Mayor’s Message: Township on the hunt for new manager

In this month’s Mayor’s Message, Moorestown Mayor Nicole Gillespie discusses the township’s process for hiring a new manager.

BY NICOLE GILLESPIE, Mayor of Moorestown

As many of you know, Tom Merchel has been employed by Moorestown township for 23 years. He was hired as our Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in February of 1998, and since then has gained the well-deserved reputation as one of the best municipal CFOs in New Jersey. You may also know that Tom has been serving as our township manager, in addition to being the CFO, since December 2019 when our previous manager resigned. Both the CFO and manager positions are full-time, extremely complex and demanding jobs that require specialized skills and experience. Council advertised for a new manager in early 2020, but we did not receive any promising applications at that time. So we were extremely fortunate that Tom was willing and able to continue serving in both roles.

Last fall, I began talking with Tom about my concerns with one person doing two full-time jobs, especially given the complex issues we are facing, such as implementing our affordable housing plan, redeveloping the mall, revising our zoning to encourage new business uses, recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, etc. While Tom has done an excellent job juggling these two roles, it’s not sustainable for any one person to perform two full time jobs for the long term. Recognizing council’s concerns, Tom has decided to serve as CFO, but to step down from the position of township manager. The council is profoundly grateful that Tom will be continuing in the role of CFO, and we have now initiated the process of hiring a new township manager.

Unlike the last two times we searched for a new manager in 2018 and 2020, council has chosen to engage a professional search firm to help us find the most highly qualified candidates for Moorestown. Tom worked with Deputy Mayor Mammarella and me to identify, solicit proposals from and interview search firms who specialize in filling executive positions for New Jersey municipalities. We will be working with Jersey Professional Management, a non-partisan company who will help us screen applicants, design and conduct interviews and support us in assessing the suitability and qualifications of candidates. Importantly, this firm makes no political contributions, which we feel is imperative to guarantee the best results for Moorestown. I am confident that their expertise and extensive New Jersey network will result in a promising pool of candidates for council to consider, and ultimately, a manager who will help us strengthen and improve the town we all love. As is standard practice for manager searches, we will not be sharing the names of applicants, and interviews will be closed to the public. However, Deputy Mayor Mammarella and I will be providing regular updates on the progress of our search at council meetings.

Please join me and the rest of council in thanking Tom for his many years of outstanding service to Moorestown, especially for the past year when he has handled two extremely difficult and demanding jobs at once and for his continued service as our CFO.