By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO July 28, 2006 After a long, secretive process of searching for a county manager, the identity of the next likely Sullivan County Manager leaked out this week.
David Fanslau, the Town of Winslow Administrator in New Jersey, is close to a deal that could be signed as early as next week in a special meeting of the Legislature.
For weeks, legislators and county officials refused to release the names of the individuals who were being interviewed by the county. That continued as late as this past Monday, when several legislators cited confidential personnel negotiations as the reason Fanslaus name couldnt be released.
After the story broke, however, Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham acknowledged that serious negotiations were in the final stages with Fanslau on a deal that could pay him between $110,000 and $115,000, slightly more than former County Manager Dan Briggs received.
Cunningham confirmed the identity of Fanslau through Legislative Aide Alexis Eggleton, who said Cunningham would not comment further.
Eggleton denied that legislators were responsible for the leak, but Cunningham and other legislators have spoken highly about the impending hire. Legislator Ron Hiatt called him well qualified and eager.
Fanslau will arrive in Sullivan County with a large breadth of political experience. He began his political career as an aide to New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman Joe Roberts for six years. Roberts is now the Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly.
Fanslau said the experience taught him how to get quick answers from state government. He is proud of legislation he helped draft to require banks to offer checking accounts to all customers.
Winslow is a town of about 40,000 people between Atlantic City and Philadelphia. It is also about 25 minutes from Camden, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden cities in the country. The town is largely suburban with stretches of rural farmland, commercial shopping centers and cluster home developments over about 58 square miles. Its industry includes warehouse distribution centers, fiberglass manufacturing, soil excavation, asphalt and concrete plants.
The administrator oversees 261 employees. The police department is roughly one-third of the total town workforce. The town is diverse, with 30 percent of its population African-American.
Fanslau described the economy as being in strong shape, recently attracting the corporate headquarters of AC Moore Arts and Crafts, as well as its warehouse. He said the county was able to attract the corporation through a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive.
Previously, he served for six years as the Director of Economic Development in Gloucester County, NJ. He oversaw the largest industrial park on the eastern seaboard. That was aided by its central location near the borders of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Warehouse distribution centers comprised a lot of space, but there were also some light manufacturing and technological firms. That park, too, benefited from tax breaks by the county. The local community college worked with the county to offer job training programs, paid for in part through state grants.
Fanslau led an economic development plan which brought in representatives from all of the towns. He said such a plan could be helpful for this county as well, although he acknowledged the Sullivan County 20/20 plan may have already done that. He said Sullivan County appears to have many areas suitable for development but that it was important to identify which development certain towns wanted since certain areas have different desires for growth.
Fanslau was also the head of Gloucester Countys Improvement Authority. He oversaw the building of a Hall of Justice and Public Library but more importantly, a solid waste complex. He was there when they constructed new cells and expanded into additional phases. The difference between that landfill and the countys is that Gloucesters was in a rural community, away from homes. The countys landfill is in the middle of a residential district.
But, he said, Sullivans landfill couldnt be moved. However, if the county does not receive permits to expand its landfill, all options would be on the table.
Extra efforts have to be made to make it a good neighbor, he stated.
Recycling was important to maximize its efficiency, but he said the recycling market is volatile.
When Fanslau last visited the county, it was experiencing some of the worst floods in its history. He said the Army Corps of Engineers should get involved quickly, particularly in the Town of Rockland. He said there would have to be a balance between the towns fishing industry and the need to develop a plan to stop recurrent flooding.
As for the potential of a casino in the county, he believes it could have a positive effect if planned correctly. As somebody who lives near Atlantic City, he acknowledged that the city is not the family resort destination it once was when his mother was growing up, but he believes casinos have been a benefit overall. And it gives the state a lot of revenue, he said.
Some of the negative effects a casino in Sullivan would need to address are traffic and an adequate amount of money to address the multitude of other impacts on the county, Fanslau related. He said more lodging would be required. The county would also have to do more to attract families to the area, rather than rely primarily on casinos.