John “Jack” Kelly, the former Jersey City business administrator and soon to be the new Asbury Park City Manager, said he wants “to hit the ground running” when he takes over on Feb. 1.
Kelly was unanimously appointed to the job at the City Council meeting two weeks ago and he will replace Acting-City Manager Tony Nuccio, who heads the human services department.
Kelly, who was also worked in the Orange finance office for 21 years, replaces Terence Reidy who held the job for 10 years and left the post Oct. 31.
“I want to try and assimilate what I can and learn what I can. I want to hit the ground running,” he said earlier this week.
Due to a successful change of government referendum, a new city government will be formed on Jan. 1, 2015. However, in order for Kelly to be replaced the city would need approval from the state Department of Community Affairs Division of Local Government Services under the state’s transitional aid agreement with Asbury Park. The same applies to any department heads in the city.
And Kelly, who has been coming into the city regularly to learn the ropes and meet people, said he knows there is change coming to the council.
“I was aware of that coming into the job,” he said. “I need to prove myself early and I can’t wait to get started. I just want to be excited by the town and I hope that carries through to the next council.”
The biggest issue Kelly said needs to be addressed in Asbury Park is crime.
“When I meet with council members, they all said it was their biggest issue, too. Needless-to-say this is an issue that needs to be addressed,” he said.
He said he also wants to review the city’s emergency management plan to make sure it is up-to-date.
“I am concerned about the safety and welfare of all residents,” he said.
Resident and former city council candidate Duanne Small challenged Kelly’s statement that he wanted to participate in the “gentrification” of the city when he first addressed the public two weeks ago.
“He needs to explain that,” Small said at the council meeting.
Kelly said he basically wants the city cleaned up.
“There are a lot of boarded-up homes here that are falling down. And I don’t want that to remain,” he said.
And he said that both the city and its residents have to become fiscally responsible.
“And what we need is great housing for all residents,” he said.
Kelly, 55, said he is renting an apartment in Asbury Park for now and will spend his weekends at his home in Millington.