By: Jillian Risberg
He’s spent a lifetime making a difference and now Doug Gabel wants to make sure to keep taxes low and fair, provide necessary services to residents, regulation to a minimum, and work to allow all organizations to function for the greater good as Denville Council president.
“I have committed myself to listen, learn and act in a fair and compassionate way in any decisions or actions I found
myself involved in,” Gabel says. “Each of these accomplishments has required time, commitment, openness and compromise. I rely on my values, beliefs and principals in my decision making.”
According to Gabel, the most difficult and sometimes most frustrating area the council has had to address has been affordable housing.
“We want families on all levels of the economic spectrum to be able to live and raise a family in Denville. The outlandish demands the courts are mandating on our community are unreasonable and unnecessary,” he says.
The council president says that over the years they have been able to establish a significant amount of affordable housing, integrating it into the community despite the demands.
“We continue to work with the courts and our state representatives to establish for Denville a fair and common sense response to affordable housing that everyone can feel is equitable and reasonable,” he says.
Gabel has called the “Hub of Morris County” home since 1984 and says it’s a privilege to have been elected seven years ago to the council so he can continue serving his neighbors.
“As Council President he not only lends his name and support to many town events and activities, he also puts his thoughts into actions,” says Councilman John Murphy. “He rolls up his sleeves and pitches in. His faith, community spirit and general willingness to help his fellow citizen is an ideal that we all can aspire to.”
The IT professional’s political aspirations began when former Denville Mayor Gene Feyl gave him the opportunity to join the Local Assistance Board (Social Services).
“I was able to see all the good the leadership of a community was able to accomplish in a fair and compassionate way,” Gabel says. “I wanted to be able to make a difference by offering my abilities and leadership skills in this way. The council afforded me the opportunity.”
Tony Mollegard has known the council president for more than 30 years and calls him totally committed to Denville, through his ongoing involvement with charity, town projects and their church.
But when it comes to politics, he was surprised Gabel went in that direction.
“But he’s community-minded as well as Boy Scout or religious-minded. He wants playgrounds, more parks, protect the rivers from flooding and so forth,” Mollegard says.
There was a lot of community love thrown Gabel’s way when he came up for re-election.
“I can’t express to you the joy I have when I’m downtown or at an event and see friends and fellow residents and greet them, talk with them and work side by side with them,” he says.
“Everyone wants to have the feeling of belonging. I belong in Denville and remain focused to make it the best place to work, live and raise a family.”
No one knows what the future holds but for one thing — Gabel says that Denville has many wonderful people who reside there, contribute to its success and as long as that continues, it will be the envy of New Jersey.
“We have a beautiful downtown, a broad collection of community merchants, a fantastic library, great schools and Denville is a volunteer community,” he says.
Community service has always been an important part of Gabel’s life. Giving back to one’s community and working with like-minded individuals to make a community better comes naturally to him.
“I attribute my attitude of giving back to the days I joined the Scouting program at age seven. The slogan ‘Do a Good Turn Daily’ has stuck with me all my life and is simply now part of my DNA,” the IT pro says. “I have done so willingly, knowing someone’s life will be better because of it.”
Gabel’s tremendous passion and relentless energy for helping worthy causes hasn’t been lost on former Denville Councilman Christopher Golinski.
“I don’t know how he does so much,” Golinski says. “Doug is many folks ‘most expensive friend,’ always asking for donations to help others.”
The former councilman doesn’t really think of Gabel as a political person.
“He’s more about service,” Golinski says. “It’s leading, inspiring and volunteering, not Republicans are good and Democrats are bad. It’s the kind of political that we should have.”
He adds that the council president is very intelligent, hardworking, always trying to learn about everything and prepared to help the council make decisions.
Gabel says he loves being a part of so many deserving groups that make the township a better place, including the Kiwanis Club, Boy Scouts and River Cleanup committee.
According to his lifelong friend, it’s not just Gabel’s brain — he pitches in his muscle.
“He’s with the hammer and the nail building the playground stuff or down in Appalachia with a group to fix poor people’s homes,” the retired insurance adjuster says. “And he’s leading everybody in church and calling for volunteers.”
Gabel has been described as a “guy in perpetual motion” and the council president attributes his ongoing dedication to service to a family who understands what motivates him and makes him happy.
“They support my actions,” he says. “It is a balancing act to be a good husband, father, provider and volunteer.”
With such believers in his ability to bring change, the IT pro is humbled by all the kind words of his friends.
“I realized a long time ago that you can’t please all the people all the time but I have tried to live my life in a way that respects each person’s position, ideas and concerns,” he says. “At the end of the day I need to rely on my values, faith and facts in my decision making.”
Gabel says he feels he has held tight to his principles and will continue to serve Denville in the same manner.
Mayor Tom Andes has no doubt the council president can do just that.
“I have known Doug Gabel for more than 25 years, first through his involvement in his church then Scouts, Kiwanis and Denville Social Services,” Andes says. “He always impressed me as a good man with a desire to help people.”
The mayor says once Gabel was elected to the Town Council, he saw the council president as a man with boundless energy, a quick wit and passion for the community in everything he does.
Whether it’s Relay for Life, raising money for the Cancer Society, working with the kids at Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, helping out downtown after Hurricane Irene — Andes says Gabel is everywhere doing all kinds of good deeds.
“He’s the councilman that’s in the water for the Polar Plunge, raising money for the Special Olympics,” Andes says. “He’s that guy.”
“What makes Doug stand out is he is willing to step forward for the good causes when others step back,” the mayor says. “Doug has made Denville a better place.”
Mollegard echoes that sentiment, saying that Gabel turns up at every single affair going on out there, whether it’s the Boy Scouts, Memorial Day parades or anything that has to do with the town.
“And he’s thinking all the time — how could I do better, how could I make the town better or the church better, how could I help the poor better. He’s out there pushing, pushing, pushing. He’s not satisfied to be a town councilman, he’s gotta be president of Town Council. So who knows where he’s going from there.”
Case in point, the new bridge at Muriel Hepner Park.
According to Mollegard, citing a safety issue he mentioned to Gabel that he needed to protect the bridge with wire mesh because if little kids run over it coming from the playground they could fall into the water below.
“That’s what the old bridge had and every time it got ripped I would go to the Town Council and tell ‘em about it and they would send out the people from Public Works to put in new screens,” says the retired insurance adjuster, adding that the council president told him he would jump right on it.
“So he’s civic-minded to the point that he’s gonna try to do the best he can to make everything better.”
When it comes to his journey, the council president wants to do right by the people of Denville.
“At the risk of sounding like a campaign speech, it is my vision that the Council continue to act in a fair, respectful and unobtrusive way,” Gable says. “We are a nation of laws but we need to manage appropriate legislation and not over-regulate our community.”