With a smile and a disarmingly modest manner, Anthony Cancro says of Springfield, "We're running lean, running on fumes financially. We have to find ways to make township government more efficient while still providing services to meet the needs of our citizens."
Cancro has been on the job since March 16 and his appointment was approved by the township committee on March 23. He brings 32 years of experience in government administration at the state, federal and municipal levels.
As Springfield's new Township Administrator, equivalent to being a chief operating officer, Cancro's "running lean" comment refers to Trenton's $450,000 budget cut for Springfield.
"That's a substantial reduction in our $26 million municipal budget," he said. "There are state-mandated caps on municipal spending, and we must comply with them. But it's going to be difficult because last year the mayor made deep cuts in the budget."
Goals with an eye on the future
"My first short-term goal is to get to know all of the department heads and department functions," Cancro said. "My second goal is to find ways to do more with less and still make Springfield grow. I want to listen to the residents. I want ideas from them. As taxpayers, they have the right to get the best for their money."
To encourage input from Springfield residents, Cancro maintains an open-door policy for his office in the Municipal building on Mountain Ave. "I want people to call me or come in and talk," he said. He arrives for work at 7 a.m. and tries to leave by 5 p.m. He pointed to a thick blue folder on the corner of his desk and said, "That's the work I take home."
A record of solid accomplishments
In Cancro's prior position in municipal government, four years as business administrator and director of administration for Edison Township, NJ, he oversaw public works, health, engineering and planning, recreation, finance, fire, police, purchasing, environment, the courts and the office of township clerk.
His environmental efforts in Edison are a point of pride for him.
"I helped Edison start using solar panels," Cancro said. "While there, we did energy audits and switched away from foreign oil and toward domestic natural gas. We developed one of the biggest hybrid vehicle fleets. We improved the professionalism of the municipal work force and made it easier for citizens to access township services online."
Cancro, a lifelong vegetarian, yoga practitioner and teacher, has experience with the New Jersey departments of Energy and Community Affairs. He served as Director of the Division of Housing and Community Affairs, Acting Director of the Division of Local Government Services, Deputy Commissioner and Acting Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, an agency with 1,100 employees and a budget of $1.2 billion.
At the Federal level, he was the Chief of Staff for Region 2 (New Jersey, New York, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, serving under former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
Cancro lives in Pennington, NJ, with his wife Frances and son Alexander. He feels that living outside Springfield enables him to be objective and fact-based about the township. "My father encouraged me to go into public service," he said, "because it's an honorable profession, helping people. I'm not in it for the money. It's harder today. The hours are long—I'm used to 80-hour work weeks. People have less trust in government. And there's always criticism and abuse."
Ever quick to smile, he adds, "I'm excited about Springfield and impressed with the people. The homes here are beautiful. I'm thankful for Mayor Shehady's and the township committee's vote of confidence in me. The mayor is a visionary, and I want to help him with his plans to make Springfield grow."
Cancro holds a B.S. in Environmental Science/Planning from Ramapo College of New Jersey, a M.A. in Environmental Science/Education from the City College of New York, and an M.P.A. in Public Administration and Management from Rutgers University. In addition, he is a Certified Public Manager, a designation from the N.J. Certified Public Managers Program.
He's nostalgic about a photo hanging in his office, a crowd scene from Woodstock in 1969. Pointing to one face in the crowd, he says, "That's me, much younger of course. This photo was in Life magazine in their article about the festival."