Ocean County Freeholder Candidates On Finances, Drug Epidemic

Ocean County Administration Building (Photo by Chris Lundy)

OCEAN COUNTY – Four men are facing off for two, three-year terms on the Board of Chosen Freeholders, the body that governs the day-to-day operations of Ocean County.

Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little is running for re-election. Gary Quinn is taking John Bartlett’s place on the Republican side after Bartlett announced his retirement. They vow to continue providing services to residents while being fiscally responsible.

Democrats Teddy Price and Vince Minichino are challenging them. They said they want to increase the county’s efforts in bringing in jobs and fighting the opioid epidemic. Currently, the five-member Freeholder board are all Republicans.

Each candidate was given the same list of questions, and instructed not to make negative attacks on the competition. Their answers are below, edited for narrative flow. The candidates are presented in the order their responses were received.

New running mates Gerry P. Little and Gary Quinn (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

Gerry Little, Surf City, has been a freeholder since 2003. Prior to that he served on the Surf City Borough Council from 1995 to 2003, and was on the Long Beach Township Board of Commissioners from 1988 to 1991. He retired in 2003 as the chief of staff for the 9th Legislative District.

He has been involved in many organizations, including the Surf City Taxpayer’s Association, Alliance for a Living Ocean, the USO, and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots. He is the former chairman of the Ocean County Planning Board and the Ocean County Natural Lands Advisory Board.

Gary Quinn, Lacey, has been on the Lacey Township Committee since 2003. The committee chooses a new mayor from among them every year, and he has served as mayor five years. He served five years on the Lacey Township School Board, including one year as its president.

He said he is currently working in management and sales, is a real estate broker, and has had a 40-year career in real estate development, management and sales.

He has been a member of several civic groups, including the Rotary Club of Forked River and the Lacey Township Chamber of Commerce, serving as president of those organizations at times. He has been involved in youth sports, such as Lacey Little League, Lacey Soccer, and BCYAA Basketball.

Little and Quinn issued a joint statement for their goals for the next three years. They want to continue the government that has provided the county with its extremely good AAA bond rating, and having the fourth-lowest property taxes in the state. A bond rating is like a credit score for the county. It allows the county to borrow money at a lower rate because lenders know the county is in good financial shape.

“Ocean County is home to more than 42,000 veterans, more than any other county in New Jersey. These brave men and women have made great sacrifices for our nation and our freedom. Now, it is our turn to ensure that they receive all the benefits to which they are entitled,” they said. Currently, Little serves as the liaison to the Ocean County Bureau of Veterans Services and thanks each one of our veterans for their service.

“Preserving open space has been another priority for the Board of Freeholders,” the statement read. “To date, our Natural Lands Trust Fund has protected more than 16,000 acres of open space throughout the county. Just recently, the Board agreed to purchase the Forked River Mountains tract in Lacey and Ocean townships, which will add another 8,000 acres of pristine pinelands to the protected list. The county also operates one the finest public parks systems in the state. Planning in now underway for a new county park in Manchester Township. Berkeley Island Park also reopened this year, with new facilities including the county’s first splash park, after it was completely destroyed by Super Storm Sandy.

“Low taxes, open space, services for veterans and seniors, parks, an award-winning library system, state-of-the-art vocational-technical schools and an exceptional community college all contribute to providing our residents with an outstanding quality of life,” they said.

Teddy Price, Toms River, is a lineman for PSE&G, and is a shop steward for IBEW local 94.

He has been a coach and volunteer for the Toms River Soccer Association, and president of the Toms River East Booster Club. He is an active volunteer and donor to the ASPCA, and donor to Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

“I never held public office. I believe that’s a good thing,” he said. “We need to drain the swamp by removing these lifetime politicians from the freeholder office.”

Teddy Price (Photo courtesy Teddy Price)

If elected, he would create an Economic Development Authority. This group would have the power to pair municipalities with businesses that want to relocate to Ocean County.

“In Burlington County, the EDA brought in Amazon, Suzuki and a large distribution center for retailer B&M, creating thousands of good paying jobs,” he said.

There’s been no previous effort to bring strong businesses to the county, he said. This forces residents to commute to work.

“Our children graduate with skills and degrees, then they leave because they can’t find good paying jobs here,” he said. “Ocean County residents deserve good paying jobs closer to home. Wages paid in Ocean County are the lowest in the state.”

Ocean County needs more commercial development, not residential, he said.

“I want to offer tax abatements for small, medium and large businesses. We have to offer incentives to businesses to bring jobs to Ocean County instead of tax breaks to builders for multifamily housing,” he said. “Overdevelopment in Ocean County is out of control.”

Part of his plan would be to implement a rate of growth ordinance. This would cause builders to make long-term commitments to the community they build in.

Vince Minichino, Brick, is a lifelong resident of Ocean County and is the business agent and trustee for Teamster Local 469. He has coached a Brick Little League team, and volunteered with the Jersey Shore Council of the Jersey Shore, and was a rider with the American Legion Motorcycle Riders Association.

“The most important issue facing our county, and our country, is the opioid epidemic,” he said. “For too long Ocean County and Monmouth County, our neighbor to the north, have been ground zero for the opioid crisis in New Jersey.

Vince Minichino (Photo courtesy Point Beach Democrats)

“Progress has been made. First responders routinely carry naloxone, which can bring drug users close to death back to life. But the real answer is not preventing deaths by overdose, it is preventing the use and abuse that leads to these overdoses,” he continued. “There is no magic bullet, and I know that schools, parents and other agencies are trying to prevent the drug abuse. My proposal is we work with the County Board of Health as follows:

  • Hold irresponsible prescribers responsible. It is not acceptable to prescribe large doses of narcotic drugs without close supervision, follow up, and warning about the dangers of dependencies. Most doctors are careful and appropriate with their prescriptions, but too many legally prescribed drugs end up being abused.
  • Educate the parents. Schools attempt to teach students the dangers of drugs, but many students aren’t paying attention, and many parents do not attend the educational seminars available to them. The county should be inventive in disseminating information – information enclosed in tax bills, information through social media, and a speaker bureau available to make short presentations at public meetings.
  • Put the high level drug dealers in jail. Addicts need to be diverted to treatment. Serious drug dealers need to be taken off the streets.
  • Treat the addicts. The county has been proactive in finding treatment for opioid addicts, but access to effective, affordable treatment must be improved.”