OCEAN COUNTY – He has always taken pride in his being the longest serving County Commissioner (formerly Freeholder) in the state and his sharing of both Ocean County/U.S. and world history, but all good things come to an end as Joseph Vicari announced today that he will not seek re-election in the fall.
Vicari, who is serving as Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners this year, said in his letter to all Ocean County Department heads that after much soul searching, “I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. After more than 43 years of public service, I have decided to retire and devote more time to my family.”
“I am forever thankful to the people of Ocean County, who have seen fit to return me to office time and time again since 1981. Thanks to their enduring support, I will leave office as the longest serving Freeholder/Commissioner in the State of New Jersey,” he added.
Vicari noted his nearly five decades of work serving the people of Ocean County. “I have dedicated much of my life to improving the quality of life of our senior citizens and our younger families alike. I first came to public office in 1979, when I was elected to the Dover Township Committee. I held office there until 1994, during which time I was also privileged to serve five years as mayor.”
During his long tenure, Vicari said he experienced Dover Township become Toms River Township and the Board of Chosen Freeholders morph into the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. “What hasn’t changed is my commitment to bringing our residents the best possible services at the most affordable cost.”
He noted that while serving in elected office, he dedicated himself to educating children. Vicari served as a teacher, principal and superintendent of schools.
He served on the County’s Ciba-Geigy Advisory Committee in the 1980s and also served on committees which had him liaison with the Ocean County Vocational Technical School District, the Ocean County Library, Veterans and Senior Services.
Vicari also served as chairman of Senior Services, expanded the county’s Meals-on-Wheels program and initiated new efforts to keep the county’s more than 200,000 seniors healthy. He also fought for a new veteran’s clinic in Ocean County and worked with local environmental groups to protect the Barnegat Bay and preserve open space and protect the county’s beaches.
He worked with the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs aggressively targeting scammers who tried to victimize seniors and other residents.
Vicari expanded the County’s library system with new programs and branches and as technology changed the library kept in step with VHS tapes moving to DVD rentals and the introduction of eBooks loans.
His seasonal Buy in Ocean County effort promoted local businesses and became a year-round effort that helped funnel customers to locally owned small shops and restaurants. He is credited as playing a key role in aiding tourism reach new levels. Tourism now generates $7 billion yearly into the local economy.
Under Vicari’s tenure, the county achieved, and continues to maintain, a highly coveted Triple AAA Bond rating which is the highest rating available.
“Like everyone else, I’ve seen my share of good times and bad. Some of the worst times for us here in Ocean County were Superstorm Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our residents came through both disasters with resilience and fortitude. I truly believe Ocean County emerged stronger,” he said.
Vicari added, “the time has come for me to devote more time to my wife of 51 years, Joyce, my children and my two beautiful grandchildren. Anyone who volunteers for public service is often forced to divide their time between that service and their family. That’s a concession I’m no longer willing to make.”
The official thanked the “many outstanding individuals, from both parties that I have shared the dais with both as a committeeman and freeholder/commissioner. No elected official can do it alone. Public service requires teamwork, compromise and a willingness to hear opposing opinions.”
He also thanked the “many talented and dedicated professionals in Toms River Township and Ocean County’s government who have assisted me over the years. My tenure would not have been possible with the hard work of these outstanding men and women.”
“Rest assured that although I will not seek re-election, the people of Ocean County will always be in my thoughts and in my heart. It has been my privilege to serve you all,” Vicari said in conclusion.