By JOHN T. WARD
In particular, three departments that residents have regular interaction with, and occasional strong opinions about, are under new leadership: parks and recreation; planning and zoning; and public utilities.
Here’s a quick intro to the new directors.
Planning and zoning
As noted in a redbankgreen feature, Donna Smith-Barr was the borough’s first-ever director of planning and zoning, holding the job for 26 years before she retired last April. But she wasn’t a licensed planner, which meant that many of the more involved applications had to be sent out to the borough’s planning consultant, T&M Associates in Middletown, for detailed review, at a premium cost to applicants.
(Note: T&M was recently replaced by Maser Consulting as the town’s engineer, but continues to serve the planning and zoning boards.)
When Glenn Carter joined the borough last year, borough officials said it would result in a streamlining of the application process, as well as reduced costs for applicants, because Carter can do the reviews himself. Applicants still have to pay, but the fees stay with the borough, “and my rate’s a lot less — probably about half — and I take less time, too,” he told redbankgreen.
Carter, 53, grew up in Whippany and graduated from Stockton University before going on for graduate work in city planning at Rutgers. After more than 20 years in government jobs in Passaic, Plainsboro and elsewhere, he set up his shingle in West Caldwell and Clinton Township for several years before coming to Red Bank on September 1.
Cliff Keen’s interest in public infrastructure began when he was 12 years old, living in Waretown, in Ocean County. During construction on a house next door, the ground was found to have been contaminated by trichlorethylene, an industrial solvent.
The New Jersey Deapartment of Environmental Protection “came in and said, ‘you can’t even shower with this,” let alone drink the water, which was supplied by a well, Keen told redbankgreen last month. “It was scary.”
But the experience also opened Keen’s eyes “to the importance of water quality,” and the role that government plays in ensuring it, he said. It led him to life in public works, starting at age 17 as a part-time water meter reader in Ocean Township, also in Ocean County. And as he worked his way up the ladder of town jobs — he became public works director in 2008, and later briefly served as chief financial officer — he earned state DEP and Department of Community Affairs licenses to oversee water, sewer and wastewater treatment systems.
“When I say I care about the water supply, I do,” he said.
Keen’s licenses mean that the borough will save the $40,000 a year it had been paying for a part-time assistant water operator since 2003, Mayor Pasquale Menna said in November, when Keen was hired.
As head of public utilities, Keen will also oversee a range of services that include parking and animal control. Meantime, he also teaches an “intro to water and wastewater” at Ocean County Vocational Technical School.
Parks and recreation
Charlie Hoffmann also traces his job back to his childhood. More specifically, to when he was 11 years old in Sayreville. He and a friend organized a local basketball tournament, complete with “a whiteboard, with brackets and statistics,” he said. “It was basically what every kid does, but we were just a little more formal about it.”
A borough policeman took notice, telling the pair, “you need to do that for a living.” Hoffmann took the advice, and studied recreation at Coastal Carolina University.
Of the three new department heads, Hoffmann is likeliest the most familiar because he spent more than three years running the rec department next door in Fair Haven before taking a detour into corporate america for the last three years. That last job didn’t suit him the way the municipal work did, he said.
“I sat in a cubicle daydreaming” about rec, he said.
After Memone Crystian resigned as director last May, the job was held on an interim basis by Tamila Bumback, who left in November to take a job as acting deputy clerk in Rumson.
Hoffmann was sworn in last month, and got down to work in a borough hall office that he acknowledged “looks like a parole office.” He plans to spruce it up with photos of parks and rec activities.
He’ll have a lot to choose from. The gamut of activities is extensive, including winter soccer, spring baseball, summer rec, events for seniors, zoo trips, jazz in the park, outdoor movie screenings and more to come.
“If kids say they want ballet, we’ll have ballet,” he said, adding that his focus is on “life enriching” options for residents of all ages.
Reaching into his portfolio of programs initiated in Fair Haven, Hoffmann is planning an overnight camp-out for kids, and a father-daughter dance — as well as some kind of activity for mothers and sons, though it won’t be a dance, he said.
He also plans to initiate a “Couch to 5k” program similar to one he launched in Fair Haven. Meeting twice a week, it gradually helps the sedentary get walking, and then jogging, until they can complete a five-kilometer walk or run.
“I’ve had people lose tons of weight, quit smoking, graduate to half-marathons,” he said. He’s also heard from young adults who’ve told him they’ve rock-climbed all over the world or gone onto become avid skiers as a result of rec department introductions to those activities, he said.
“All respect to the police chief, but I kind of think it’s the most important job in town,” Hoffmann said.