The search is underway, and the South Orange community is seeking its next municipal soulmate in the form of a Village Administrator. With the launch of a new ad campaign and website, SouthOrangeSearch.com, the governing body opted not to hire a consulting firm and is instead, leveraging the talents of the Board’s Legal and Personnel Committee, staff, and community to facilitate the search.

“We don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to find what we’re looking for,” said Village President Sheena Collum. “The key to a good search is transparency from the candidate and the community. We’re looking for specific skills and shared community values, but the relevant experience can be broad and draw from lots of sectors, not just government. The last thing we need is a bureaucrat in a box. Show us what you’ve got.”

The online platform doesn’t leave much to the imagination, as prospective candidates will learn about the community and unique form of government, the search process, the responsibilities — including a sample annual performance review — and what the ideal candidate would bring to the table.

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“This is one of the most important decisions that we will make, and I don’t want to set false expectations from the start. We’re an incredibly busy and wildly exciting town with endless potential,” said Collum. “Right now, we’re investing in a new Comprehensive Master Plan, growing our ratable base with a series of Smart Growth redevelopment projects including attracting a hotel to our downtown, scrubbing our municipal codes to become more business friendly, and transforming our former town hall into a historically renovated restaurant and beer garden while integrating municipal operations into a 21st century library makeover. On the capital budget front, we recently took back control of our water system and are updating the infrastructure while renovating our Baird Community Center and Police Headquarters. We’re also actively negotiating with our sister town of Maplewood on a consolidated fire department. Needless to say, we’re looking for a high-energy professional ready for a challenge.”

“Stewardship of Community Values” has also made its way into the key competencies section for potential candidates, with the Board of Trustees noting:

South Orange puts a premium on its diversity, and the Village Administrator must support our vision as an inclusive and welcoming community to all people irrespective of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or immigration status. In the heart of our downtown, you will see banners that read “Everybody Belongs Here” — and we mean it. It is a continuous work in progress to build and sustain a community where everyone feels safe, valued, and celebrated for who they are — this is non-negotiable.

Current Village Administrator Barry R. Lewis, Jr. announced his resignation in January to pursue an opportunity in neighboring Livingston Township. When reached for comment, Lewis shared, “It was an incredibly difficult decision for me: accepting an opportunity to improve my family’s long-term security but having to leave a job and community that I have truly loved in order to do so. Although I leave with a heavy heart, I do so knowing that this special community will continue to be led by a Village President and Board of Trustees singularly committed to the betterment of the Village, with daily operations remaining in the capable hands of the incredibly experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated department heads; many of whom have served the Village for decades. While I am moving on to a new challenge, South Orange will always have a special place in my heart.”

When asked about Lewis’s departure, Collum responded, “Barry will be sorely missed, and we wish him all the happiness and success in the world as he begins another chapter in his career. We were very fortunate to have him for a six-year journey, and I’m hopeful he valued this experience as much as we did. He will always have a home here.”

The Village Administrator is appointed by the Village President with the advice and consent of the Board of Trustees and reports directly to the Village President. He/she/they are responsible for day-to-day operations, overseeing a $35M current fund budget and a $4M water utility budget, and managing more than 150 full time employees, 30 part-time employees and hundreds of seasonal employees. The salary range is $130-$185k (commensurate with experience) with a competitive benefits package.

Candidates can apply by visiting SouthOrangeSearch.com. The deadline to apply is Friday, March 9.