By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank council approved the hiring Wednesday night of a new borough administrator, giving the town’s most powerful unelected job to an Army veteran who became the mayor of a Union County town at the age of 25.
And his salary will be triple that of his predecessor.
Ziad Andrew Shehady, 33, who serves as business administrator for Springfield Township, was expected to accept the job at a starting salary of $152,000 under a one-year contract with extensions for up to four years, Mayor Pasquale Menna told redbankgreen following a brief closed-door session in which the council finalized the offer.
Shehady, who is scheduled to start the job May 14, “will be an essential part of the Red Bank team that is engaged in [the first] complete review of municipal operations in a generation,” Menna said in a Facebook post. “His intelligence, skill and organizational skills will bring a fresh and new outlook to our municipality.”
Shehady was unavailable for comment Thursday morning.
Menna said Shehady was selected from among six finalists out of about 110 applicants hoping to succeed Stanley Sickels, who retired in December after a 38-year career in borough government, the last 21 as administrator.
Sickels was frequently criticized for wearing too many hats — administrator, construction official, fire marshal, purchasing agent — but his defenders argued that his combined salaries were far less than the borough would have paid if his jobs were disaggregated. According to borough Clerk Pam Borghi, Sickels was paid a salary of $50,153 for his work as administrator in 2017, and another $130,927 as construction/fire official.
Menna referred to Sickels’ salary his work as administrator as a ‘stipend,’ which he said was artificially low relative to what the job pays elsewhere. That, he said, was proven by the search for a replacement.
“In this day and age, try finding a municipal administrator” at that salary, Mena said. “It’s impossible,” he said, noting that Matawan pays about $105,000, Aberdeen shells out some $140,000, and Long Branch pays its administrator north of $200,000.
Two of Sickels’s former jobs remain vacant, with Tom Welsh and John Drucker, respectively, having been appointed to serve as acting fire and construction officials since the end of the year, Borghi said. Drucker has been out in recent weeks on medical leave, and in his absence, Fred Corcione has held the acting position; none are being paid additional compensation, she said.
Since January 1, overall borough operations have been run on an interim basis by Ken DeRoberts, chief executive officer of Government Strategy Group, and his assistant, GSG’s Joe Harnett. The were hired under a contract issued in October and extended last month.
Shehady has served as administrator in Springfield since September, 2016. En route to that job, he was a member of the township committee, to which he was elected in 2008 at age 23, and served one-year terms in 2010 and 2012 as mayor, a position that’s filled annually by the township committee.
Under a tab on his website labeled “About Z,” Shehady served 14 years in the Army, where he was a captain in infantry and signal, and is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. In his hometown, he has served on numerous boards and committees, including the planning and library boards.
“I believe in duty and selfless service,” Shahedy wrote on his website. “My actions, as demonstrated below, speak much louder than words. I possess a strong work ethic and dedication to my fellow citizens.”
His résumé says he graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in “Politics, French & Linguistics.”
On his Facebook page, Shehady identifies himself as a Republican; Democrats have a 4-2 majority on the Red Bank council.
His Instagram page includes photos of Shehady in training with the National Guard; with his dog, Sheeba; and astride a white Suzuki motorcycle.
At Wednesday’s semimonthly council meeting, DeRoberts proposed that the borough host a “summit” for local officials to talk about shared services, an idea that was unanimously endorsed. Councilman Michael Ballard cited the suggestion as one of “the great ideas” DeRoberts and Harnett brought to the table.
“You’ve been fantastic for Red Bank,” Ballard told them.