In his dual role as both Township Manager and Chief Financial Officer, Thomas Merchel is making sure things run smoothly in Moorestown.
Walk into Town Hall and you may find Thomas Merchel in one of two places. With a dual role as Moorestown’s director of finance and township manager, he’s a man with two offices, two nameplates and two times the demands on his time.
Following former Township Manager Scott Carew’s resignation last January, Moorestown Township Council appointed Merchel, who was already serving as chief financial officer at the time, to the position. Merchel said since taking on the dual position, there’s been no such thing as a typical day.
Merchel was raised in the Northeast section of Philadelphia, attending Holy Ghost Preparatory School during his high school years and graduating with a degree in accounting from Saint Joseph’s University. He said at the time, accounting was an area where people were getting jobs, and combined with his interest in finance, it felt like a good fit.
Following graduation, Merchel took a job at public accounting firm Bowman & Company in Voorhees where he was involved in municipal audits, which he said helped prepare him for his current role. After four years with the company, Merchel was offered the treasurer position within Pennsauken Township. He said the job came with a residency requirement, so he and his family moved to Pennsauken where they have lived ever since.
After five years working for Pennsauken, Merchel applied for the chief financial officer position with Moorestown, a position he has held for the last two decades. Merchel said while Pennsauken and Moorestown are both proud towns, he felt a real sense of community engagement when he came to Moorestown. He said residents are eager to volunteer or come to a town council meeting, and he even found himself joining the local Rotary Club.
“I seem to be me more involved in Moorestown,” Merchel said. “Even though I currently live in Pennsauken, I feel much more at home here in that aspect.”
Shortly after coming on as CFO, Merchel was promoted to deputy manager — a role which had him occasionally filling in as township managers over the years during interims between new hires or when the current manager was on vacation.
In January, council asked Merchel if he’d be willing to take on both roles full-time, and he said he’d “give it a shot.”
Merchel said he likens the role of township manager to being CEO of a company. He said council legislates — setting in place rules and policies. His job is to run the day-to-day operations and see to it that council’s policies are implemented.
On any given day, he is inundated with phone calls and emails. On Wednesday, Nov. 6., for instance, Merchel had more than 18,000 unopened emails to contend with. He said he usually walks into Town Hall on any given day knowing what he wants to accomplish, but he often finds himself diverted when requests arise that lead him down a different path.
Merchel said his two roles are somewhat in contrast to one another. He said being township manager is mostly bureaucratic with much of his time spent in meetings. On the other hand, his role as chief financial officer has Merchel constantly producing — whether that means going out for bonds, preparing ordinances or taking a look at the books.
While doing two jobs consumes much of Merchel’s free time, he said family is always his top priority.
“Family is certainly №1; work is a close №2,” Merchel said. “All the time I can spend with my family is the most important part.”
Over the years, Merchel has contemplated moving to Moorestown, but he said he didn’t want to uproot his children. His daughter is a freshman at Penn State and his son is a freshman at Holy Cross Academy.
As the years go by, Merchel said he’s found immense satisfaction in the various accomplishments Moorestown has achieved while he’s worked for the township. He said the township’s upgrade to a Aaa bond rating this past August is a particular point of pride.
Merchel, who is 50, said he’s enjoyed serving the residents of Moorestown for the last 20 years and anticipates serving them for at least eight more years.
“I truly love my role as the finance director here,” Merchel said. “The manager [role], I’ll continue as long as they want me to.”