BERKELEY – With the pending retirement of Gerry Little, Berkeley Township Councilman John A. Bacchione announced his candidacy for a seat on the County Commissioners.
Little said that he will not seek re-election in 2021.
Little, 72, of Surf City, was appointed in 2003 to fill the term of the late Freeholder James Mancini. Prior to this he served on local boards and worked in a Congressional office.
Freeholder was a term for the five elected officials who oversee county operations. State law changed this title to “commissioner” for 2021.
All five County Commissioners are Republican. That party always endorses the incumbent during election time. This November, there will have to be a new name on the ballot.
“Like all Ocean County residents, we are saddened that Freeholder Little will not be seeking re-election. Freeholder Little has had a distinguished public service career that has spanned over 50 years. I would like to publicly thank Freeholder Little for his service to our country and his service to the citizens of Ocean County,” Councilman Bacchione said.
Bacchione, 62, was elected to a term on the Berkeley Township Board of Education in 2009. He ran for council in 2011 and won. He was on the same ticket as Councilman Carmen Amato, who won the mayor’s seat that year. Bacchione has successfully been re-elected to the council ever since.
He also served on the Berkeley Township Planning Board for eight years. He previously served on the Ocean County Workforce Investment Board.
Bacchione also had a seat on the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Advisory Committee. This is the volunteer group that makes recommendations to the county about what land to buy to preserve as open space. The county leaders chose to give that seat to someone else. After an outpouring of support for Bacchione, the county appointed him to a different vacancy on that committee.
County Republican Chairman Frank Holman said that four or five people have expressed interest in the County Commissioner spot, but they won’t know who the serious candidates are until January 16, the deadline to send resumes. The screening committee will interview candidates on February 6.
Generally speaking, the GOP will endorse a candidate, and they will have the party line in the primary election in the summer.
“Councilman Bacchione, as Chairman of our Council’s Finance Committee, has been instrumental in keeping our property taxes the second lowest overall in Ocean County, one of the lowest overall in New Jersey and played an important part of our two bond upgrades. Councilman Bacchione has our complete support,” said fellow Berkeley Councilman Keith A. Buscio.
Bacchione has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Montclair State University and for 26 years has been in the mortgage banking industry. He and his wife of 22 years, Jennifer, have three children – one who is a college graduate, one currently attending Stockton State University and one attending Central Regional High School. He is a member of the St. Barnabas Knights of Columbus #8603. Bacchione has been a full-time resident of Berkeley Township since 1997 and has had a family home here since 1964.
“I look forward to the screening process. I strongly feel my personal, elective and community experience make me uniquely qualified to serve as a Commissioner. Since Freeholder Little’s retirement announcement, I have made dozens of calls to various party officers and elected officials throughout Ocean County. I really appreciate the positive comments and encouragement I have received, along with the many commitments of support. I would like to thank my hometown of Berkeley Township where I have received unanimous support as this process moves forward,” Councilman Bacchione said.
As of press time, Little Egg Harbor Mayor Barbara Jo Crea is the only other candidate who has made an announcement to this newspaper.