Melissa Mathews will serve as Bayonne’s Business Administrator, effective May 1, following her nomination to the position by Mayor James Davis. The City Council approved the nomination unanimously at its meeting on March 18.
Mathews is set to replace Terrence Malloy, who will retire on April 30 after 38 years of service to the city.
“Melissa Mathews is highly qualified to serve as our new Business Administrator,” said Mayor James Davis. “She has excellent educational credentials and experience in planning and zoning, investment banking, technology, nonprofit organizations, and community activities.”
At the meeting, however, questions were raised about her qualifications by controversial former candidate for city council Peter Franco.
City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski and other members of the council were quick to shut down Franco’s insinuations that she was not qualified for the job.
Mathews was present at the meeting and headed to the front of the council chambers for a direct conversation with Franco. At the podium, Mathews said she has been involved in the field of economic development since 2004.
She studied at Columbia University, where she earned a degree in Political Science with a focus in Economic Development. Mathews also studied abroad for a semester at the University of Ghana in West Africa, where she specialized in Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.
During the back and forth, Mathews listed her previous work experience, citing job experience in various positions.
For five years, Mathews worked in investment banking as an Equity Research Assistant at Citigroup and Credit Suisse. She wrote research reports, maintained financial models, and worked directly with research analysts and management on economic sectors and individual stocks.
Mathews also worked in the technology industry for four years for Apple Computers and Adobe Systems on operating system and software development.
Afterward, Mathews worked in Bayonne. She has worked for the city for a year on the staff of the Planning and Zoning Division.
On the job, Mathews worked directly with the Zoning Officer on reviewing permit applications, issuing permits and denials, and performing inspections. She streamlined zoning information into understandable packets to assist the public in navigating frequently-encountered zoning issues.
After her qualifications became clear, the line of questioning shifted.
Cronyism or qualification?
Franco questioned if she was a resident of the city, insinuating that there are a number of qualified residents in Bayonne who may have been overlooked.
Mathews responded that she has lived in Bayonne for five years. She said that she is the mother of four children and previously ran for the city Board of Education on a ticket that was endorsed by Mayor Davis.
In response, Franco charged that a level of cronyism was occurring in the city. He claims that this nomination and subsequent approval of Mathews as Business Administrator is proof that if a candidate backed by the mayor loses the school board election, that candidate will get a job at city hall.
His claims drew incredulous reactions from the council, which sharply rebuked Franco’s charges.
“Her path to getting the job was through Columbia University,” Ashe-Nadrowski stated firmly in defense of Mathews. “The proof will be in her performance.”
Ashe-Nadrowski added that her relevant degree and impeccable standing during the one year she has worked at Planning and Zoning have made her a standout at city hall.
Ashe-Nadrowski also noted that Mathews had been working for city hall prior to her run for the Board of Education. She was also unknown to Mayor Davis before her time at Planning and Zoning.
Mathews ran for the position on the Board of Education because of her children in the school system, not to acquire another position at city hall, according to Ashe-Nadrowski.
Mathews established the Mathews Foundation, which has sponsored various educational and community projects in Bayonne. Her foundation started sign language classes at the Bayonne Public Library.
Mathews also serves as co-president of Grow Bayonne, a community gardening program. She is working with the Department of Public Works on the layout and design of a large community garden.
Despite losing the election, Mathews is working with members of the Board of Education on developing a gardening-related curriculum.
City Council on the defensive
Franco wasn’t convinced and laid out his supposed evidence of the alleged cronyism by the Davis Administration. He used the appointment of the mayor’s nephew as the Public Safety Director as an example.
Law Director John Coffey used Franco’s example of the Public Safety Director against him by arguing that he can’t think of a better candidate to act as a one of the mayor’s closest confidants.
Ashe-Nadrowski ended the discussion but telling Franco that there was no “sleight of hand” here and that Mathews did not get the job as a political ally. She called his personal attacks on Mathews’s credentials unwarranted.
Franco countered that he wasn’t questioning Mathews’s qualifications but rather her history with city. According to Franco, her appointment will be a hard sell to locals who have been working in the city a long time.
“This is why people are losing trust in elected officials from Trump down to the local level,” Franco concluded.
Before voting unanimously to approve Mathews’s appointment, Councilman Gary La Pelusa and Councilman Juan Perez defended her.
“I would vote no if she didn’t deserve the job or if there was a better person fit for the job, but I can’t think of one,” LaPelusa said.
Perez agreed, stating that she was hardworking and conscientious.
Bussiness Administrator Terrence Malloy will retire on April 30. Mathews will step in on May 1.
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