Paul Medany has obviously left Deptford Township throughout his life, for trips into Philly, down the Shore, or even – gasp! – out of state, but the way he acts and talks, you get the feeling he gets homesick pretty quickly.
Medany was born and raised in Deptford, spent more than two decades both with Deptford Little League and the town’s planning board, has been on Deptford’s council for 18 years, and will mark his lucky 13th year as mayor come January. He’s always looking for a way to keep the town he loves and works for in tip-top shape.
“It’s very important to keep places clean,” Medany said recently inside his office at the township’s municipal building. “I drive around. All the time. I spend my weekends driving around. I don’t even take vacations.”
He motioned to the folks just outside his office.
“They hate it,” Medany said with a playful grin, mocking them. “’He’s driving around.’”
What’s his wife, Joan, say of her 62-year-old husband spending his downtime on weekends making sure there aren’t any runaway weeds on each and every street in Deptford?
“She gave up,” Medany said with a laugh, “years ago.”
Medany was born and raised in Deptford because his parents, Camden natives, built the family’s house by hand off Lewis Avenue in Deptford in 1952. They drove up from Camden every weeknight and weekend “starting with a nail and a saw and started banging” away at the family house, which still stands and is home to his 94-year-old mother, Eleanor, today.
“My mother’s mother would never come here for 20 years because she said it was the woods and she was afraid because she’s from Camden,” Medany said with a chuckle. “‘I’m not going out there.’ Deptford was ‘out there.’”
Medany has made it his life’s work to keep the opposite perception true: to keep Deptford Township, a small-ish town but also an uber-popular shopping destination for South Jersey and South Philly residents alike, as inviting as possible for its many visitors (Deptford’s population nearly triples every day with incoming traffic and grows 10 times during the holiday season) and as safe and clean for the people who call his hometown their hometown, too.
“I think what I tell folks is that government, we have to run it like a business but it’s not a business, right?” Medany said. “And of course you have certain financial things. It’s a business. But at the end of the day, government isn’t here to make a profit, government is here to serve the public and provide for public safety and services, that’s our two main charges.
“We want our neighborhood safe and we want it clean. So that’s what we work for, we work on keeping the neighborhood safe, community policing, we work on cleaning the roads, making sure their trash is picked up, making sure we clean their leaves.”
What Medany wants, basically, is for his residents to not have to worry or even think about government. So if that means driving around town to make sure his employees are doing their own jobs on his own off time, so be it.
He’ll be both mayor and the chief operating officer of beautification, too.
“I don’t even want them to know the trash men are there,” Medany said. “Whether it’s trash spilled on the street or their metal cans are dented and they’re calling us up. So I’m big on making those little things go away. People come home from work, I don’t want them to even have to think about government. I want them to go to Little League or go to work and just be happy. “
Medany has brought the same philosophy into the municipal building, too.
He boasted about an upcoming Wellness Week for Deptford Township employees and talked about the gym installed in the basement because he wants to keep his offices both a convenient place to work and somewhere employees are genuinely happy with spending their time at each day, too.
“We’re doing renovations in the building, two guys from public works going around the building picking rooms,” Medany said. “What I want to do is to make sure all 240 employees that we have like to come to work. I want that, I want their environment to be clean. Paint, new floors, new rugs, (tell me what kind of) equipment that we can get them, technology.
“I’ve been meeting with them telling them, look, tell me what you want to make your job easier, more efficient for the residents and for yourself. I want you to come here and say, ‘Wow, I really want to come to work.’”
Medany wants his employees happy and satisfied just as he wants his residents to be worry-free. It’s as if his maternal grandmother’s fear to come into Deptford – all the way “out there in the woods” – has been ringing in his ears every day of his life as a public servant for his beloved town.