RED BANK: DEMS TAP ACTING ADMINISTRATOR

Michael Ballard heads for his seat on the dais after his swearing-in as councilman Monday. Below, Kenneth DeRoberts, a consultant, was named interim administrator through March 31. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Back in control of the Red Bank council, Democrats flexed their muscle Monday on the issue of who will run the day-to-day operations of municipal government now that Stanley Sickels has left the building.

Answer: still to be determined. For the next three months, however, the job of borough administrator will be held by a consultant on local government efficiency.

 

Hand raised, Councilman Ed Zipprich was joined by his 90-year-old mother, Jean, and his husband, J.P. Nicolaides, as he recited the oath of office read by Assemblywoman Joann Downey. Below, Mayor Pasquale Menna swore in Fire Chief Stu Jensen and deputies Scott Calabrese and Wayne Hartman. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

The question of who will succeed Sickels, who retired Sunday after a 38-year career in borough government, got a temporary answer. By a 4-2 vote, the council appointed Kenneth DeRoberts as interim administrator. The chief executive officer of Government Strategy Group and a former municipal administrator in Summit and New Providence, DeRoberts is under contract through March, he told redbankgreen.

Borough public works department head Cliff Keen was named acting interim administrator. He and DeRoberts will be backstopped by GSG’s Joseph Harnett, who was tapped as “acting interim assistant administrator.”

DeRoberts told redbankgreen he and Harnett expect to be in borough hall about three days a week, and working remotely otherwise.

At the same time, GSG is working on a management efficiency review of borough hall operations, under a contract issued in October. DeRoberts said he expects to deliver a draft of the findings to the council by the end of January.

Councilmen Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan, now in the council minority, voted no on the appointments. Taylor had excoriated the Democrats last week, at the final council session of 2017, for leaving the GOP in the dark on who would run borough hall upon Sickels’ retirement after 21 years in the job.

After one year, 2015, as the minority party, and another of virtual parity, the Democrats reclaimed control of the council in a November landslide that gave  Councilman Ed Zipprich his fifth three-term and put Michael Ballard, a former Red Bank board of education member, on the governing body.

As expected, the Democrats removed Whelan from the parking committee, which he chaired. That committee now consists solely of Democrats: Councilman Erik Yngstrom, chairman, along with Councilwoman Kathy Horgan and Zipprich.

Mayor Pasquale Menna, who was frequently at odds with his Democratic colleagues on parking issues in 2016 and 2017, called the prospect of a White Street parking garage “the big elephant in the room” for 2018.

“We have to have a plan, we will have a plan in terms of responding to the needs of the municipality,” he said, “and we will do so as a unified body, in my opinion.”

In brief remarks after he was voted council president, Zipprich, made no mention of parking, but pledged to “a firm commitment to smart-growth development.”

Ballard, a financial consultant who was tapped to head the all-Democrat finance committee, told the audience packed into the council chamber that he plans to “move Red Bank forward in a collaborative fashion” with his council colleagues.