Rahway welcomes new — and old — city clerk in place of Harris

Jeffrey Jotz

RAHWAY, NJ — Jeffrey Jotz became Rahway’s new city clerk on Thursday, April 1, replacing Rayna Harris, who has accepted a full-time position as the borough administrator of Fanwood but will remain with Rahway as the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and Social Justice Commission secretary.

“I have held both roles in the city of Rahway for quite some time,” Harris said on Friday, April 23. “Since April 2018, I have served as the secretary to the Municipal Board Alcoholic Beverage Control, also known as ABC, which is the issuing authority for the granting and administration of liquor licenses within the city of Rahway. The role of Social Justice Commission, known as SJC, was assigned to me shortly after the SJC was established by ordinance in August 2020. Both positions are part-time, paid as stipends with general administrative duties, such as keeping records of the board meetings and proceedings, including voting records, attendance, resolutions, findings, determinations, reports, correspondence and decisions.

“These two roles have allowed me to both take on something well-established and be part of something new,” she continued. “The Municipal Board Alcoholic Beverage Control was established by ordinance in 1984, so I inherited a role with a lot of structures and procedures put in place. However, with the Social Justice Commission, there was the opportunity to see something from the beginning and assist in the laying of its foundation, which is a rare opportunity, and being entrusted to guide members of the commission and assist however possible is quite fulfilling, particularly considering the times we are in and the focus of the commission being to make real and vibrant commitments to the social justice dialogue within the city of Rahway.”

Harris said she has been in New Jersey local government in some capacity since 2002. She earned the state’s registered municipal clerk certification in 2009 and was appointed by the Rahway City Council as city clerk in May 2016. She was reappointed by the city in May 2019. Harris said the job of city clerk has one of the most important and exacting positions in municipal government; so important, in fact, that in New Jersey, the position is a statutory one. Municipal clerks may attain tenure in office and must achieve certification through education and testing.

“In December 2020, I was appointed administrator and deputy clerk in the borough of Fanwood, also a Union County municipality,” she said. “The administrator position is a full-time role that is responsible for the day-to-day operational management of the municipality. I stepped back as the Rahway city clerk to fulfill the obligations in Fanwood, taking my career to the next phase.”

Harris admitted leaving wouldn’t be easy, as she would miss Rahway.

“Like with any job, it is the people,” she explained. “I will not only miss the wonderful residents, but the Rahway community as a whole. The experience has been enjoyable overall. I believe that I formed long-term bonds with my co-workers. I am glad to be able to maintain the part-time working relationship with the city. Staying on as the ABC and SJC secretary, while I may not be in City Hall daily, I still get to work with the mayor, the City Council and many others.

“I have nothing but well wishes for Mr. Jotz,” Harris said. “I hope he has success and happiness in the position. Knowing Jeff before my tenure in Rahway, we have been cordial colleagues for years and will remain so going forward. Jeff is a professional and qualified to fill the role once again.

“The staff in the office of the city clerk is a great support crew and is always working diligently behind the scenes,” she continued. “They have gone above and beyond during not only the transition from one clerk to another, but all throughout the pandemic. The clerk’s office team is strong and will grow in strength as Jotz rejoins the group. Most of all, I wish for Jeff to have the same amount of enjoyment I have experienced in Rahway.”

Jotz had been Rahway’s city clerk before, so, when asked by Rahway Mayor Raymond Giacobbe to return to the position, he said doing so felt like second nature to him.

“I spent most of my career working for the city of Rahway; 15 years as an employee and several years on top of that as a consultant,” Jotz said on Friday, April 23. “I’ve lived in Rahway for over 40 years, and my family still lives there. I really know this city inside out and upside down. I was thrilled that the mayor and council had asked me to return. I really feel at home here. It was unexpected, and I was very excited. The mayor and I have a long relationship, and I was very excited to hear from him. My parents are glad also, because I get to be a little closer to take care of them. It’s good from that perspective, and that’s very important.”

When Jotz left the first time, he first worked for Union County, and then for the city of Long Branch in Monmouth County. He even worked at a COVID-19 testing center in the early days of the pandemic last spring, something he says he’ll never forget. He’s glad to be coming back to Rahway.

“The clerk is a position that’s found in governments all over the world,” Jotz said. “I am the keeper of the municipal seal, and I attest to all city contracts and formal documents. I’m the secretary of the governing body, which means I record the actions of the City Council at meetings, and my office also processes the variety of licenses for people wishing to conduct business in the city. We also play a very important role in working with the county clerk and the county Board of Elections, while making sure the elections run smoothly.

“It’s funny, because Rayna replaced me in Rahway and I’m replacing her again in Rahway,” he continued. “I think she’s a consummate professional and I think she was the right choice for Fanwood. I know she’ll do great there, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in whatever capacity that the future holds for us. I wish her the best in her success.”

While surprised when Harris told him she would be leaving, the mayor said he was glad to be able to continue to work with her and to have Jotz return to his role as city clerk.

“Rayna notified me late last year that she accepted the position of BA in Fanwood,” Giacobbe said on Friday, April 23. “She will remain in her role as our ABC and Social Justice Commission secretary. I wish Ms. Harris the best in her new position. I know she will do a great job as BA for the mayor, council and residents of Fanwood. She did a tremendous job here as our city clerk, and I’m confident she will do the same as BA in Fanwood.

“Mr. Jotz has the experience and institutional knowledge that will be an asset to the Rahway City Council and our residents,” Giacobbe continued. “I’m confident in his ability to step in and fill the position.”