Julien X. Neals, Esq., City of Newark

Julien X. Neals, Esq.

Bottom to Top Process Changes

Editors’ Note

In December 2010, Corporation Counsel Julien X. Neals, Esq., took his oath of office as the City of Newark’s Business Administrator. Since February 2008, Neals has served as the City of Newark’s top lawyer. In his role as Corporation Counsel, Neals managed a department of 75 employees. He began his legal career as a law clerk in the Hudson County Superior Court. He eventually became a partner with the Secaucus-based law firm of Chasan Leyner & Lamparello, PC. Neals is a trustee of the New Jersey State Bar Foundation and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Volunteer Lawyers for Justice. Neals received his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Morehouse College and his Juris Doctorate from Emory University School of Law.

How do you define your role and what excited you about taking it on?

My primary focus is the budget – city operations from a financial standpoint – how the city is able to operate within its means and ways we can maximize revenues. Those are the keys to survival for any municipal government today, because so many financial resources are drying up.

My secondary focus is on operations relating to the performance of public services. We have to pay attention to quality control as we provide those services and continually evaluate whether it’s necessary to provide them today; there is a balance between public expectation and your ability to provide particular services.

Has the progress on resolving the budget issues been what you had hoped?

Yes, we were able to accomplish what we hoped to in 2011. In 2010, we had significant staffing reductions and furloughs – things that hurt the individual employee were the primary source of cost reduction.

In 2011, we started streamlining operations to cut costs without reaching back into the employees’ pockets. We substantially reduced our structural deficit.

It’s a year by year challenge, but we find new ways each year to create new revenue streams or to cut costs in order to continue to provide services. And that is in light of rising tension over health care costs, which are exorbitant for our municipality.

How challenging is it in Newark to create real change?

It’s challenging because true change has to be institutional. You have to create operational changes that are not temporary and the people who are performing those functions need to adapt to that change and continue to follow it without retreating to old practices that were too expensive or nonproductive. So you have to ingrain bottom to top process changes.

Is there a need in this role to reach out to the private sector in order to partner with them?

A strong public/private partnership today is the only way that municipal governments will survive. If we don’t start adapting some of our business models similar to those in the private sector, we’re not going to keep up.

We can’t completely go private, because we still have certain legal requirements that have to be met in a municipal environment, but taking more of a business approach to efficiency and productivity is key to our future survival.•