NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—For the first time in history, the City of New Brunswick will employ a community organizer.
Without advertising the position, which pays $36,000 a year, the city offerred the job to Keith Jones II, the politically-active chairman of the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance.
Jones has accepted the offer and started the job the week of October 20, according to city officials.
The nephew of Kevin Jones, an aide to Mayor James Cahill, Keith informally served as the spokesperson for a group of people who came out to support Fire Director Robert Rawls at a City Council meeting this summer.
Jones has previous experience as a community organizer, and is the chapter leader of President Obama’s Organizing for Action in Middlesex and Somerset counties.
New Brunswick City Council approved an ordinance creating the job in a 3-0 vote on October 1, after a hearing where Jones’ name was not mentioned.
The ordinance received some opposition during public comments, as local resident and business owner Fred Haleluk perceived the position as redundant and costly to taxpayers, alleging that the person would “drag people by the ear” to vote or sign up for government programs.
The ordinance lists the salary range of the full-time position as between $33,000 and $66,000, and specifies that the job could entail up to an 80-hour work week plus accommodations for meetings.
Jones will work out of an office on the second floor of City Hall, in the same suite as Director of Social Services David Blevins, who Jones will work under.
The position, as described by New Brunswick Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin, would “be helpful in gathering and encouraging resident participation in government activity,” making government more accessible.
Despite its seemingly abrupt creation, the new position “was not sudden but the result of long consideration of how the City can best work with the many local community groups here,” according to City Hall spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw.
When asked if there were any immediate plans or goals on the table, Bradshaw could not give specifics beyond the general job description of the position.
According to a listing on the New Jersey Civil Commission website describing the position, responsibilities would include establishing contact with residents and existing organizations in the area, organizing publics meetings and forums, and to gather data that will help the government respond to citizens needs.