Pennington man tapped to head state Department of Human Services

Senate must confirm the appointment of former Hopewell Township administrator, James Davy.

By John Tredrea


   Jim Davy, Gov. James E. McGreevey’s choice for commissioner of the Department of Human Services, has reconnected to the Hopewell Valley area, where he has strong ties. He would replace Commissioner Gwendolyn L. Harris, who has announced her resignation.
   Mr. Davy is a former Hopewell Township administrator. He lived in the township while he held that job. Now, to be nearer the state capital, Mr. Davy and his family have moved from Westfield to Mallard Drive, Pennington, where they have been for two years.
   "It was like coming home for us," Mr. Davy said Monday. "Pennington is a great town; the Hopewell Valley area is a beautiful place to live. We’re very fortunate."
   It was 15 years ago that Mr. Davy left his job in Hopewell Township to become West Milford Township manager. "I hope West Milford knows what a jewel they’re getting," Hopewell Township Committeeman Bill Cane said during the last Township Committee with Mr. Davy on board.
   Mr. Davy and his wife, Lucille, sold their home on Yard Road in Hopewell Township to move, with their two sons, to the rural hills of northern Passaic County, where West Milford — an even larger township than Hopewell — is located.
   He stayed at West Milford for three years, then moved to the town where he hooked up with his current boss, Gov. McGreevey.
   "I became business manager of Woodbridge Township in ’92," said Mr. Davy. "Jim McGreevey was mayor at the time. We’ve been together ever since. He knows and trusts me and I know and trust him, so it works."
   In nominating Mr. Davy to head Human Services, the governor said: "Throughout his career, Jim Davy has consistently demonstrated an exceptional ability to manage government with great professionalism and compassion, to make tough decisions, and to produce results that benefit the people we serve. The challenges he will confront at the Department of Human Services are formidable, but he is well-equipped to meet them."
   Mr. Davy, 50, has been chief of Management and Operations in the Office of the Governor since the start of the McGreevey administration. He was responsible for the management and coordination of Cabinet and state government operations and for developing the administration’s policy agenda.
   "It has been a valuable and rewarding experience to work with Gov. McGreevey and the members of his Cabinet," Mr. Davy said. "I thank the governor for the opportunity and for his confidence in entrusting me to run the Department of Human Services. I’m looking forward to the challenge and producing real, tangible results for the department and people we serve."
   As chief of Management and Operations, Mr. Davy played a role in all major initiatives of the McGreevey administration. He recruited the governor’s Cabinet, restructured the state’s school construction program, directed labor negotiations and coordinated state government’s response to heightened terrorism concerns.
   As commissioner of the Department of Human Services, which is the largest department in state government, Mr. Davy will oversee approximately 18,000 employees and six divisions including Youth and Family Services, Medical Assistance and Health Services, Mental Health Services, Developmental Disabilities, Family Development, Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
   He also will be responsible for four psychiatric hospitals, six developmental disabilities centers and administering social services to persons on welfare or who are mentally, physically and developmentally disabled. The department serves about one of every eight New Jersey residents. Among them are abused and neglected children; troubled youth and families; people with low incomes; and people who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, blind, visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing.
   Mr. Davy said he is working hard on an ongoing reform of the embattled Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). A written document summarizing the reform plan is due in state court Feb. 18, under an agreement state government reached with Child Rights, an advocacy group.
   One of the major goals in the reform plan, which Mr. Davy said is still a work in progress, is to keep children involved with DYFS in their neighborhoods if at all possible. "That way they have the same school, same church, same neighbors," he said. "It’s less traumatic for the child and keeps the child in a place where his community can help him. Then we must try to restabilize the child’s family and reunite it."
   Mr. Davy said the caseloads of DYFS workers "need to be manageable" and that "we also need to revise the assessment tools at DYFS."
   He added: "We have to draw on many resources in other areas of state government to help children and families involved with DYFS. There’s the Department of Labor, for help in the area of employment, the Department of Community Affairs, for housing, the Department of Health, for substance abuse, and others. I’ve worked with all those departments; I know all the commissioners; I’m the ‘go to’ guy. That’s part of the reason the governor picked me for this job."
   The Senate must confirm Mr. Davy’s appointment. He will succeed Commissioner Harris, who announced her resignation in December to accept a position as director of the New Jersey Urban Development Project at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
   Mr. Davy earned his master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and his undergraduate degree at Thiel College in Pennsylvania. He also has taught as an adjunct professor in Seton Hall University’s Masters in Public Administration Program.