By JOHN T. WARD
With the planned retirement of Stanley Sickels, Red Bank officials are on the hunt for a successor to fill the top unelected position in borough government: borough administrator.
Sickels, who serves as administrator, purchasing agent and construction code official, plans to retire January 1, ending a municipal career that began in the building department in 1979 and saw him become administrator in 1996. He collects two salaries totaling $173,824 — three-fifths of it for his duties as construction official, according to borough records.
Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, as chairwoman of the governing body’s finance and personnel committee, is leading the effort to find Sickels’s successor. Here’s a Q&A between Schwabenbauer and redbankgreen on the search:
What is the salary range for the administrator’s position? Has that increased since Sickels announced his retirement?
We haven’t posted a salary range for the job. The offer that we make will be commensurate with the experience of the candidate, and we’ll talk about the salary as part of deciding who we want to fill the role.
Is the committee searching only for an administrator, or is Sickels’ other job — construction officer — part of the recruiting effort? If not, how is that job to be filled?
The role we’re looking to fill is that of the Administrator – that’s the key skill set we need. We’re reviewing proposals on how to restructure the overall leadership team and once we’ve concluded we’ve got the right organizational design, we’ll share that publicly. We’re lucky to have top talent in our number two spots right now, and I anticipate we will see some familiar names in the final leadership structure.
The personnel and finance committee consists of yourself, Councilman Taylor and Councilwoman Hogan, correct? What is the role of the committee in the process?
The Finance and Personnel Committee is me, Mark, and Kathy – you’ve got it right. Our role is filter resumes, organize the process, perform the first round of interviews, and create a short list of candidates, with our recommendation on the top of it. If this were a department head role – say, if we were hiring for the CFO spot – we would move our recommendation forward by socializing our candidate with other Council members to identify any concerns, and then if other Council members expressed support, we would then move forward to a vote at a Council meeting, and we’d be done. Because the Administrator role touches on all operations and leads several important functions, I’ll also be leading a second round of interviews with our short-listed candidates to include the Mayor, and socialization of the ultimate recommendation with other Council members will be more extensive. Although this isn’t an irreversible decision, we don’t want to be changing Administrators frequently from an efficiency standpoint, and so gaining consensus on a candidate would be ideal.
Has the committee established any qualifications beyond those listed in the posting on the borough website? For example, will it exclude applicants who have no municipal government experience? Given the interest in parking issues, is experience with public parking facilities critical?
We haven’t specified any qualifications beyond those advertised, but things like relevant experience in municipal government, including management of municipal parking, would clearly be something that would weigh favorably in our decision process.
Has the committee engaged, or does it expect to engage, any outside consultants, either as part of the recruiting effort itself, or to perform résumé verification? If not, who will fact-check CVs, and how?
We’ve reached out to the New Jersey Municipal Managers Association, which is linked to Rutgers University and is the association for municipal managers and associations. They’re going to provide a standard set of interview questions we should consider as well as assistance in the interview process, at no charge to the Borough.
Does the process include a criminal background check?
There’s a standard vetting process for new Borough employees which includes a number of background checks. I believe that one of them is a criminal background check but I’m not 100% on that – I’ll ask the question and get back to you.
Has there been any sign of political cronyism creeping into the process?
At this point, I haven’t seen any sign of politics creeping into this. The role we’re hiring for has a broad reach, and ideally our successful candidate will remain in place for many years, since experience with Red Bank will make him or her more effective over time. I am hopeful that we as a Council will focus on qualifications and skills rather than political preference – to do otherwise would be a disservice to Red Bank.
How many résumés have been received so far?
We have 30 resumes so far, many with excellent qualifications. As a side note, I’m pleased to see that our candidate pool appears diverse, with a number of well qualified women and minority candidates.
What’s your target date for recommending a successor to the council? The appointment is formally made on a council resolution vote on January 1, correct? Does that mean there won’t be any overlap/transition time between Sickels and his successor?
Ideally, we’ll have a candidate in front of Council for a vote in November, so that he or she can start in December and shadow Stanley for a month. We’ll need to pass a resolution to create a temporary title/role for that period (although I believe we do have an Asst. Administrator title on the books and perhaps we can use that) and then the formal appointment would happen on January 1. That plan could change, of course, but it’s the straw man I’ve put out as a proposal and it’s logical. We have money in the budget for the one-month overlap. Stanley has been in his role for a long time, and the new Administrator will need time to absorb as much institutional memory from him as possible. It’ll also be helpful to allow time for Stanley to introduce the new Administrator to his contacts at the DEP, Monmouth County, and other partners with our municipal government.