OP Ed in The Press of Atlantic City 2/8/23
A PUBLIC SERVANT FOR ATLANTIC COUNTY
There was a time when politicians viewed themselves as mere public servants, not entitled power brokers. It's time to restore government to an institution that serves and supports the good of the people.
Contact Caren, she will respond.
How I Got Here
Life doesn't always take you where you think it will.
As an honor student at Mainland High School, I was fortunate to able to get into the University of Delaware on a scholarship after the 11th grade. But a short time into my sophomore year, I fell in love with a guy named Brian Fitzpatrick and quit college. We spent several years moving around South Jersey and Philadelphia, before coming back to Atlantic County to open Fitzpatrick’s Deli in Linwood. We were young and naïve, so after only a few months, we realized we needed a steady income and health insurance, so I applied for a job at the newly opening Tropicana in Atlantic City. I began as a deli waitress, with some awesome arm-service skills–that still come in handy at Thanksgiving–but while six months pregnant on a busy Memorial Day weekend, a large party left a tip of a pile of nickels and I quit the next day.
I know what it's like to work in the service industry in a resort town.
Three years later, I opened a family daycare in my home because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my babies with a stranger. But other people were not so fortunate and were forced to leave their 6-week old infants with me because they had no choice but to go back to work.
I understand the pressures of finding affordable quality child care.
When both my sons were in school, I answered an ad from Atlantic Electric looking for customer service representatives. There was a line of 450 people applying for those jobs in Egg Harbor Township because the starting pay was $9 per hour. Two people were hired, myself and one other woman named Marlene. Out of 450.
It took awhile, but with both Brian and I both working, we were finally able to make a combined household income of $50,000, and for the first time, I felt like I could exhale.
I understand the struggles of working families.
We all want our children to have opportunities but don’t always have the means to provide them. That’s when I knew I had to finish my education, and so started a 14-year journey of nights and weekends, culminating in a Masters degree from Stockton.
I know what it's like to work hard to get an education.
In 2014, my family endured the greatest tragedy, the loss of our son, Duncan. Struggles related to opioid addiction, mental illness, and finally, death have resulted in a strength I didn’t know I had. If I could go through that and still get out of bed in the morning, there is nothing that I am afraid to undertake or challenge on someone’s behalf. I thank my husband and son, both called Brian, and family with their support that makes this new direction possible.
I know what it's like to deal with addiction and mental health issues because my family suffered the ultimate price.
My experiences in work and education ultimately led me to work professionally managing multi-million dollar budgets and spending. My experiences in life have given me the ability to hear peoples’ concerns and understand their needs. It's given me the ability to listen.
I consider myself an ally and an advocate for all residents because I’ve lived through the pain and struggle of life and have come out the other side stronger and willing to fight for others.