Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan delivered a kinder, gentler speech in her fourth annual “State of the County” address Wednesday.

Absent were some of the sharper criticisms of other public officials notable in her last two speeches, such as when she blamed the sheriff for “reckless” spending or lambasted Democrats for “undisciplined spending” when they ran county government.

Instead, Donovan, who is running for reelection this year, outlined several new initiatives she intends to pursue in a speech before several hundred people in the auditorium of the County Technical High School in Teterboro, where several students shared the stage with her.

Among the actions she highlighted were:

  • Increasing the focus on combating domestic violence. Donovan recalled attending a candlelight vigil last year in memory of four women killed in domestic violence incidents.
  • Appointing a citizen advocate to help the public cut through the maze of government. She said the experience of one man who spent six months trying to get services for his elderly parents was the catalyst for the advocate, who will work out of her office, possibly as a volunteer.
  • Appointing a seven-member task force to study the future of Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus. The county-owned hospital currently is run by a private operator whose lease expires in 2017. Donovan said she’ll consider any options the task force develops, except for getting the county back into the hospital business. She hopes to have its report within six months.

Her 12-page speech made no reference to one of the more contentious issues in county government, a freeholder plan to merge the County Police into the Sheriff’s Office.

Afterwards in a question-and-answer session with about 70 students, she discussed that issue plus the controversy over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.

But Donovan later said her views of police consolidation and her opposition to the merger are well known. Instead she wanted to focus on what’s new.

“You know what happens? When I do the pugnacious stuff, that’s what you report on,” she said.

Donovan said she also was mindful of the students in her audience.

“It was a conscious decision to talk about all the pluses,” she added. “I absolutely could have said some things today, but I thought: ‘You know what? We’re just going to talk about the positive things and say thank you to people for that.’

“We’ll get back to the pugnacious stuff. But this just wasn’t the day for it.”

Donovan chose the Technical High School as a back drop to highlight $1.6 million in increases to education spending in her proposed 2014 county budget.

The Rutherford Republican is running for a second four-year term. Democrats are mounting a challenge with Freeholder James Tedesco, a former Paramus mayor whose nomination as the party standard bearer was confirmed Tuesday at the county Democratic convention.

Tedesco later dismissed Donovan’s speech for lacking substance.

“Most of it was a lot of fluff and a lot of feel-good,” he said. He noted the emphasis on education spending but recalled that in her first year as county executive, Donovan cut spending at Bergen Community College by $5 million.

He also criticized her for not mentioning the police merger, which Democrats contend can save the county $90 million to $200 million over 25 years, an estimate the administration disputes.

Republican Freeholder Maura DeNicola welcomed Donovan’s speech for its tone and substance.

“It definitely was positive, and I think that’s something we are so in need of,” she said.

“This was an opportunity to talk about the good stuff, which doesn’t always make it onto the front page of the local newspaper,” she added.