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Building connections: Borough Administrator Cass Duffey looks back at her 15 years with Collingswood

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Borough Administrator Cass Duffey stands outside the municipal building in downtown Collingswood. (Photo by Jamie Stow/08108)

During the string of snow and ice storms in February, Cass Duffey walked to work.

Truly, she enjoys her job as the Borough Administrator of Collingswood so much that Mother Nature can’t keep her away.

That, and well, Duffey only lives a few blocks away from the municipal building.

Raising her family in Collingswood and being in the position to help her neighbors each day at work are both labors of love.

“I think mostly everybody recognizes that it is a unique, special place,” Duffey said about Collingswood. “There’s a certain sense of community that you don’t get everywhere else.”

Duffey, who graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in Public Relations from Rowan University, has worked for Collingswood since 2006. Her roles included media and constituent relations, graphic design, copywriting, branding, community and business development.

Over the last 15 years, her extensive efforts have attracted reoccurring media coverage.

“Collingswood, at the time, was really on the rise and they were getting a ton of media attention, the New York Times was calling and they didn’t have anyone managing their media relations,” she explained, “so a professor at the time said there was a brand new opening in Collingswood, and I actually said to him, ‘I don’t have any interest in working in local government,’ and he said you should just go for the experience. 

“I did and that was 15 years ago.”

Cass Duffey has worked for Collingswood for 15 years. She became borough administrator last summer. (Photo by Jamie Stow/08108)

In 2018, Duffey was recognized with a “Top 40 Under 40” award by Southern New Jersey Business People. 

“When I stepped in and they were really on the rise, the administration here had already laid a lot of the groundwork and they were really trending upward,” Duffey added, “and at that point, it was just building and keeping the momentum going.”

In September, she moved into the role of Borough Administrator when Keith Hastings retired. She was promoted from her dual roles as Director of  Communication/Community Development and Business Improvement District Director. 

“It was a super special time to jump in,” she said with a laugh about sliding into her new job during the pandemic.

Duffey acclimated quickly as she was already challenged during the COVID shutdown.

“My husband is a freight railroad conductor and he works nights and I work days and we have three kids, all elementary school or younger,” said Duffey, who worked remotely until late June. “During the pandemic, we were fully activated. As a local government, we were having calls with everybody up to three times a day and my house was also an elementary school, so we were quite busy last spring.”

Duffey attended Edgewood High School, which is now Winslow Township.

“I was the last graduating high school class from Edgewood,” said Duffey, who grew up in Atco. “So I’m South Jersey born and bred.”

She credits the administration for being open and for interesting ideas from the public as a reason for Collingswood’s success.

“The farmers market is just a great example of a resident saying we should have a farmers market and we said we would work with you to build that and it’s one of the best markets in the region,” she said.

“Most of the good ideas we’ve had came from that type of feedback and capitalizing on the good ideas of residents.”

And, of course, she is one of those concerned residents with good ideas.

“Those moments when you really get to connect with people, that’s when you feel I helped someone today, or I improved the services today,” she said. “Those are the best days on the job.”

Even when those days are the ones she walked to work in the ice and snow.

KEVIN CALLAHAN
Kevin, a published author of three novels, is in his 36th year writing sports, travel and outdoor stories, focusing in and around South Jersey and Philadelphia. After 33 years writing for the Courier Post, the 58-year-old embarked on a freelance writing career with the release of his trilogy – The Black Rose, The Fish Finder and The Chess Game in 2017.

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