DANA REDD was elected Mayor of Camden on November 3, 2009. Facing no significant opposition, she succeeded Gwendolyn Faison as Mayor. She previously served on Camden's City Council, was chair of the Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority of the City of Camden, and as State Senator, a post she had been appointed to in the wake of the indictment of Wayne Bryant. Bryant was subsequently convicted in federal court and sentenced to prison.
A Wikipedia article on Mayor Redd reads as follows:
Most in Camden are carefully enthusiastic about the election of Mayor Redd, which, considering the convictions of former mayors Milton Milan and Arnold Webster, says a lot about the faith the public is ready to put into Mayor Redd's efforts. However, some residents of Camden have expressed concern due to her political relationship with Novella Hinson, who had been active in the above-named administrations and a political powerhouse in Camden going back into the 1980s. Mayor Redd also came under fire for proposing salary increases for her staff shortly after her inauguration.
Camden Courier-Post * February 7, 2009
Camden Courier-Post * June 2, 2009
Campaign Card * October, 2009
WHYY Radio - November 4, 2009
Camden's next mayor: Dana Redd
Camden New Jersey residents have a new mayor.
Democratic nominee Dana Redd won a decisive victory over three independent candidates on Tuesday. Redd watched the results come in with supporters at the Victor Pub along the Camden Waterfront.
Redd: I won't say I'm surprised but I didn't want to ever assume the voters. We ran a very positive campaign and we were out knocking doors and trying to get our voters to the polls tonight. I'm very excited about the outcome and I'm looking forward to going to work for the residents of Camden City.
While Redd is poised to serve as Camden's Mayor, local politicians have not had full control of Camden since 2002, when New Jersey legislators passed a law giving the state a large amount of control over the struggling city's budget, policies and administrative functions.
State control of Camden is set to expire in 2012.
Philadelphia Inquirer - January 1, 2010
Dana Redd takes office as Camden
Camden Courier-Post - November 4, 2009
mentor comes with controversial past
By Deborah Hirsch
Mayor Dana Redd's staff includes four aides, but Novella Hinson is the only one who rides with her to work in a city SUV driven by a police officer.
Hinson is also the one trailing the Camden mayor as she walks through city hall and can often be seen in the background as Redd conducts interviews or greets constituents at public events.
To Redd, Hinson is more than a community outreach aide -- she is a long-standing mentor who brings invaluable insight from more than 30 years in city government.
And while her experience as a Camden administrator is vast, Hinson's history as a city official is also mired in controversy.
Despite that, the 65-year-old is back at city hall as a powerful, behind-the-scenes political force -- so powerful that some of those who are quick to complain about her track record or style of doing business declined to be quoted.
Hinson's relationship with the mayor was being developed even before Redd was born.
She went to Camden High School with Redd's father, Ronald, and both also volunteered for the city Democratic party.
Ronald Redd, a union organizer for Campbell Soup employees, ran unsuccessfully for council before he and his wife were killed in a murder-suicide when Redd was 8 years old.
Hinson earned an associate's degree from Edison College in Trenton and started working for the city as a clerk and typist in 1963.
By the early '90s, she'd become the director of the city's newly created Department of Community Affairs and had started an internship program in an effort to mobilize young leaders.
That was around the time when Redd, then in her 20s, began working as an aide to a county freeholder.
Like her father, Hinson said, Dana Redd loved politics and loved Camden.
"I saw her work ethic back then," Hinson said.
As far as mentors went, Hinson had the right connections.
Her husband Ted, a former city administrator, became chairman of the city's Democratic Committee in 1991 and was considered an essential cog in the county organization. That is until he -- like his wife -- became the subject of alleged government mismanagement, wasteful spending and corruption.
Under Ted Hinson's watch, the Camden Parking Authority had gone $1 million in the red in 1993.
A Courier-Post investigation found that the independent agency had not only made bad revenue projections but repeatedly overspent its budgets. Among the agency's expenses that year were $27,000 for catered meetings at a posh private club and $69,600 for travel. Of that money, $25,000 paid for 13 employees to go to a conference in Atlanta. Hinson's hotel bill cost $4,500, including his $425-per-night suite and a $951 dinner for parking officials from around the country.
The Courier-Post also found that authority commissioners had increased Ted Hinson's salary by 26 percent between 1991 and 1993 -- almost 9 percent a year in the height of a national economic slump.
On top of his salary, which peaked at $87,000, he was given two cell phones and a Lincoln Continental for business and personal use.
In the wake of the financial crisis, state authorities took over the agency's operations by the end of 1994. Under pressure from Trenton, Ted Hinson resigned the following year.
He currently draws a $35,700 annual pension.
Novella Hinson was an assistant director in the Camden public works department in 1990 when the state began an undercover investigation of an alleged trash-dumping scheme.
Several of Novella Hinson's subordinates were charged with accepting bribes from private contractors to illegally dump waste at the city's transfer station.
When the trial began in April 1994, Hinson testified that she never authorized anyone other than city contractors to dispose of trash at the landfill. The streets supervisor and two laborers were found guilty of various counts of racketeering, conspiracy, official misconduct, theft and bribery.
By then, Hinson had already left the public works department. She was promoted in 1991 to direct the city's new Department of Community Affairs.
The Courier-Post reported in 1995 that former mayor Aaron Thompson created the department primarily to give the director's job to Hinson. In return, Ted Hinson and other politicians withdrew their opposition to Thompson's pick for public works director.
Novella Hinson denied that the job was invented for her, saying in a 1995 interview, "I'm not going to bury my head in the ground because of my name."
Hinson's department operated five community centers, city parks and libraries and oversaw contracts for recreation services. It had the third-largest operating budget after police and fire departments, with $3.6 million in city funds and $4.3 million in grants in 1994.
According to past articles published in the Courier-Post, among the department's most criticized expenses: $6,500 for Christmas parade floats, $1,850 for a pumpkin hunt, $10,000 for advertising in a weekly newspaper associated with a friend of former Mayor Arnold Webster and $14,800 to a Philadelphia firm for an unspecified music program.
Camden City Council members did reject at least one expense: a May 1995 proposal to lease a Jeep Cherokee for $24,000.
Accusations of wasteful spending in Hinson's department were also noted in separate state and federal audits.
State treasury and community affairs officials called for the community affairs department to be abolished in a February 1996 report. While the audit highlighted incompetence, waste, favoritism and political pressure throughout the city, Hinson's department was cited as the worst offender when it came to securing "extraordinary, unspecifiable services" without competition.
In addition to improper use of no-bid contracts, the report faulted the department for a fragmented accounting system and spending "with little regard to budget limits."
Though the audit applauded the upkeep of the city's parks, it said all of the functions within Hinson's department would be more appropriately handled elsewhere.
The city was blasted again in a September 1996 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development audit, which found that the city mismanaged or misspent $2.2 million in federal grants and housing funds. That included $47,300 for entertainment, such as the holiday parade organized by Hinson.
Around that time, council proposed a reorganization that would eliminate the Department of Community Affairs as well as the Department of Development and Redevelopment headed by Deborah Polk, now a school administrator who was recently appointed to fill a city council vacancy.
Hinson's supporters packed the public hearing, arguing that children deserved the music training, holiday celebrations and other programs that Hinson had added to the city's recreational activities.
Despite their pleas, some council members maintained that Hinson had spent excessively and for unnecessary programs.
They overrode a veto from Mayor Arnold Webster to approve the reorganization.
After her department was eliminated, Hinson returned to her prior post in public works.
She retired in July 1999 with a $39,600 annual pension.
Less than a year later in February 2000, she came back to the city as the director of Health and Human Services.
Once again, the public was outraged.
The Courier-Post criticized Mayor Milton Milan, who had previously led the charge to abolish the Department of Community Affairs as council president, for appointing someone with a record of waste and incompetence.
"It's hard -- no, it's impossible -- to believe that a better-qualified candidate for the job could not be found," a Courier-Post editorial said.
But Hinson didn't stay long -- less than a year -- and said she took a salary that was less than $15,000 so she could continue drawing her pension.
Still, she remained active in politics as an aide to Redd, who was just starting her political career as a city councilwoman in 2001.
When Redd was tapped in late 2007 to replace state Sen. Wayne Bryant, who stepped down on corruption charges, Hinson accompanied her to legislative sessions in Trenton.
During that time she never drew a salary.
Likewise, she currently earns $1 as Redd's mayoral aide, though she also makes $14,800 a year as a commissioner on the Camden County Board of Elections.
Never found guilty
Hinson said she volunteers "to do what I think is important to do." There's nothing better than helping residents become empowered, she said.
"I'm not a philanthropist, but I'm a philanthropist with my time and experience," she said. "It's about what image and possibilities we can bring to the city. Would I ever want to stop doing that? I hope not."
When asked about her past, Hinson emphasized that she'd never been fined or found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Hinson said she couldn't comment on the public works case because it was a legal matter. However, she defended her leadership in the Department of Community Affairs.
Hinson said she followed the mandate she was given, which was to provide opportunities for the more than 30,000 young people living in the city. She claimed she had raised at least $7 million in state and federal grants to complement her city funds, and that the decision to shut the department down was purely political.
Whether or not Hinson has good intentions, Rutgers-Camden adjunct political science professor Tom Knoche said he doesn't understand why Redd would want the liability of having her around.
Hinson may be politically astute, Knoche said, but political agendas can also get in the way of delivering services.
"Camden certainly can't afford that," Knoche said.
Jose Santiago, a retired public works inspector who helped authorities investigate the trash scandal, said he couldn't believe that Hinson had escaped blame back then, or that she would be allowed back in city hall given her history.
"She shouldn't be there," Santiago said. "But that's the way the machine works. It's like a clique."
Redd said she knew leadership would come with challenges to her reputation and associations, but "I'm adamant about staying focused on the work at hand."
"Some people are critical of George Norcross, but we're people that get it done," Redd said. "I need to have people around me that I know, that I trust and Novella has been very loyal to me. When I decided to run for mayor I asked her early on was she prepared to make the sacrifices and she decided if you need me, I will be with you."
Angel Cordero, a Camden community and school choice activist, said Hinson acts as if she's the one calling the shots.
"There's not a plus side to having Ms. Hinson in city hall," said Cordero, who ran against Redd for mayor. "People are on edge. She's a nightmare to be around."
Karl Walko, president of Camden County Council 10, an independent labor union that represents about 450 non-uniformed city employees, said he hears similar complaints.
"The question I got when Dana Redd ran for mayor is, "What do you think Novella is going to do? Is she going to be the business administrator?' Walko said. "They were so worried that they'd have to deal with her on a daily basis."
Redd bristled at accusations that Hinson was meddling where she shouldn't or acting inappropriately. Aides can be assigned to do any task, whether that means picking up a document or representing the mayor at a meeting, Redd said.
She also defended her decision to have Hinson ride with her to work and throughout the day. It's not unusual for government leaders to bring a trusted assistant with them to take notes, Redd said.
"Just like Barack Obama has Rahm Emanuel, I have Novella Hinson," she said. "I need to have somebody who has my back. I didn't get here by myself. It was her lived experience, her past experience and being able to share that wisdom."
Redd dismissed complaints about Hinson's past as unfair political attacks.
The parades and other activities Hinson was criticized for are things that residents ask for today, Redd said.
"Those were the types of activities that brought the community together from all walks of life and why shouldn't we have those activities?" she said.
Redd cited Hinson's after-school programs, community newsletters and an award-winning anti-littering campaign as examples of her adviser's accomplishments. Hinson was also instrumental in creating a redevelopment plan for Liberty Park and lobbying for funding to build a massive housing development in Centerville, Redd said.
"For everyone who has complained about her, there are probably 10 or more who respect her," Redd said.
Hinson draws high praise from many people in south central Camden, where she lives and has devoted much of her time.
Liberty Park resident Pat Gibson credited Hinson for bringing community cleanups and homeownership programs to its neighborhood association.
"She works real hard for the residents, they brag about her constantly," Gibson said. "Everybody who knew Novella knew that if you needed something done, you went to Novella."
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