Jill Gougher will always remember meeting with Galloway Township’s residents and working with the township’s employees over her 24 years as an employee of the township.
“I will always remember the improvements we made in recreation,” Gougher said. “Some people might not think of that as an important thing, but I’ve always felt the community needs to stay strong and support the youth. We need to entice families to stay.”
However, as of July 15, Gougher will no longer be part of that process of keeping families in the township. That will be her last day as an employee of Galloway, where she currently serves as the chief financial officer.
She will be moving on to take the same position in Asbury Park.
“It’s a bigger town, something more challenging,” said Gougher, who made her decision about a month ago and gave the township 45 days notice she was leaving. “My daughter is graduating from high school and going off to college, so there’s no need for me to stay local.”
Gougher had two daughters go through the school system in Galloway, with her younger daughter set to graduate from Absegami High School next week. She will be attending college at Eastern University.
“It’s time for me to see what I can do,” said Gougher, who said her decision had nothing to do with her removal as township manager and subsequent reduction in pay last summer. “I always intended to get another job or go back to school.”
Gougher served as both township manager and CFO for the township last year, before she was removed from the manager’s position in favor of Roger Tees.
When Tees was fired as township manager in January, the position went to Public Works Director Steve Bonanni on an interim basis, until the end of the year.
“When I came back to Galloway in 1986, my intention was to stay here a long time. I did not think I would stay here for over 24 years,” Gougher said with a laugh.
She initially worked for the township as the assistant treasurer in for nearly two years in the early 1980’s, before leaving briefly. She returned in 1986, and worked in various roles with the township, most notably as CFO and township manager.
“I learned to multi-task,” she said of performing the two jobs simultaneously. “I learned how to get things done.”
"She has a multitude of talents she can offer," Bonanni said. " ... She will be a huge loss to the township. Jill is hard-working and dedicated. She is extrememly knowledgeable. She will be missed."
Mayor Keith Hartman was surprised to see Gougher leaving.
"I understand why she would make a decision like this, but she's going to be missed," Hartman said. "I was absolutely surprised."
Gougher believes that time performing both roles will help prepare her for the challenges of Asbury Park. Her duties will be similar to the ones she performs now.
“It’s a different type of community,” said Gougher, who said that, like Galloway, Asbury Park is a developing area. “It’s a shore community, so there will be some things that I’ll have to deal with there that I haven’t had to deal with in Galloway.
“They have a bigger budget, and different types of issues. The budgets are the primary issue, and I have a lot of expertise dealing with budgets.”
Galloway’s budget for the next fiscal year was passed on April 26.
“The budget is a year-long process,” Gougher said.
Hartman agreed, but also said it wasn't an absolute necessity to have someone in place immediately.
"I've spoken in-depth with our auditor," Hartman said. "The financial department will be fine for a while without Jill."
The township must now begin a search for a new CFO, a process Gougher said she would be happy to work with the township on, should it request her help.
“I have not had any discussions with the manager, but I’ll provide any input he wants.”
Bonanni said the township is looking for someone with a bachelor's degree and a New Jersey Certified Finance Officer's Certificate. Candidates also need a minimum of five years in municipal finance operations, and pay will depend on the qualifications of the hiree.
“(The next CFO) will have to continue to meet the high demand for excellence and dedication to the community,” she said.
Hartman said no one has been identified to take over the position, and that the township will take as long as it needs to find the best person for the job.
As for keeping families in the community, Gougher is doing her part. She will continue to live in Galloway and commute to work in Asbury Park.
"This is where I grew up," Gougher said. "I felt like I had a lot to give back.
"I know a lot of people here that I've worked with, and I'm going to miss them."