By Jay Cook |
RED BANK – In a move that officially turns the page on Stanley Sickels’ nearly four-decade career, Red Bank officials announced last week their appointment of a former Union County mayor and Army veteran as its next business administrator.
Ziad Andrew Shehady, 33, of Springfield, will officially take over the position on May 14, replacing Sickels, who retired at the end of 2017 after a 38-year tenure in Red Bank. He had served as the borough administrator for the past 21 years and also held positions as the borough’s qualified purchasing agent, fire marshal, construction code official, community development liaison and municipal housing liaison.
Shehady currently serves as Springfield Township’s business administrator and has been no stranger to municipal government or public service. A registered Republican, he was elected to three terms in Springfield and was twice chosen to serve as mayor, in 2010 and 2012, and as deputy mayor in 2016.
Shehady’s hire highlights a “complete overhaul” of Red Bank borough hall, a task some elected officials alluded to frequently coming into 2018, said Mayor Pasquale Menna this week.
“He’s an extraordinarily smart man and will be a full partner with the council moving forward on a substantial number of reforms which are going to be painful on the administrative structure, but they have to be implemented,” Menna said.
Shehady is also a U.S. Army veteran who said he joined the military because of 9/11. Shehady then transitioned into active involvement with the U.S. Army National Guard, he said.
But what sets him apart from the rest, he believes, is his ability to immerse himself in the communities he’s serving.
“I want to be involved in the community, not just a clock-in, clock-out, kind of administrator,” Shehady said by phone this week. “Residents and business community members can expect to, and I assure them, that they’ll see me around at events day and night. I’ll be responding to any calls for help they might need.”
Shehady’s hands-on style made him stand out from “an exhaustive amount of replies” for the position, Menna said. That list exceeded 140 inquiries, which the borough whittled down to about 10 qualified candidates.
Some council members – the two Republicans Mark Taylor and Michael Whelan – had requested Sickels’ replacement be hired and brought on board before he stepped down, but that ultimately didn’t happen.
Red Bank’s borough administration has been handled since Sickels’ retirement by two contracted professionals, Kenneth DeRoberts and Joseph Harnett, of Government Strategy Group. Their tenure in Red Bank will end five months after their appointments in January.
Menna and Shehady both separately said Shehady’s knowledge and experience with information technology and a desire to streamline services will improve governmental functions at 90 Monmouth St.
“Whether its filing for a garage sale, filing for a dog or cat license or for an ABC license, I’ll be looking at every one of those transactions and asking ‘how can we do it better, how can we refine this process for everyone?’ ” Shehady said.
Shehady’s salary is set at $152,000 when he takes over in mid-May. Sickels, on the other hand, was last paid $181,080 in 2017 for his work in Red Bank – $50,153 of that was for the administrator position and the remaining $130,927 was for his construction and fire official positions, according to borough clerk Pam Borghi.
Some Red Bank residents had criticized Sickels’ multiple appointments, believing it would put a strain on the borough when his retirement eventually came, due to more hires. Menna, on the other hand, challenged that, saying Red Bank always had other employees in Sickels’ departments.
Also, Menna said Shehady would be saving Red Bank an approximate $20,000 in health insurance costs because of “various federal entitlements” he has.
And about the over $100,000 increase in the administrator salary? Menna believed Red Bank had to bump that up.
“You try getting an administrator the size of Red Bank for anything under $150,000 and you’re not going to be able to find anyone. That’s No. 1,” Menna said. “The world has changed.”
Shehady will be joining a borough council split 4-2 between Democrats and Republicans which has battled in recent months over how to address Red Bank’s parking shortfall and how the borough can handle redevelopment in the areas surrounding NJ Transit’s Red Bank station, Shrewsbury Avenue and Riverside Avenue.
And as the borough takes its next step, Shehady said he plans to make any governmental transitions “lean and efficient.”
“I’m available and I’m responsive,” he said. “Those are two qualities that people desire of their government’s officials nowadays.”
This article was first published in the April 19-26, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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