Ellen Dickson ran for her first public office at 19.
It all began with a campaign for town meeting member for Dedham, Mass. and a post as elected student representative to the Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts.
But her life of service was put on hold while she raised three children–Laura, Julia and Henry–with her husband of 34 years Chip.
"Something has always drawn me," she said. "I was touched on the shoulder to do it."
Now, after two terms as councilwoman in Ward I and an unsuccessful bid for Union County Freeholder in 2010, Dickson is the Republican nominee for mayor of Summit.
"I keep trying to find a new challenge," she said. "This is the path it has sort of taken me to."
But she says she didn't make the decision to run lightly.
"I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to run for mayor," Dickson said. "You are the face of the community. You have to give it your undivided attention."
Dickson had originally considered a second run for Freeholder but recognized the high probability of defeat given the largely Democratic population of Union County. With her term on Summit's common council expiring Dec. 31 of this year, a loss for Freeholder would mean her exit from public office.
With six months to go until the November election, Dickson said she sees his time as an audition for the job. And she's got a laundry of list of things she'd like to focus on as mayor, including working with the Planning Board and the Board of Education.
"I’m not planning to micro manage anything," she said. "I’m looking forward to being the face of Summit and representing Summit in the larger area."
Because of the nature of her character and because of her run for Freeholder, Dickson said she knows many of the local mayors and has already discussed increasing shared services with their municipalities.
Madison Mayor Mary-Anna Holden is one of the role models for mayor that Dickson says she is looking to.
"I always think 'What would Mary-Anna do?'," Dickson said. "She's outgoing and as mayor you have to be able to roll with the punches."
- Staying within the 2 percent cap: "I think were all hurting," Dickson said. "And it’s time for the taxpayers to get a break."
- Parking: "I do believe there is a lack of adequate parking," Dickson said. But she said she's not willing to put the expense on the back of the taxpayers and suggested an RFP to assess the city's options.
- Downtown: While Dickson said she thinks did well to act on most of the reccomendations in the Downtown Task Force's report, she would like to work on improving the "Gateways" to Summit and fun things that build community spirit such as building a community garden, putting in an old-fashioned clock downtown and turning the Transfer Station into an Environmental Center.
"Summit has everything it needs," she said. "We just need to use the infrastructure we have better."
Editor's Note: This is the latest article in a series of profiles on candidates for council and mayor this November.