WESTMINSTER — A 46-year-old northern New Jersey municipal administrator with a fondness for farmland and horses has been picked as this city's first manager.
Philip F. Hertz, who has been the borough manager of Metuchen since July 1987, will begin his $57,500-a-year post here Feb. 19.
The career municipal manager was notified late last week by members of the city's Manager Selection Committee, who chose him from a field of 69.
The hiring is expected to be confirmed at Monday night's City Council meeting. Council members have called a press conference for 10 this morning at City Hall to announce the selection.
"Thechallenges in front of Westminster are attractive to me," the Hanover, Pa., native said last night in a phone interview from his New Jersey home. "I also must say I don't mind getting away from massive traffic jams up here. I really like the type of living your part of the country has to offer."
The one-time high school science teacher andfootball coach will take a pay cut to come here -- he earned $68,000 in New Jersey.
Hertz -- manager of Penn Township, Pa., for 11 years before the job in Metuchen -- leaves a municipality not much unlike Westminster. With 13,000 people, Metuchen is a suburban Middlesex County community about 25 miles from Manhattan. Its annual budget is about $8.8 million, and it employs 125 people.
Westminster's current budget -- which runs through June 30 -- is about $12.7 million. About 110 people are employed by the city of 13,000 residents.
Some of the problems facing Metuchen also can be found in Westminster. While the 91-year-old borough's 2.6 square miles are 98 percent developed, traffic, roads, schools, waste management and public services all are concerns of the mayor and six-member council there, Hertz said.
But the biggest problem facing Metuchen, according to Hertz, is money. Cash-strapped New Jersey -- already about $1 billion short on this year's budget -- has imposed a 4.5 percent growth cap on local government expenses.
"At the moment, the budget is a real hard issue,"Hertz said. "The governor's regulating our expenses, but there's no regulation on any of the things we have to spend money on."
Hertz has two bachelor's degrees -- in economic geography and biology -- and and a master's degree in biology from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn. Before his duties as township manager in Penn Township, he was executive director of the Lower Dauphin Council of Governments near Harrisburg, Pa., for 3 years. For a year before that,he was a science teacher at Delone High School in McSherrystown, Pa., where he coached an undefeated football team for a season.
The bachelor, who served four years as an enlisted man in the Air Force, said he expects to relocate to Carroll County in the next several weeks.
Hertz was selected from 69 applicants, said Councilman Edward S. Calwell, chairman of the search committee. The committee called in 10 candidates for interviews, and narrowed that group to three for interviews with council members.
The other two finalists were ThomasB. Beyard, Westminster city planner, and James Schumacher, Sykesville's town manager. Schumacher had no comment last night; Beyard could not be reached.
"(Hertz) was far and away the best candidate," said Calwell.
Council members were impressed with Hertz's personal qualities, as well as the breadth of his previous experience.
"I would say that probably he's the best thing that could've happened to the city of Westminster," said Councilman Samuel V. Greenholtz. "He's Class-A, No. 1 all the way. He's one of the best city managers in the country. For the city, it's a coup."
Council members said they were impressed with Hertz's work in economic development, an area in which the city officials would like to make significant progress in the coming years.
"When we considered where the city is now, and whereit needs to be by the year 2000, we realized this is the one man whocan lead the city to that," Greenholtz said.
He also said Hertz is the type of person who could be helpful in rebuilding the bridge between the mayor and council.
"I really think he can only help us,"the councilman said. "He's certainly not going to be a hindrance at all."
Councilmen William F. Haifley and Mark S. Snyder also said they are pleased with Hertz's selection.
"I am perfectly satisfied that we made the proper choice," Haifley said. "(Hertz) will do an excellent job now and in the future."
Snyder said Hertz is "very dynamic and he exudes professionalism. We got the best possible city manager out there and we're fortunate to have him."
"He has the education to excel in his profession, but his hands-on involvement as a city manager sets him apart," Snyder added. "He is very knowledgeable about economic development and is very good about recycling. He'll complement our efforts in that area."
Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, on theother hand, has not met Hertz.