Westfield resident Mitch Slater has been volunteering on behalf of the town's children since before he had any of his own.
The father of two and Board of Education member began his two decades of service to the community by coaching Little League with fellow Board member Mark Friedman when he first moved to Westfield 21 years ago.
"That was so much fun," said Slater. "Mark's the first guy I met when I moved to Westfield."
Elected to the Board in 2010, Slater said he has enjoyed the whole experience, from campaigning, with the help of his daughter who provided creative assistance, right up to the present day.
Slater feels optimistic about the direction of the Board, particularly after interviewing candidates at the last public meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Further, he believes the Board's newest member, to be announced at tonight's public meeting at 8 p.m., will be a great addition.
"I was really impressed by how many people actually took the time to throw their hat in the ring," he said. "I think it's really important that there's a lot of turnover on the Board. One of the reasons I ran for the Board is I felt that it was the same people on the Board for years and years."
A member of the BOE's finance and technology committees, Slater said his passion for a few specific issues, technology and fiscal decisions, led him to run for the seat.
"I've learned a lot," he said. "It's very easy to rant and rave and scream on this side of the table and then when you get over here and you start learning more, it's humbling.
"You have to represent so many people. I take that really seriously. I don't just represent my kids, I represent the whole community, the taxpayers. You have to find the balance to do the right thing. I'm all about transparency. I just believe that everyone's entitled to know everything. The taxpayer is paying 80 percent of the bill, they're entitled to know as much as possible."
Slater said he is continually impressed by the dedication of fellow volunteers.
"We have a great Board right now," he said. "Everyone on this Board is very passionate. I'm blown away by how hard people work."
A financial planner with UBS, Slater has also been an advocate for children's financial literacy and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox Business News, and Bloomberg to share his expertise on family financial issues.
The senior vice president of investments visited Tamaques Elementary School several years ago and spoke with third, fourth and fifth graders about financial basics and responsibility. CNN taped the segment which later aired on television.
Slater, who appears regularly on News 12 NJ, got an early start in broadcasting. In addition to interning for Howard Stern after college, Slater also worked with Larry King and Charlie Rose. Among his brushes with fame, Slater recounted how a job interview in Los Angeles ultimately led to his inadvertent apearance on 'Love Connection.'
"It was actually one of those shows where the audience picks the date and 57 percent of the audience picked me," said Slater,who grew up in Springfield. "It aired right around Thanksgiving and I got all these calls from friends from high school saying, 'I can't believe you're doing this.' It was just bizarre."
Nuturing his artistic and theatrical side, Slater also serves as the music director for Washington School's annual show.
"I personally think the band will be very hot this year," he said. "The show this year is kind of a take off on 'National Lampoon's Vacation.'"
Participating in the production for the past 12 years, Slater wrote the script twice and directed for two years before becoming music director.
"It's a lot of fun,' said Slater, who noted that the play will be performed the last weekend in January. "It's been going on for about 65 years. It's a great tradition raising between $25,000 and $30,000. The show's got a lot of history. You have really dedicated people. It's been one of my great joys of living in Westfield."
*Note: Slater enjoys a decaf double-tall skim extra foam latte from Starbucks.