South Brunswick CFO/deputy manager spends final weeks in office

SOUTH BRUNSWICK – “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

This inspirational quote by Muhammad Ali has been influential to Joseph Monzo, South Brunswick’s chief financial officer and deputy manager. Certainly not wasting his life, and viewing the world much differently now, Monzo will retire effective July 1 after almost four decades of public service.

Monzo began working in local government in 1980. He worked in Trenton, Lawrence and Ewing. He was state-certified as a CFO in 1989.

Matt Watkins, who was the township manager in South Brunswick at the time, left for the N.J. Department of Community Affairs as the director of the Division of Local Government Services. Monzo was in Ewing at the time, but was pursued by and joined Watkins as his deputy director in February 2003.

That August, Watkins returned to South Brunswick in the managerial position. Since the CFO retired the month before, Watkins asked Monzo to come on board as CFO. In February 2004, Monzo held both titles of CFO and deputy manager.

When Watkins left again about seven years ago, Bernie Hvozdovic became township manager and Monzo remained the deputy manager.

As the CFO for the past 15-plus years, Monzo was responsible for preparing and managing the township’s $80 million budget while also managing the debt of the town. As deputy manager, he represented the township in labor negotiations with each union.

“I like the work. I like the fact I can interpret the state’s rules and regulations so South Brunswick is in adherence … and to provide to the public a budget that doesn’t overburden them while still providing services, and manage them throughout the year,” he said.

He said one of the biggest changes over the years has been the advancement in technology. He said he used to use paper and pencil, writing something down, making a copy, putting it in the mail, and then waiting two weeks for a response.

“Now, I can move data around without moving more than two fingers on my hand,” he said.”

He said one of the biggest challenges was superstorm Sandy in 2012, after which monies needed to be reprioritized.

“You learn there’s not just one way to do something. You color around the edges a little bit while staying within the state confines,” he said.

And he said one of his biggest accomplishments is that in the 15 years he has been employed in South Brunswick, not one municipal audit ever mentioned the town being in violation.

In addition, the tax rate has risen from 47 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on the average assessed home to 84 cents – an increase of 37 cents in 14 years, about 2.5 cents a year, which is considered “gradual growth,” he said.

“We provide a lot of good services for what I feel is a fair price,” he said.

Monzo said most of the administrators in town have been in their positions since he started, and the “continuity of the people at the top” and their knowledge of the history of the town is what makes South Brunswick so successful.

“I enjoy working for the people who work here. I think, generally, public employees generally get a bad rap … but they work hard and are here for the same reason, to make sure the public has a place to come and have a voice,” he said.

This is why he feels he “left the town in good hands,” because the treasurer will be promoted to CFO, the deputy tax collector will become the treasurer, and the account clerk will assume the role of deputy tax collector – three promotions he said are warranted.

“That historical knowledge is not going to leave the building,” he said.

On the other hand, Monzo said he “will not miss the Route 130 drive from the Cranbury Circle to here” nor the six council meetings each month.

Instead, in the coming months, Monzo said he plans to spend more time with his eight-month-old granddaughter, and ride his bike more, while his wife Kathryn continues to work as the business administrator in North Brunswick.

Monzo has also worked part-time as the CFO for Rocky Hill Borough and for Mansfield. He is retiring from all positions. His last day in South Brunswick will be on June 28.

“It’s been a good run. I’m ready for something else,” he said.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.