RAHWAY – Although Cherron Rountree is not quite 32, she has a laundry list of education and experience and has no doubt she is more than prepared to hit the ground running as the Rahway’s new administrator.
Rountree stepped into the role of administrator Tuesday after the city council approved the appointment Nov. 6 at a special meeting. The former county employee replaced former administrator Peter Pelissier, who left nearly a year ago.
The new city administrator spent seven years working for the county, the last two as director of the Department of Parks and Community Renewal. But make no mistakes; with an annual budget over $20 million and more than 80 employees to oversee at her county job, Rountree is no stranger to juggling ten things at once.
While in this position, she said, her duties included community and economic development, as well as managing transportation planning programs for the entire county.
“One project was to lead the Together North Jersey efforts on behalf of the county, which is a long-term planning effort for the entire northern New Jersey region,” said the city administrator in an interview with LocalSource last week, adding she also designed and initiated the very successful Union County Means Business program.
This partnership with private industry reached thousands of businesses in the first two years, collaborating with local chambers of commerce and business organizations to promote economic development throughout the region using networking events as a medium.
Rountree handled all community renewal efforts under her last title, including community development, housing, transportation, planning and inter-government relations.
“I believe during my tenure with the county I have worked with every single department in some way or another,” she said, quipping that this, though, did not include the county jail.
When it came to public safety, this new administrator looks back on the part she played as an integral participant in developing the county Emergency Management System program while also involved as a close collaborator on the shared dispatch project. But when Tropical Storm Irene and superstorm Sandy hit, Rountree really got some hands on experience that has served her well.
“That is when I helped out with public safety and emergency management, maximizing county efforts so we could help all our towns,” she said, pointing out that she is more than prepared and ready to take on this new career challenge as the city’s administrator.
“There is plenty I can bring to Rahway,” Rountree said, mentioning not only has she gained considerable experience in the last two years as a director of a county department, but managed to learn all facets of how the county and municipalities operate during the seven years she worked for the county. Looking forward, this new city employee is more than optimistic about the professional adventures that lie ahead.
“Rahway is truly an exciting city,” she said. “It is clearly moving in an impressive direction while still holding strong to its rich historical roots.”
Rountree added that she also was impressed that Samson Steinman “is truly dedicated to the city while bringing a dynamic to city hall which will help catapult the community into the future,” she said.
“I am looking forward to helping in that growth,” the new administrator said.
Rountree grew up in Glen Gardner, Hunterdon County, although her parents now live in Warren County. And as a sister, she is equally proud of her brother who is not only a federal prosecutor in Virginia, but also a Lt. Commander in the Navy.
The road to becoming city administrator might have moved quickly for Rountree, but this former county employee is no stranger to putting her nose to the grindstone. She obtained her Masters Degree in Public Administration going to New York University at night.
Always upbeat and positive, Rountree refused to admit this road was grueling, preferring to focus on why she chose that route and particular university for her degree.
“NYU is one of the top ten schools in the country, so while it was hard, this is what I wanted and I went for it,” she said.
The new Rahway employee explained her last position at the county also involved administering housing programs, including the federal Housing Assistance Payment Program, or Section 8 Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Home Investment Partnership Program, which had her oversee the expenditure of more than $6 million in grants from the federal government.
Rountree also served on the county Foreclosure Task Force, a collaborative effort to help reduce incidents of foreclosure in the county and provide assistance to those in need.
Before working for the county, Rountree was the director of economic development and Urban Enterprise Zone coordinator in Roselle, a position that prepared her for a future position with the county.
“While in Roselle I secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for municipal programs promoting economic growth, recruited businesses to the UEZ zone and developed and implemented a marketing program to increase economic vitality of the borough, including television and newspaper campaigns,” Rountree explained.
There is no doubt this new city employee will be missed at the county.
“Cherron is a creative governmental administrator who helped me to spearhead successful initiatives,” said Union County Freeholder Board Chairman Linda Carter, adding this former employee was more than an asset.
“Cherron is someone who thinks outside the box and became a ‘go to person’ who was skilled in many different governmental disciplines and could be counted on to get the job done,” said the freeholder chairman. “On a personal note, she is also a good friend of mine and to this freeholder board. We thank her for her outstanding years of service to the public and county government and wish her well.”