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RED BANK: SHEHADY RESIGNS TOP BORO JOB

ziad-shehady-062018-2-500x375-4346027Ziad Shehady in his borough hall office in June, 2018. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

[This post has been updated since it was first published.]

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919After only three years on the job, Ziad Shehady is resigning as Red Bank’s top unelected official, he told the borough council behind closed doors Wednesday night.

zipprich-ballard-shehady-123118-500x375-2666508Shehady, above right, with councilmen Ed Zipprich, left, and Michael Ballard in December, 2018. Below, at a 2019 event in Riverside Gardens Park. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

ziad-shehady-060819-220x165-8796363Shehady said he’s taking a private-sector job, but declined, for now, to say where.

“As to the why, I accepted a unique job offer that was very appealing to me,” he told redbankgreen via email Thursday.

Shehady said he announced his resignation to the governing body during an executive session following a council workshop meeting that ran for nearly three and half hours.

He’ll remain as business administrator through May 6 and will “assist with a smooth and orderly transition” for whomever follows in the job, he said in a letter to Mayor Pasquale Menna and the six-member council.

“Z entered an environment of great dysfunction and brought chain of command, progress, and order where it was sorely needed for decades,” Councilwoman Kate Triggiano told redbankgreen. “He was met with much resistance from those in government who thrive on dysfunction, and who themselves lack self reflection. After attempting to navigate the situation with grace and being met with unrelenting disrespect, his resignation comes as no surprise to me. I wish him the best, and I am grateful for all we accomplished together.”

An Army veteran and former Springfield Township mayor, Shehady – who encouraged people to refer to him simply as ‘Z’ – was hired in April, 2018 at age 33 to replace longtime administrator Stanley Sickels.

Over ensuing months, he drew praise for his organizational skills while also generating criticism for a sometimes brusque manner, particularly in his interactions with residents during the public comment portion of council meetings.

Sticking to a controversial comment protocol, Shehady would decline to immediately answer questions until a speaker’s time was up, if at all, limiting the opportunity for follow-up questions. Shehady defended his approach as a way to both prevent “grandstanding” while giving residents an opportunity to have their full say.  The  protocol was recently loosened, and Shehady ceded control of the comments session to Attorney Greg Cannon.

In his letter of resignation, Shehady told the mayor and council, “I hope that in the nearly three years of service to the Borough, though some decisions may not have been politically convenient or popular, I have made you proud through deliberate, decisive and thoughtful management.”

The letter described his time in the job as one of “extreme challenges, starting with a daunting Management Enhancement Review, to failing systems within our municipal facilities, and ending with a once-in-a-generation pandemic.”

“Nevertheless, each challenge was faced head-on with success,” he wrote.

Shehady said more than 60 percent of the recommendations in the 2018 management analysis had been “addressed.” Among his accomplishments, he cited whittling down a massive backlog of open building inspections; completing a residential water-meter project; advancing park, road and infrastructure projects; and overhauling the parking meter system.

He also praised four council members by name, omitting Michael Ballard and Ed Zipprich, with whom he has clashed.

Here’s the full letter: Ziad Shehady resignation 040821

Councilman Erik Yngstrom praised Shehady for taking on the “monumental task” of addressing operational deficiencies cited in the management report while maintaining the day-to-day functions of borough government.

“He took all of those challenges head on and worked tirelessly to move Red Bank forward,” Yngstrom said via email. “His knowledge of municipal government and the ability to get things done within those governmental constraints will not be able to be replaced.  Ziad will be missed and it will take some time for the Borough to recover from this loss.”

Shehady leaves big shoes to fill, said Councilwoman Kathy Horgan.

“In his three short years in Red Bank, he accomplished so much that was appreciated by so few,” she said in a statement. “He made changes in procedures and policies that will benefit Red Bank for years to come.  I will miss his keen intellect, his breadth of knowledge, his strong work ethic, his trusted advice and, yes, his corny sense of humor! Our loss is someone else’s gain.”

The resignation comes six weeks after Shehady announced his resignation as unpaid executive director of the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency, saying the position had become a “lightning rod” for criticism and source of distraction from his primary job.

In particular, a storm of controversy has surrounded the borough Senior Center, which is among the municipal assets under review by the agency.

The agency was created in 2019, after the management review found a lack of planning and excessive political interference in decision-making.

The borough’s top job, formerly “borough administrator,”  was refashioned as “borough business administrator,” also as a byproduct of the review, which argued in favor of a stronger executive position and less tinkering by elected officials.

The review also suggested the borough review its charter, with an eye toward adopting form of municipal government known as the “strong mayor” model. On Wednesday, four council members and Menna endorsed the idea of a charter study.

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