Mayor James Davis’s Chief of Staff Andrew Casais has been on the job only two and a half weeks, but he’s already making his mark at city hall, with some saying he is politically wise beyond his 23 years of age.
In this position of closest adviser to the city’s chief executive, he hopes to excel. Casais will earn $70,000 annually.
Casais, a nephew of Davis through the mayor’s first marriage, began work in the post on July 21, and received immediate attention because of his relation to the mayor and because of his relative youth. But he has a long record of political interest and experience, dating back to his late teens.
“Since I was 17, I’ve been out there and doing something I enjoy, every day,” Casais said.
His interest in public service was sparked in 2007, he said, when he attended his first council meeting. He had gone to ask his local governing body why municipal flags were not flown at half staff on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and its members lauded him for his inquiry.
As early as 2009, he was involved in civic organizations, founding and serving as first chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Roselle Park, where he still lives. Three years later, he was executive editor of the Political Analysis Journal of Seton Hall University, from which he received his B.A. in Political Science – magna cum laude – with a 3.9 GPA.
In 2012, Casais received his first taste of public service when he took his seat as a Roselle Park councilman. His three-year term expires in December and he will not seek reelection.
A year later, Casais was also serving as his borough’s representative on the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties, a regional sewerage authority. His responsibilities included helping to manage a $31 million budget and overseeing the upkeep and upgrades of infrastructure.
Later in 2013, and until last month, Casais served as the municipal clerk and administrative officer in Allendale borough in Bergen County.
“Andrew has been a pleasant surprise. He has a maturity beyond his years,” said Director of Municipal Services Robert Wondolowski. “I have him with me when I host high-end developers at city hall, and Andrew is quickly assimilating to the vetting process I go through in these discussions. He is quickly learning the speed, depth, and knowledge base he needs to utilize in current and future projects the mayor, [Business Administrator] Joe DeMarco, and I are engaged in negotiating.”
DeMarco works with Casais on a daily basis, and said that he is a welcome addition to city hall management.
“I think he’s a great asset to the Davis team; he brings a different view from his background and experience,” DeMarco said. “Andrew comes with that youthful, tech-savvy aspect of innovation.”
While not coming in overconfident, Casais himself believes he is ready for the new post.
“I have the experience,” he said. “I’ll be happy to show that this was the right decision, not only for the mayor, but for the city.”
Though he has never been a Bayonne resident, Casais said his Bayonne roots run deep. His mother and father grew up and lived in the city for years, meeting here as youth. His mother’s family owned a business here, Moloney’s Meat Market, for years.
Casais said there wasn’t a whole lot of learning-curve time when he began his post two and a half weeks ago.
“I just hit the ground running,” he said.
The rookie chief of staff relishes the role he has in helping shape the administration of Mayor Davis and the problems and projects it will tackle.
“We’re building a team and getting everyone in place,” Casais said. “We have a lot of things planned.”
Citing his experience garnered from Roselle Park, Allendale, and the Joint Commission, Casais said he has a strong understanding of municipal, county, and state government and procedures. Those governmental bodies have also given him a network of contacts he will use in moving projects forward for the Peninsula City.
“I’m excited to bring all this to Bayonne,” he said. “We’re going to do great things.”
Casais is hoping to make a difference in the lives of city residents, and soon, feeling that the municipal government level is the one that makes the most difference for citizens.
“It’s people’s lives,” he said. “It’s important. On the local level, you can effectuate great change.”
DeMarco said that additions like Casais point to the mayor’s idea of trying to bring a diverse group of minds to the new city government.
“His strengths complement the rest of the team already here and the rest of the team the mayor is trying to assemble to get the city moving in the right direction,” DeMarco said. “That’s essentially the way good government works.”