and the Recreation Department now has an annual Pickleball tournament which draws players from all around New Jersey.”

Reiss said he was “thrilled that my favorite person and most people-oriented council member is going to get this award.”

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said that although she is leaving the Council, he expects Sherman to remain involved in the township.

“In my five-plus years as Township Manager I have had the pleasure to work closely with Councilwoman Sherman on a number of projects and initiatives,” he said. “From the fun, but still demanding, Franklin Day Festival to the very important work done relating to economic development and the marketing of the Township as a destination, Roz was always there leading the way. Her energy and enthusiasm are truly enviable and her presence as a Councilwoman will be missed.”

“That being said, I do anticipate that Roz will continue to be involved in those things she holds near and dear, including her work for youth in the Township as member of the Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse and of course Franklin Day Festival,” he said.

Saffie Kallon, the township’s Special Projects Manager, said Sherman’s “commitment to our community has left an indelible mark on Franklin Township.”

“I’ve worked with Roz Sherman on various projects throughout my time with Franklin Township” Kallon said. “We’ve served together as part of the committees for the Franklin Township Community Farmers Market, Community Teen Center, and Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse to name a few. I’ve sat in on meetings with her for economic development and youth initiatives. Her involvement in all has always featured one common thread, the hope to enhance her beloved community of Franklin Township.”

“Of our many projects, I’ve worked most closely with Roz on the Franklin Day Festival,” she said. “Roz has been the driving force behind the Franklin Day Festival for the past four years now. Her tireless dedication to the development and success of this festival is clearly evidenced by the event’s exponential growth. Her dream to bring the community together to celebrate the township that we all hold so dear has culminated in an event of which all Franklinites can be proud.”

The Franklin Reporter & Advocate will annually recognize one person who, in our opinion, has made the greatest impact on Franklin Township in the preceding year. Franklin residents: Take notes during the year of people you think should be considered for the 2018 “Person of the Year” award. We’ll let you know when to send in your nominations for this award.

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