Bill Dressel Retirement Details
A Municipal Leader Hangs Up His Hat
For 41 years in New Jersey, Garden State municipal officials have been able to depend on the good advice and impassioned advocacy of New Jersey League of Municipalities' Executive Director Bill Dressel. But Mr. Dressel has given notice of his intent to retire at the conclusion of the League's fiscal year, on June 30, 2015.
Arriving from northern Virginia to join the League's staff in 1974, just as the New Jersey Legislature was beginning to open the Committee hearing process to facilitate public comment, Dressel quickly established a local government presence in the State House. Generations of New Jersey legislators - literally, Fathers and their Sons and Fathers and their Daughters - have learned to rely on him not just for an accurate and articulate appraisal of the impact of state policy options on New Jersey municipalities and property taxpayers, but also for his impassioned advocacy. And generations of New Jersey local elected officials have relied on his service as their eyes, ears and voice in Trenton.
Always a happy municipal warrior, his joys have included annual budget battles for increased property tax relief funding, recurring skirmishes in defense of local liberties against preemption efforts, duels with public employee unions to protect local management prerogatives, and a never-ending campaign for property tax reform. (According to the Census Bureau's 2010 charts, in New Jersey, property taxes account for about 98% of all locally collected revenues. The national average is about 75%.)
Perhaps his key legislative accomplishment was the 1995 voter approval of an amendment to the State's Constitution requiring the State to pay for state mandated programs and services.
In addition to his stewardship of the lobbying program, Dressel took on increasingly more responsible duties in the League's administration. In 1995, he was named Executive Director. In that capacity, he has led the League through several service expansions.
The League's Annual Conference is the largest gathering of local officials in the nation, the three-day Conference features over 100 seminars covering virtually every aspect of local concern. In his first year as Executive Director, he was a reluctant guest on CBS' "60 Minutes," which was investigating allegations of corruption at that year's Conference - handling that, as he did in all his interactions with the Press, with honesty and grace.
Under his leadership, the League acquired and rehabilitated the dilapidated Ferdinand W Roebling Sr. Mansion at 222 West State Street, which now serves as the League's Headquarters. On September 27, 2008, he was presented with the Sarah P. Fiske Award by Preservation New Jersey, Inc. for accomplishing this feat. Among the many accolades received over the course of his career, in December 1999 Dressel received the John G. Stutz Award recognizing over 25 years of League service. And in November 2007 he received the Rutgers Award for public service to New Jersey for Excellence in promoting and supporting municipal government.
Proud of Municipalities
A voluntary association, Dressel is justly proud of the fact that every one of New Jersey's 565 municipalities has remained in the League for the past five years. In a letter written to the League's Executive Board, he noted:
"I have the deepest respect and admiration for the local officials who contribute and sacrifice so much to improve the quality of life in their communities. You have honored me by allowing me to serve you and I will be eternally grateful."
We will miss him.