It started simply, as most things in life do, one evening in 1999. Margaret and Mark Gossett had been brought to northern New Jersey for work related reasons. An associate invited them to his home in Mountain Lakes, and the magic struck. The Gossetts were soon Lakers in the making.
Margaret, a Midwesterner by birth and a scientist by desire and schooling, was (is) naturally curious. She determined that the fastest way to learn about her surroundings and meet her neighbors would be to do a little volunteer work. Fate connected her with Roberta Spray and by September of 2000, Margaret was on the board of the League of Women Voters.
Ask Margaret what stands out in her memory from that time and she will tell you about the League Study on Pedestrian Safety she led. The required research was exactly what she liked, and needed. The outcome of that study was the development of the Traffic and Safety Committee, still effectively functioning today. Her particular pride is the implementation of the early morning schools drop-off program.
Margaret’s next project with the League was to study the Borough’s woodlands. The outcome of that study was the formation of the Woodlands Committee.
If that wasn’t enough for a newly transplanted and first time mother, Margaret became involved with the Environmental Commission. During that time period, the Borough was experiencing almost a weekly deer vs automobile accident. They never turn out well! The efforts of the Environmental Commission, through management programs, resulted in a current accident rate of almost zero.
Well, things changed again for Mark and Margaret in 2005 as work pulled them away from Mountain Lakes, but only for 2 years.
2008 saw Margaret become the Vice Chair and Commissioner of the Environmental Commission. She held this position until the end of 2014. Of course that did not mean that her duties at the League were reduced as Margaret took on the mantle of President where she served for two years, 2010 to 2012. But a different passion was pulling Margaret in yet another direction and in 2010 she started volunteering for the Sunshine Golden Retriever Rescue organization. She continues to work with her furry friends to this day.
But, back to the Environmental Commission. The two most significant ‘projects’ Margaret devoted her life and time to were the development of the Wellhead Protection Ordinance. This highly complex and technical subject took three years just to study. But for a curious, focused scientist, this was perfect. And, Yes, the Ordinance was adopted in 2014.
The other project has changed Margaret’s, and many other residents’ lives. That project was, and is, Waterview. This was a massive and complex undertaking that pushed everyone involved to their intellectual and emotional limits. It first appeared that this might be a relatively straightforward research endeavor. But that was not so.
Margaret and the group started to understand that this was bigger than they had originally imagined when after forming a legal organization, Citizens for Health, Safety and Welfare (CHSW), they hired an attorney, a planner and subject matter experts. Margaret, now a Founding Trustee, had her ‘Aha moment’ at a meeting of over 500 residents gathered to protest the development and many of them, upon hearing the plan and the requirements, started writing checks to help the cause.
Ask Margaret today why she believes volunteering is important and the initial response comes back from the practical side, “It’s a great way to engage and meet your neighbors.” She continues and points to the reality that Mountain Lakes attracts intelligent driven people. They (read “We”) need intellectual stimulation, have strong desires to work and to be involved and for many, enjoy the challenge. But the most telling insight comes later when Margaret says softly but with conviction, “The only way to have an impact is to get involved.”
Margaret, her dogs and a good friend will be exploring a new adventure at the end of this month when they will board a RV and drive across the country to her new home of California. Mountain Lakes will miss her, California will gain and maybe the winds of change will blow again and return her to us.