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New Township Manager Search Could Last Over 3 Months

Mayor Frank Gambatese said the search to find a replacement for the departing township manager is expected to generate a sizable number of applications.

The South Brunswick Township Council will hold its first official meeting tonight to discuss the parameters of the search for a new Township Manager. Current manager Matthew Watkins informed the township late last week that he would be leaving in a month to accept a position as City Manager for Clifton, NJ. 

"I'm sorry to see Matt go, he spent about 12 years here, and did a very good job for this town," said Mayor Frank Gambatese. "But this is what happens with managers and administrators, they're constantly looking for bigger towns and bigger challenges, so we wish him luck and we hope we have some luck finding someone to replace him."

With Watkins last day set for Aug. 5, the council will begin reviewing the ordinance pertaining to the manager position to determine if any changes need to be made.

"The first step for us is to review the current ordinance to see if we need to make any changes to bring it up to date, since the ordinance is quite old," Gambatese said. "We need to look and see if we want to change the salary requirements, whether or not the manager should live in town, whether or not they need to have a master's degree. We need to make sure everything is up to date for 2011."

One of the issues raised by residents a few times over the last several years has been the residency status of the manager, as Watkins lives in Burlington Township, which is about an hour away. Councilman Joseph Camarota said last week that residency is a negotiable issue, but the preference would be for a candidate to live in, or at least close, to South Brunswick.

"With Matt leaving in a month it would be impossible to hire somebody within that time, so if we were able to hire someone within three months I would be happy," he said. "We have strong department managers and great directors in our town, so it's not like we're going to fall down and be unable to deliver services to residents. (Chief Financial Officer) Joe Monzo can fill in, unless council feels that it wants to appoint an acting manager to run the township after Matt leaves.

"I'd like to get this settled in three months and hopefully the council feels the same way, but we need to get moving because time has a way of flying."

Watkins served as manager for a total of about 12 years in two separate stints, and leaves with a current yearly salary of $158,008, according to Public Affairs Coordinator Ron Schmalz. The search to find his replacement is expected to bring a large number of applications, which may require the township to streamline the process, Gambatese said.

"I think it's in our best interest to have a committee in place to make some recommendations for a top five candidates or something, because we expect a lot of applications," he said. "This is a desirous job in a desirous township for a lot of people. This is a growing and diverse community, so we're going to have a lot of work ahead of us."

Gambatese added that the nature of South Brunswick's demographics will require a well-rounded individual to handle the various aspects of the manager position.

"We need someone experienced in finances obviously, since the manager submits the budget to council, so they need to be able to work with the CFO," he said. "They need to have experience with open space issues, they need to understand the current atmosphere in our town and in the state with the economy, and be able to work with the kind of state aid we get. They need to have knowledge of what it means to have a diverse community with different cultures and faiths."

Gambatese added that the new manager will ideally bring ideas for reducing operations costs to enable South Brunswick to withstand the down economy.

"Above all we need someone who can come up with ideas to streamline our operations," he said. "We don't have the same level of ratables coming in, so we need someone who can give us flexibility with our budget. I believe they need to have good people skills to negotiate with our unions and to be sensitive to the needs of the people in this town, as well as our employees."

Dan July 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM
I think I'd only use the 'lives in the Township' thing as a tie-breaker between 2 comparable candidates. At this level, it would be hard to require a manager to do that, unlike a State-level official (they should live in NJ). Best wishes to Matt, he has done a great job!
Steve in Kingston July 12, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Watkins a great job? Watkins and Monzo (finance) are two of the highest paid employees but both do not live in south Brunswick! To make matter worse under the direction of Gambatese these three are responsible for our towns escalating taxes and the bloated number of township employees. To make matters worse while south brunswickmwas facing a finacial crisis Monzo, while collecting a full time salary, was the finance director for Rocky Hill and Mansfield. In addition, he was teaching at Rutgers! Who was watching our check book while he was working the so called part time jobs. In addition, Watkins was also working a consultant while employed by the township! Maybe it is legal but it illustrates the level of incompetence and mismanagement in our local government.
Marty Abschutz August 18, 2011 at 03:59 PM
SiK, Tax RATES are another thing you have lots of opinions about, but don't seem to understand how they are developed. For example, the South Brunswick School District, a few years ago, reduced its budget by $8.2 million or about 5.9%. However, because of the ratable base situation and reduced state aid, the tax RATE increased. The net result was that TAXES, i.e., the total local tax levy, were the same as the previous year, the tax RATE increased and the total budget decreased.
Steve in Kingston August 18, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Marty...whats the point of your post? Increasing taxes to support a bloated township government payroll and lack luster school system is a good thing??
Marty Abschutz August 18, 2011 at 07:37 PM
SiK, We disagree regarding the school system, obviously; it's quite far from lackluster in its results. You mentioned increased tax rates as if the people who have responsibility for them make the rates up from thin air (my interpretatioon of your comment that was later deleted). In any case, my point was that tax RATES increase for any number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with spending more money. My example showed that one year the tax rate went up and total school district spending decreased significantly, while total taxes collected remained at the same level as the previous year. 2011 - 2012 will be the third year in a row that total school taxes have been held level. Increases in the rates have been due to a significant decrease in township ratables and decreased state aid from the level of just a few short years ago.

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