Board reaches out by reaching in

Experts expect Heller to be chosen as next district manager

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The search for a district manager in Community Board 8 will come to close April 19, and it really looks like it’s Michael Heller’s job to lose. 

Heller, the chair of both the transportation and consumer affairs committees, is now considered a favorite to win the job after an executive session April 5 that had CB8 members talking replacements for the now-retired Patricia Manning.

Although the board has not released a public list of candidates, Heller’s bid for the job was revealed after CB8 chair Daniel Padernacht asked the public and anyone on the executive committee applying for the position to leave the executive committee meeting. That left both Heller and aging chair Lisa Daub sitting on the outside looking in. 

“Why did they kick you out?” board member David Gellman asked Heller. 

“Because they kicked me out,” Heller said, obviously playing coy.

“What about you?” Gellman asked Daub.

“They kicked me out,” she replied, smiling at Heller. 

Gellman looked on either side of him, making eye contact with a few people waiting in the hallway wondering what was up until finally Robert Press, a former community board member and known applicant for the position, tapped his shoulder. 

“They had to kick out anyone who may have applied to be the next district manager,” he said, doing his best impression of a whisper.

The executive session continued on for nearly 45 minutes as Steven Froot, a member of the three-person committee that waded through more than 50 applicants, presented the committee with the candidate he and his cohort, including Karen Pesh and Lamont Parker, had deemed best for the job. 

While the names of people looking to take Manning’s old job have been kept confidential for legal reasons, sources close to the community board have indicated a current board member may be the most likely candidate. 

Heller and Daub are at least two members of the board who applied for the job. Heller has a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University, according to his LinkedIn page. He also has worked more than three decades in community affairs and public relations for the city transit authority — Montefiore Medical System, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Jacobi Medical Center. 

If the board does indeed intend to select a current member as the new district manager, Heller’s experience working for government agencies and members of the public may serve him well in applying for a job that consists largely of complaint-taking and working with residents trying to contact the community board. 

Another mark in the win column for Heller is his four-decades long friendship with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. 

The assemblyman has privately backed Heller’s quest to become district manager, according to at least three people with knowledge of Dinowitz’s activities. And while he said he has not contacted any board members about the position, Dinowitz was certainly not shy about his support for his longtime friend. 

“He would be superb at the job,” Dinowitz said. “In fact, he’s over-qualified for the job. The positions he has held over the years … suggest that he has significant knowledge in a lot of areas.”

Heller did not need anyone to lobby in support of him, Dinowitz added, because his career and Riverdale roots would speak for themselves. 

“I don’t think that people care for political involvement on the board,” he said. “The process isn’t like that.”

The board could formally offer Heller the position April 19 when it meets publicly on the district manager search for the first time, voting on Manning’s replacement.

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