NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A woman is now serving in Mayor James Cahill's cabinet for the first time in seven years, after Melanie Ford was promoted to Director of Social Services on February 21.
Ford told New Brunswick Today she was "humbled and honored" to receive the appointment and that her first steps will be to "listen and learn" in the new job.
Ford started the new position on February 26, leaving behind a job where she had served since 2003 as Director of the city's Senior Center. Along with the promotion, her annual salary of $80,101 was increased to $105,000.
"Her skilled leadership and commitment to serving our residents will continue the progress made by our Social Services Department and its ability to grow in service to our community," said Cahill, who recently announced his bid for an eigth term as Mayor. "Melanie will be a valued asset and welcome member of the leadership team.”
The cabinet-level position had apparently been vacant since December 31, when Dave Blevins retired, according to the Mayor's spokesperson.
"All division heads in the Social Services Department were considered for the position, but Ms. Ford was the only division head to be interviewed," explained public information officer Jennifer Bradshaw.
"We felt we had a suitable candidate in-house and wished to pursue the possibility of promotion," said Bradshaw. "With Ms. Ford's acceptance of the position, we were able to successfully do so."
"Melanie Ford has been an outstanding employee for us for 21 years," Thomas Loughlin III, the city's Business Administrator told the City Council after they unanimously consented to her promotion.
"She once worked in my office," said Loughlin. "She has done a wonderful job at the New Brunswick Senior Center and she is most deserving of the appointment that the Mayor has put before you."
According to Cahill's spokesperson, Blevins was paid $112,630 per year at the time of his retirement, which came after a 32-year career in city government. He also had use of a "take-home" city vehicle.
The last woman to serve in Cahill's ten-member cabinet was Blevins' predecessor, Margherita Pitale.
Pitale, who served as registrar of vital statistics before getting the cabinet post, left the city government in 2011, three years after she was targeted for murder by her estranged and imprisoned husband, former city housing inspector Richard Kaplan.
Kaplan was one of several officials in Cahill's administration convicted in a bribery scheme uncovered by federal investigators in 2007. While imprisoned for that scheme, he pleaded guilty to using the mail to attempt to hire a hitman to kill Pitale from behind bars, recieving an additional nine years on his prison sentence.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.