Chatham Borough and Chatham Township share many aspects such as the school district, the public library, and heritage. Although they are both referred to as Chatham, they in fact are separate municipalities. Chatham Township has maintained its committee form of government since its founding in 1806. This is the oldest form of municipal government in New Jersey.
Voters elect the committee's five members, who, when elected, serve three-year staggered terms. The committee elects the mayor for a one-year term. The mayor serves as the chair of the Township Committee. Committee members administer the running of all public works as well as the police and all administrative functions. They oversee most of the boards and commissions, and all legislative powers are vested in the committee. The Borough of Chatham seceded from Chatham Township and became incorporated as a separate municipality in 1897. A mayor and a six-member council govern the Borough.
The mayor is elected to a four-year term and the council members serve three-year staggered terms. Council members serve as liaisons to the Borough's boards and commissions. The mayor and one council member also serve as members of the planning board. The goal of the governing body is to preserve and enhance its small-town identity and its relative self-sufficiency, as it seeks to act cooperatively and responsibly within its region. A Historic Preservation Commission was established in 1988. The Commission published a pamphlet entitled "Design Guidelines for Rehabilitation and New Construction in the Main Street Historic District" to provide suggestions to property and business owners in the district. In addition, the mayor and council set up a sign committee in 1995 to review all sign permits.
This has resulted in improved and attractive signage throughout the town. This has all been in an effort to preserve and improve the historic structures, landscapes and street settings to make Chatham an attractive place to shop and conduct business. The Chatham Volunteer Fire Company serves Chatham Borough. Two volunteer fire companies, the Chatham Township Volunteer Fire Company and the Green Village Volunteer Fire Company, serve Chatham Township. Police protection is provided by each community. The Chatham Emergency Squad is a volunteer organization that serves both communities.
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