CAMDEN - 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 earned an associate's degree from Edison College in Trenton and started working for the city as a clerk and typist in 1963.
Like her father, Hinson
said, Dana Redd loved politics and loved Camden.
"I saw her
work ethic back then," Hinson
As far as mentors went, Hinson
had the right connections.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
'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.
department was eliminated, Hinson
returned to her
prior post in public works.
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.
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
Wayne Bryant, who stepped down on corruption charges, Hinson
accompanied her to legislative sessions in Trenton.
volunteers "to do what I think is important to do.
There's nothing better than helping residents become empowered, she
"I'm not a philanthropist, but I'm a philanthropist with my time and experience," she
"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
emphasized that she'd never been fined or found guilty of any wrongdoing.
couldn't comment on the public works case because it was a legal matter.
leadership in the Department of Community Affairs.
followed the mandate she
was given, which was to provide opportunities for the more than 30,000 young people living in the city
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
may be politically astute, Knoche said, but political agendas can also get in the way of delivering services.
"I need to have people around me that I know, that I trust and Novella
has been very loyal to me.
"There's not a plus side to having Ms. Hinson in city hall," said Cordero, who ran against Redd for mayor.
"The question I got when Dana Redd ran for mayor is, "What do you think Novella
is going to do?
"Just like Barack Obama has Rahm Emanuel, I have Novella Hinson
after-school programs, community newsletters and an award-winning anti-littering campaign as examples of her adviser's accomplishments.
was also instrumental in creating a redevelopment plan for Liberty Park and lobbying for funding to build a massive housing development in Centerville, Redd
draws high praise from many people in south central Camden, where she
lives and has devoted much of her
Liberty Park resident Pat Gibson credited Hinson
for bringing community cleanups and homeownership programs to its neighborhood association.
"Everybody who knew Novella
knew that if you needed something done, you went to Novella
Camden Mayor Dana Redd (center) and Novella Hinson (right) talk with property manager Ronda High while visiting Antioch Manor and John O. Parker Hall in Camden last week. Redd dismissed complaints about Hinson's past as unfair political attacks.
Camden Mayor Dana Redd (center) and Novella Hinson (right) talk with property manager Ronda High while visiting Antioch Manor and John O. Parker Hall in Camden last week.