By Steve Sears
Ellen Sandman, the recently named new Executive Director of the Downtown Denville Business Improvement District, makes a pretty definitive statement.
“It’s my desire to do the best job I can to give back to a place that has wonderful people and businesses, and it’s just a great place to raise a family, to recreate, and to live a good life.”
Her term officially began on January 1, 2021, but she started planning in November. “I have the time and the inclination and the drive, and I always like to settle in,” she says, while adding, “I am so honored to have been selected.”
Sandman recalls the day when she fell in love with Denville. “I started my job as Township Administrator on March 3, 1986.” She then halts, and adds, “Actually, I started sooner because when they swore me in on February 18, 1986, then Mayor “Jack” O’Keefe turned to me and said – and this was a Tuesday – ‘We’ll see you on Saturday for the budget meeting,’ even though I didn’t start work really until March 3.”
“I knew Denville was the place I was meant to be.”
Sandman hails from Jersey City and worked her first 12 years there in government. “Born in Jersey City raised in Jersey City, educated in Jersey City,” she states. “I never regretted it because it definitely was a great place to have grown up, and then to also work for the city for 12 years. Then, 21 years here in Denville, and then 7 in Mendham, and then the 4 1/2 in Parsippany. So, no regrets.” Perhaps the best way to describe Sandman is “service minded.” “I’ve always prided myself – and that’s my work ethic – that I’ve always wanted to be one-stop shopping.”
Sandman has been married to her husband George for 46 years. “Married on June 29, 1974,” she says proudly. Sandman’s son, Kristian, is a Denville Police officer, and is the Student Resource Officer at the Morris County School of Technology. He and his wife, Liz, have two children, Colin (14) and Madelyn (5).
Sandman, 70, feels that Denville’s downtown district may be one of the best in the state because it is well known beyond Morris County. “We have some wonderful businesspeople. If you’ve gone into these shops – Sisters, Dash of Thyme – they’re beautiful. And look at Faith and Begorra! And Denville Dairy. Denville Dairy is kind of famous in a sense because there was a movie star that was on one of the talk shows who was born in Denville, and Jay Leno asked her, ‘What did you do (when younger)?’ And she said, ‘Well, I came from a small town, and we used to go to Denville Dairy.’” She also cites the volunteerism in town that is top notch. “Beautification,” she says. “The beautification is a remarkable volunteer organization. This town is on the map, I think, because of that.”
The challenge for Sandman and the BID is, after COVID-19, to get people back into town. “Because of COVID, the challenge was that you couldn’t have the masses. That’s the challenge. The good news is, even though it’s a challenge and it will probably be a challenge up until maybe May of this year (2021), we’ll be able to go back to having the opportunity to make it safe walking around and shopping in the stores.” She also lauds the business owners and how they maintain their businesses. “Denville has remarkable record of maintaining storefronts. You know, you don’t see empty stores, and now it’s a little bit tighter and there is a little bit going on, but we’re going to get to this other side (of COVID).”