Be prepared, listen to the community, respond with authenticity, inform and find a compromise.
Jennifer Keyes-Maloney, the Ewing Township Council’s newest addition, not only advocates for these principles, she lives by them. Elected in January 2013 to the Council, Keyes-Maloney has lived in the town for almost 20 years since she began studying Public Administration and History at Trenton State College.
Now, after obtaining her M.A. in Business Administration and a degree in Law, she works two jobs that at first glance might seem distinct and unlinked: she is one hand a legislator for her beloved hometown, and on the other hand, she is a lobbyist for the NJ state public education. In fact, she finds that certain skills she has developed since her time at the TSC have been transferrable across many job experiences.
“What I’ve realized over the years is that life is going to take you in different directions and you have to be flexible about it,” Keyes-Maloney said. “I never expected to do what I do now.”
As Assistant Director of Government Relations, her official title at the Princip
als and Supervisors Association, she functions as a lobbyist for public principals and supervisors who are pursuing legislation relevant to their students and faculty—she must also communicate with legislators and coordinate these two operations to create effective education legislation that best suits all those who are involved.
Before she began at the PSA, she had already been doing lobbyist work for the NJ State Judiciary Courts. This experience lent Keyes-Maloney the fundamental understanding of state government, budgets, legislation that she now uses on a daily basis
As councilwoman, her responsibilities are not terribly different: she deals with budgets and legislation and, of course, she sits on Council meetings for which she must be prepared well in advance to listen and respond efficiently to the concerns of Ewing residents.
“The lobbying…aspect of my job at the court and then the lobbying aspect of my job at PSA ended up helping in terms of knowing…how a budget works and how resolutions happen,” Keyes-Maloney said, adding that ordinances are just laws writ small.
Above the Ewing Council’s role as both a legislative and budgetary body, it also serves as a vehicle for community engagement. Under that broad umbrella falls anything that might affect residents and which council members, such as Keyes-Maloney, advance in the name of township-wide modifications or campaigns.
For instance, Keyes-Maloney is the Council’s liaison to Ewing’s Green Team, which is a board of Ewing citizens who do community outreach and programming to promote sustainable activities among all residents. The Green Team is currently doing legwork for an anti-idling campaign, which Keyes-Maloney cited as an example of the Council’s efforts to authentically engage and cater to residents’ concerns.
“Our job as council people is to reflect the needs and wants of the members of the community,” Keyes-Maloney said.
What is unique about Keyes-Maloney is that she not only has lived in the town for many years, but also studied here, and has a deep passion for interpersonal communications, a skills she began to harness when she worked in publishing while attending TSC.
“At a certain point you owe it to your town,” Keyes-Maloney said. “I know that sounds hokey, but this is my home now. I’ve chosen to stay here, and if my skills can help make it a better place, then I think I have a duty to do that.”
Keyes-Maloney was a lobbyist for the NJ State Judiciary for several years, and after that position she moved on to her current position as the Assistant Director of Government Relations for the PSA.
Before she attends NJ Legislature’s bi-weekly meetings, which occur only when they are in session, she must prepare well in advance so she can ask questions and respond to any concerns that legislators may have about her recommendations and proposed amendments.
“You need to do your reading,” Keyes-Maloney said, a habit she was familiar with from Law school and is reinforced at the PSA and at the Council. Since Legislature agendas are only set one week prior to meetings, there is much to be prepared in advance: formulating amendments, offering suggestions, and sometimes developing a press release for the public.
“My boss at the judiciary used to tell me ‘our job was to fix the bills that are a problem, and to make the good bills better,” she said, “and that’s by and large what I am doing.