Wantage farmer reflects upon 40+ years of public service

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:02

WANTAGE - Divergent views over who should pay for dam repairs at Lake Neepaulin harken memories for Fred Hough of another controversial issue that embroiled the same community in the mid-1970s. Hough, 83, is a lifelong Wantage Township resident who was recently recognized by the Township Committee for the more than 40 years of public service he has given to the community. Shortly after Hough was elected to the committee in 1973, the group decided to stop plowing the roads in Lake Neepaulin since it was then a private community. The roads weren’t owned by the town and the condition of the roads was “substandard,” said Hough. Even though the township paid the engineering fees to bring the roads up to specifications and paved them over a five-year period before resuming snow plowing there, the impasse between committee members and Lake Neepaulin residents was very “contentious” at times, he recalled. “At one time they had their own constable there and sometimes he wouldn’t let committee members enter,” said Hough. Long service Hough served 24 years on the Wantage Township Committee, including eight years as mayor. He was involved in a number of hot issues during his tenure, including a successful effort by township officials and residents to stop the development of a landfill by the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority in the mid-1980s before it eventually wound up in Lafayette Township. Hough also recalls locking horns with a husband and wife who were “harassing” him and other town officials in the mid-1980s over the road supervisor’s personal use of a municipal truck. The situation got so prickly that a local judge eventually ordered the couple to sell their home and move out of Wantage, said Hough. Hough recently shared his memories of community service from his Wantage farmhouse, where he lives with his wife Betty, whom he married in 1951. “When you can do something to help someone else, it makes you feel good,” said Hough. Close to home He certainly did plenty of that during his 24 years on the Township Committee. During Hough’s tenure, he and fellow committee members had several notable accomplishments, including the launch of the Wantage Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps in Beemerville and then Colesville. Hough also helped close a landfill in Quarryville, which was turned into a park and he later oversaw the creation of Woodbourne Park during one of his stints as mayor in the 1990s. Hough grew up on his family’s farm on Pond School Road before buying a 100-acre dairy farm off County Route 565 in 1946. In addition to his service on the Township Committee, he also served on the Wantage Township Planning Board beginning in 1966. Hough’s contributions to his home community date back to the 1950s. Over a span of more than 40 years, he has served as a 4H leader, as a member of the town’s Cemetery Association, the Sussex County Board of Agriculture, as a director of the Sussex County Farm & Horse Show and as a founding board member of the Sussex County Farmland Preservation program. Fred Space, the owner of Space Farms in Beemerville, grew up with Hough and spent 30 years with him on the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. “Fred (Hough) always wanted to support and grow the business community in Wantage,” said Space. “He had an agricultural background like me but he also had a vision for where he wanted to see the town go.” Ron Howell, who served with Hough on the Wantage Township Committee for 11 of his 14 years there, said Hough dealt with community issues on a “man to man” level. During his time on the Wantage Township Committee, Hough “was definitely a fighter,” said Howell. “He fought for what he thought was right.” For his part, Hough said he couldn’t have done it all without the unfaltering support of his wife, Betty. The couple has five children, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. During his rotating stints as the township’s mayor, Hough presided over 165 weddings, including one where a bride arrived at the ceremony on a horse and rode out with the groom on a motorcycle.