Shrewsbury Borough Celebrates its Biggest Fan: Mayor Don Burden

October 22, 2018
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Students from Shrewsbury Borough School presented Mayor Donald Burden with a surfboard painted with symbols of his life and hometown. Photo by Rick Geffken

By Chelsea Maguire |

SHREWSBURY – After two terms in office as mayor and 40 years of service to the borough, Donald Burden is retiring from office. On Saturday, Oct. 13, family, friends and residents gathered for a “Don Burden Day” at Shrewsbury Hose Company to celebrate his many contributions to the town he loves. Befitting the informal Burden, sponsors of the event provided a barbecue with hot dogs, soft drinks and cupcakes for attendees.

Burden and his wife, Mary Lea, a former medical researcher, settled in Shrewsbury in 1976; their children attended Shrewsbury Borough School and Red Bank Regional High School. He had a successful career as a publisher, spending 47 years with The McGraw-Hill Companies where he served as an editor, publisher and marketer for college textbooks.

Tinton Falls resident Stacey Slowinski, a librarian at Ranney School, met Mayor Burden while working at McGraw-Hill in New York. “He’s actually how we got to Monmouth County,” Slowinski said. “Don invited my husband and me to come to the beach one day with him when we were looking to move south.” As chairman of the Historic Commission in Tinton Falls, she is involved in the early-to-mid-19th century Crawford House museum. “He was always a sounding board who I could go to and ask, ‘How do I get this done?’ ”

Bob Kelly, a historian at Shrewsbury’s Christ Church, was grateful for the good Burden has done for the town. “I must know Don Burden for 30 years now and he’s made innumerable contributions,” said Kelly. “He loves this town more than anyone and keeps his eye on everything going on here and contributes in every way possible, especially to the Shrewsbury Historical Society where he’s been president for years.”

Saturday’s event included speeches from fellow Shrewsbury community members and politicians who had interesting stories and positive things to share about Burden. Brent MacConnell, superintendent of Shrewsbury Borough School, thanked the mayor on behalf of the school staff, parents and students. Two of the school’s students gave the mayor a green surfboard hand-painted by the school’s art teacher. Pictured on the surfboard were symbols of Burden’s personal history including the logo of his alma mater Gettysburg College, the insignia of the U.S. Army Reserves, in which he served for six years, and of course, the Shrewsbury Borough ensign.

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“Mayor, you have left an indelible mark on our close-knit community,” MacConnell said. “Your care, commitment and active involvement in our school has been a gift to generations of students. Please accept my open invitation to visit us anytime and we will always be grateful to see you in our classrooms and our hallways. I hope to see you often at SBS.”

Mayor Burden was also presented with three proclamations. The first highlighted his educational background at Gettysburg College and positions he has held there as president of the Alumni Association, a trustee since 2006 and president of the “Spirited Class of 1963.” It also highlighted the positions he has held in his 42 years as a resident of Shrewsbury, including member of the board of education, the police commissioner, and member of the finance, personnel, fire and first aid, and fire house building committees as a council person. He also served as Borough Council president and chair of the Shade Tree Commission.

Freeholder deputy director Lillian Burry presented the second proclamation from the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Burry, who appointed Burden as library commissioner for the county library in 2013 and to the Monmouth County Historical Commission in 2017 said, “He’s always been the most energetic, most interested and most productive individual. I’ve always seen him as ‘Mr. Shrewsbury.’ ”

The third and final proclamation was a Senate and Assembly proclamation presented by state Sen. Vin Gopal and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling. “You see people here from all different political strides and all ends of the community because they know how much he loves and cares about this town and how he has been a source of comfort to so many in this community,” Gopal said. “Don Burden is an absolute gentleman who doesn’t care what political party or where you’re from. He cares about every part of the Shrewsbury community.”

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After receiving these proclamations, Burden addressed his friends, family and the residents of Shrewsbury. “My heartfelt thanks to everyone here,” he said. “And I would like to acknowledge the mayoress, my wife, who was there for all of us.”

Mary Lea Burden, like her husband, was very grateful and excited about the turnout at the celebration and remarked on how people in the borough, much like her husband, have shown how they care. “Don grew up in a small town in Connecticut that was a lot like this, that’s why he loves it so much,” said Mary Lea. “Everyone, all the boards and the committees, are all volunteers and they really care about the town. They want to help and do whatever they can.”

Don Burden will no longer serve as Shrewsbury’s mayor when 2019 rolls in, but he will still serve as president of the Shrewsbury Historical Society as well as library commissioner for the Monmouth County Library. No matter what position he holds though, the residents of Shrewsbury and people across Monmouth County will know who Don Burden is.

As fellow Two River Times contributor and Don Burden’s co-author of “The Story of Shrewsbury: Revisited,” Rick Geffken said, “My friend Don Burden is an extraordinary man who’s been an inspiration to everyone he’s met over many years. Never a partisan, he simply cares about people, no matter what they believe. I’ve never met a public servant so universally loved and admired by the entire town he has devoted over forty years to making a quality place for people to live in and enjoy.”


This article was first published in the Oct. 18 – Oct. 24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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