By JOHN T. WARD
“New York is a great city to go to, and Red Bank is a great town to go to, but nobody looks at the municipal government and says, ‘wow, that is a municipality that is really doing government well,'” Shehady said in a telephone interview with redbankgreen Tuesday afternoon.
“That’s my aim for Red Bank,” he said. “To make Red Bank the role model municipality, not just in the state but in the country, for good government — where government is done well, and people find it easy to do business with government.”
Shehady, 33, was hired by the borough council last week to succeed Stanley Sickels, a borough native who ran the local governments’s daily operations for 21 years, ending with his retirement in December. For the past 19 months, Shehady has been the business administrator for Springfield Township, in Union County, where he previously served as an elected committeeman and was twice appointed to one-year terms as mayor, the first when he was just 25 years old.
He’s slated to start work in Red Bank on Monday, May 14.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Call him ‘Z:‘ “It’s just easier, and so that’s what I go by,” he said.
What happened to your website, which contained your biographical information? It seems to have vanished after redbankgreen reported your hiring.
“That was my website from when I was an elected official, and it’s very Springfield-centric, and you reminded me that I need to update it, so I just took it down for temporary maintenance.”
It looks like you’ve spent most of your life in Springfield, is that correct?
“For the latter part of my life.” Shehady said he grew up in Elizabeth and Westfield before moving to Springfield, where he went to high school, then lived in New York City while attending NYU. “I also lived in France for a little bit,” he said.
When did you enlist in the Army?
Shehady said he joined the Army National Guard as soon as he could, at age 18, as a private, and later graduate officer school. He still serves in the guard, he said
The attacks of September 11, 2001, which came early in his senior year in high school, “motivated me and touched on my sense of service, and here I am, 16 years later, and still in love with serving.”
Your website notes service during Operation Enduring Freedom. Were you overseas? Did you see combat?
“I’ve been deployed, and I’m a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, but that’s all I talk about. I’m not going to go into much more detail about that. I deployed from 2004 to 2005.”
Can you say where?
“I prefer not to talk about it. I don’t like to politicize or really talk about my service in too much detail. It’s a personal thing, that I wanted to serve.”
Have you worked in the private sector?
Shehady said his last job before becoming Springfield’s administrator was as director of operations for the nonprofit Jersey City Employment and Training Program, headed by former Governor Jim McGreevey. He’s also worked in real estate sales he said.
Did you know Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna or any of the council members before you applied for the job?
“No. I’d known them only through the government circle of the League of Municipalities, running into them here and there, but I didn’t know them.”
Getting started: “I’m a very open and transparent administrator,” Shehady said. He encourages members of the community to reach out to him, and plans to meet with department heads, borough employees, community leaders and business owners.
“I want to engrain myself in the community,” he said, adding that he’s begun looking at real estate, with the possibility of moving here.
Down time: “Between work and the Army, there goes all my free time,” Shehady said. But he’s a “big foodie,” he said, and enjoys both cooking and checking out restaurants.
He works in tech on the side — “hardware, software, web design… tinkering around with code,” an interest that he said Red Bank officials regarded as an “added bonus.”
He’s got a motorcycle, and occasionally hits the road with local riding clubs “when the potholes around the state have been filled” in spring.
And he jokes that he’s thought about getting a sidecar for his dog, a Shiba Inu named Sheeba.