Scandal shook the Department of Public Works (DPW) when former Superintendent James Wiley pleaded guilty on Sept. 11 to using North Bergen township employees for his household chores, personal projects at his home, and campaign work in other municipalities while the township paid them.
Wiley’s departure left a vacancy in the superintendent’s position. In late September, John Shaw was appointed the interim superintendent of the DPW. As of Jan. 1, he was appointed to the position on a permanent basis.
Shaw has worked for the DPW and the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) for 34 years.
From interim to permanent superintendent
After the scandal, the department was in need of restructuring. Shaw’s experience with the DPW proved to be an asset.
“He is a strong manager who understands how to maximize his employees’ productivity and has a deep knowledge of the Department of Public Works’ operations and functions,” said township spokesperson Phil Swibinski. “John Shaw took the reins of one of North Bergen’s most important departments during a difficult time in its history and has done an amazing job reorganizing the work force and instilling a culture of responsibility and ethics, while also maintaining township services.”
As interim, Shaw’s role was “to observe the functions of the department, evaluate them and report back to Commissioner [Frank] Gargiulo with recommendations.”
In late October, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of damage throughout the township. Shaw sprang into action a mere month into his position.
“Now overtime is being distributed more fairly and morale has improved considerably.” – DPW Superintendent John Shaw
Shaw’s work led the township to appoint him as the permanent superintendent.
“After displaying all the qualities necessary to excel as superintendent during the fall, John was appointed the permanent DPW superintendent effective Jan. 1,” said Swibinski.
When Shaw became the DPW superintendent, he relinquished his position with the MUA as superintendent of sanitation. He will keep his part-time job with the MUA as recycling coordinator, which he has done for the last 25 years.
“I don’t foresee any problems balancing the positions, as I have a high level of experience at both, and excellent teams to delegate tasks to,” said Shaw.
There was no additional salary when he became interim superintendent of the DPW. His previous $112,000 annual salary as MUA sanitation supervisor and recycling coordinator increased to $125,000 when he became the permanent DPW head.
Restructuring the DPW
Shaw began his new job by implementing several changes.
“After being named interim superintendent, I began to institute a reorganization and reform plan that I think has had excellent results in improving employee morale and accountability and maintaining a high level of service to residents,” said Shaw. “I made a number of changes to the department that I believe have been beneficial, including trimming overtime, changing work schedules and shifting some office personnel to increase efficiency, and putting in a time clock to make sure employee hours are recorded honestly and fairly. Now overtime is being distributed more fairly and morale has improved considerably.”
“John is doing an excellent job and has already had a great impact on restoring employee morale and re-energizing this department,” said Commissioner Gargiulo in a press release.
“John Shaw is doing a fantastic job as our new DPW Superintendent and I have the utmost confidence in him moving forward,” said Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “He has improved the culture of the department by making it more professional and creating greater accountability and has maintained the excellent snow removal, street sweeping, and the myriad of other important services the DPW provides at a high level.”
Shaw is looking forward to making the DPW even better.
“Of course, I would have liked to be appointed under different circumstances, but you have to play the hand you are dealt, and I am very happy in my new role,” said Shaw. “I want to thank Mayor Nick Sacco and Commissioner Frank Gargiulo for their confidence in my abilities.”
Troubled past not relevant
Shaw did have his own run-in with the law. He was arrested in 1979, at the age of 27, for bookmaking. He pleaded guilty and served three months on a work-release sentence. According to local officials, since his time served, he has maintained a clean record.
“John Shaw’s past legal problems are not relevant to his current employment and were not being considered in his hiring,” said Swibinski. “He has had an exemplary, spotless record for nearly the past 35 years and is a model employee.”
Shaw has been active within the community, volunteering as a youth recreation coach for nearly 20 years. His wife Ruth is an elected member of the Board of Education.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org