SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Having officially taken over as the new Scotch Plains Township Manager on January 1st, Al Mirabella wasted no time getting to work at the Municipal Building on Friday, Jan. 2nd. In fact, his office was the only one with the lights on as town departments were closed for the long holiday weekend.
Mirabella, who will also retain his position as a Union County Freeholder, gave his first interview as Township Manager to TAP into SPF as he began setting his office -- the only one with the lights on, except for the police department. He shared his thoughts on the reception he has received since he was introduced as Township Manager on New Year's Day and his insights on how he will approach the job.
Why did you apply for the job?
I felt that I could do a good job for the people of this community and make a difference. What has been lacking is stability in the position. I hope to be at this job for a while, to work hard at it in a bipartisan way, and to move this community forward.
How you will have time to handle the Township Manager position along with your other responsibilities?
I left Chubb Insurance at the end of last year. It was a great run there. In fact, it was hired there right out of college. Most Freeholders have a full time position. Being a Freeholder is a part-time job, but it has full-time responsibilities.
Have you ever managed a $24m budget before?
In the private sector, my departments had budgets between $1 - $2 million. However, in County government, the budget is in excess of $500 million, and I had served as the finance chair for the Freeholders. I'm used to dealing with multi-million dollar budgets.
Do you expect to last longer in the job than the previous four Township Managers?
I certainly plan on being here for a while. Stability is important in this position, and Scotch Plains has not had that for a while. I can promise that I will work hard, in a bipartisan way, to get things done for the good of the community. That's what people want.
What do you plan to do first?
I didn't want to wait until Monday to get to work. The first thing I did was put a picture of my wife in my office today. It keeps me grounded and focused on what's important: family. I want to work hard of the families of Scotch Plains.
I plan to meet and talk to the employees of the town to get to know them better. My top priority is to begin working on a budget. As we saw yesterday at the Reorganization Meeting, the Mayor and the Council are looking to be fiscally responsibile and want to find ways to save money. We must run an efficient, effective government for the people of Scotch Plains.
Did Jerry Giaimis leave any words of advice for you?
He didn't leave any messages or notes, but he did leave me with a well organized desk with information that seems to be regarding current issues. I obviously haven't had a chance to sort through it all yet, but I will.
How well do you know the current Council members?
I know them from being in the community, but have not had a chance to work with them in depth on Scotch Plains matters. What I can tell you so far is that they are committed to looking for cost savings and making this town run efficiently for the community. People don't want their representatives distracted by personal animosity. They want to Council to run the town effectively, and from what I saw yesterday, they are ready to do just that. I want to look at the opportunities for savings through shared services with other towns and through finding more efficient ways to do things internally.
One of the responsibilities listed in the job description of Township Manager is handling public information/public relations. How will you seek to improve communication?
I believe it is important to be accessible and to reach out to members of the community. I plan to walk the streets in town, meet people, and find out what's important to them and understand their priorities. I think we can do more with local TV access channel and can improve the town's web site. I want people to know that I'm open to discussing issues and having open dialog. I'm open and approachable. Communication hasn't been great. We can do better, and we will do better.
What else do you want people to know about you?
I'm really excited about this opportunity and will give it my best. I appreciate the trust that has been given to me and will work hard to live up to the expectations the Council has set for me and the expectations I have set for myself.
People have been incredibly supportive. Alexander Smith, the Republican chair, was gracious in his comments at the Reorganization meeting, and Llewellyn Jones has been nothing but a gentleman. There is so much potential in community. I think it will be a good relationship.