Thank you everyone and happy New Year. It is an absolute honor to be standing here as a part of this new and much improved Freeholder board. My first year on the board has been not only a great learning experience but also very productive. One of the initiatives I am most proud of is the Faith Based initiative we passed early last year. This is designed to provide services and programs without tax dollars in partnership with houses of worship and other non-profit organizations. It’s also a way to right size government which in my opinion, has taken on way too many of the roles of the private and non-profit sectors over the years. Another initiative I have worked on this year on behalf of the board is the creation of affordable housing in the county through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. So far, two municipally-owned lots have been identified in Middletown and one sub-dividable lot in Highlands to be turned over to Habitat at no cost for the construction of up to 15 units. Meetings with several other municipalities are being scheduled to inventory similar lots that can be redeveloped for affordable housing. This is the way it should be done – without the heavy hand of government and some costly, environmentally devastating unfunded mandate foisted upon the taxpayers.
This year also saw Monmouth County receive the Theodore Roosevelt Award from Risk and Insurance after an astounding 40% drop in workman’s comp claims since 2011. Sexy? No. A fiscal grand slam? Absolutely yes. This is the direct result of the superior management of our administration to create a safe work environment and also the efforts of our employees who are doing their part to improve wellness and help cut costs and save taxpayer dollars.
One of the roles that we play as freeholders is to advocate for the taxpayers and municipalities within the county. This means speaking out against policies from other levels of government that we find harmful to Monmouth County. Whether it’s legalizing recreational marijuana in the throes of a heroin epidemic, increasing spending by over three billion dollars, placing more regulatory burdens on small businesses, complicating the voting process with needless mandates, and on, and on, the Monmouth County freeholders will not remain silent. This year we will also be unveiling our Contract with Monmouth County which in short, is a position statement on a number of issues important to the residents. I believe in these times of 24-hour news cycles and endless sources of information of sometimes questionable veracity, a clear vision and philosophical blueprint is imperative to maintain the confidence and trust of the taxpayers. It will also show Monmouth County to be a collective voice of reason – even if it runs contrary to the policies of the leadership in Trenton.
I also feel that county government works best when it fosters strong relationships with the municipal governments within its boundaries. All of us have been mayors, which allow us a unique understanding of the needs and challenges facing municipal government. As a result, we are well-suited to partner with towns on shared services, preserving open space, redevelopment projects, substance abuse prevention, not to mention social services and law enforcement.
Before I finish, I just want to say a word about my fellow freeholders – each of whom brings enormous experience and knowledge to the board. Director Tom Arnone has been a tireless advocate for economic development and business attraction to the county. Lillian Burry has been a longtime proponent of open space preservation and the cultural arts, making Monmouth’s park system and county library the envy of New Jersey. Pat Impreveduto’s decades long tenure as an educator is invaluable for the county’s vaunted college and votech high schools. And my friend and running mate Sue Kiley’s career in the healthcare industry brings an added dimension for that aspect of the county administration. Sheriff Shaun Golden and County Clerk Christine Hanlon do a phenomenal job for the county in their respective roles and I thank them for their support. I feel fortunate to be a part of such an accomplished, talented team.
I also want to thank my beautiful wife Geraldine and children Alannah and Daniel for being so understanding and supportive as I take so much time from them to fulfill my duties on the numerous boards and commissions on which I serve.
In closing, Monmouth County is one of the most desirable in the state with a AAA bond rating, a world class park system, a top notch infrastructure and superior services. It did not happen by accident, but through the strong, visionary leadership of my colleagues and those who came before. My style and temperament of serving in office has also worked well, that is – being accessible to constituents, treating workers and fellow officials with dignity and respect, never attacking anyone publicly, and working with everyone, regardless of party for the good of the taxpayers. I am humbled and honored to be serving on the board of chosen freeholders and will give nothing less than a 110% effort every step of the way. Once again, a very happy new year and may God bless Monmouth County and God Bless America. Thank you.