TOMS RIVER – Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari returned to a very familiar role, that of director of the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Vicari previously served 11 times as Director of the Board, most recently in 2017. He was chosen among his peers to serve as director in 2020. He is the longest serving Freeholder in New Jersey, having first been elected in 1981 and previously served as mayor of Dover (now Toms River) Township five times. He is a retired school superintendent.
“It’s a privilege to be selected by my fellow freeholders to lead the board in the New Year,” Vicari said.
Gary Quinn, the newest member of the board, having been elected in 2018, will serve as deputy director. Quinn previously served on the Lacey Committee for 15 years and also served as the township’s mayor for several years. He is the director of both the Human Services and Transportation Departments and the liaison to the Ocean County Department of Solid Waste and the Ocean County Mosquito Commission.
The new director and deputy director were sworn during the board’s annual re-organization meeting. Vicari serves as Chairman of the Office of Senior Services and the Department of Consumer Affairs. He is also liaison to the Ocean County Vocational-Technical Schools and the Department of Tourism and Business Development.
Among his priorities for 2020 include continuation of affordable government, Vicari said. “Ocean County has the fourth-lowest county tax rate in the state. I can promise our residents that there will be no surprises when the county budget is introduced later this year.”
Stressing education as another priority, Vicari said the opening of the new vocational school Performing Arts Academy at Ocean County College will be a highlight of 2020. “The new state-of-the-art facility will allow students to complete a two-year college degree while still in high school.”
Another issue that will carry through to 2020 includes “fighting for senior citizens and opposing both federal and state cuts to senior programs,” Vicari said. “Washington D.C. and Trenton cannot balance their budgets on the backs of our seniors. It has to stop.”
Vicari said he also looks forward to working closely with Quinn.
“I look forward to serving with Freeholder Director Vicari and the other members of the board in maintaining our AAA bond rating,” Quinn said. A good bond rating, like AAA, allows the county to borrow money at a lower rate. “Affordability and outstanding services have long been priorities of this Board of Freeholders and will continue to be in 2020.”
Before Vicari and Quinn flipped their nameplates to show their new titles, Congressman Chris Smith administered the oath of office to Freeholder Virginia E. “Ginny” Haines who was sworn in for her second three-year term. She had served as the board’s director in 2019.
She was appointed to the Board on January 27, 2016 to fill the seat left vacant by Freeholder James F. Lacey.
Haines, who serves as chairwoman to the department of Parks and Recreation and the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee, noted “there are 600,000 people who live in Ocean County. As we get to the business of county government I am sure 2020 will have its share of challenges what year doesn’t but I know each year brings new opportunities.”
In a moment of levity, Freeholder Kelly thanked 3rd District Democrat Congressman Andy Kim for attending the meeting among the many Ocean County dignitaries present, saying, “listen to Van Drew” in reference to Rep. Jefferson H. Van Drew who was the Democratic nominee in New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district in the 2018 election and who on December 19, 2019, announced that he had joined the Republican Party.
“I started elected office in 1979. I wasn’t even married yet. However, Congressman Chris Smith was a congressman in 1979 and he is now the senior member of congress in the state of New Jersey. I am serving my tenth term on the Board of Chosen Freeholders,” Kelly said.
Kelly who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Finance said, “I assure you this year’s budget taxes will not go up and I believe they will again go down.”
Freeholder Gerry P. Little was among those who gave praise to former Freeholder and Ocean County Republican Party leader Joseph Buckelew and noted that Ocean County has the largest parks system, road system and library system in the state. “We also have the largest public health agency in the state.”
Quinn and Haines both commended Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy who was sworn in for a new term of office in a separate swearing in ceremony earlier in the day.
Kim told the members of the board, “I have faith in the people of Ocean County and the five of you.”
“It is a pleasure to work with you. You have great senses of humor you get the job done and you are great lawmakers for the county,” Smith said of the Freeholder board.
Buckelew said “if the rest of New Jersey modeled Ocean County it would be a better state. I am proud of you all.”