By Kayla J. Marsh
Vincent Solomeno, a 30-year-old who hails from Hazlet, believes that his energy, passion and experience as a leader will assist him in his drive to become the newest Monmouth County Surrogate.
“I am a life-long Monmouth County resident,” Solomeno, said in an interview Jan. 7. “I grew up here and I love where we live.
While Solomeno still has a long campaign ahead of him —if elected in November he would replace current Surrogate Rosemarie D. Peters, who is serving her second term — he is excited to bring his ideas to residents and to listen to their thoughts and opinions.
“In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to serve in the Army overseas and at home and I believe that I have something to offer as Surrogate and I believe it’s time for new ideas, a fresh perspective and someone who is more active in our community.”
Raised in Union Beach, Solomeno is a member of the Hazlet Land Use Board and is the third generation of his family to call Monmouth County home.
A Captain in the New Jersey Army National Guard, he has received the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal for his work before and after superstorm Sandy assisting in devastated communities across the county.
He recently returned from an overseas deployment to Central and Southwest Asia where he served as a future operations officer with U.S. Army Central Command.
“As an Army officer, I’ve had the opportunity to lead women and men in uniform and I have taken on difficult tasks and have managed complex problems,” he said. “I would like to bring that same energy and service-oriented leadership to the Surrogates office, specifically when it comes to raising awareness about issues that are going to become more of a challenge in the next decade as our population gets older and the role of the Surrogate becomes more important.”
The Monmouth County Surrogate is a constitutional officer who is elected to the position every five years.
Some of the duties of the Surrogate include the probating of wills, appointing estate administrators, supervising guardians and administering adoptions.
“I believe in public service and that’s just something that is fundamental about me and fortunately we live in a place where there are countless individuals who volunteer everyday to offer service in some form,” he said.
Solomeno said the idea to run for Monmouth County Surrogate really took hold as he talked with county residents and listened to their concerns.
“I think the idea of really running for this office took hold as I talked with individuals who were older residents who were making some decisions about their estate planning and about their wills and frankly there’s a growing challenge with the population getting older,” he said.
“…11 years from now, one out of five of our residents are going to be over the age of 65.”
Solomeno said the risk of older residents being taken advantage of is a concern of his.
“There’s a danger in my mind for those individuals to be taken advantage of by their guardians, which the Surrogate has a role in appointing, and as Surrogate I would definitely raise awareness about these issues, be more out there in the community and make sure that people are educated about the choices that they are going to be asked to make,” he said.
“It’s a growing problem and it’s sad when anyone gets abused in this form, but from a taxpayers perspective, when individuals, be it dishonest attorneys or perhaps dishonest friends or family, when they take advantage of these individuals, it is the taxpayer who ends up baring the burden and an active and energetic Surrogate should be out there as a watchdog, making sure that residents are educated about the choices that they are making and monitoring guardians to make sure that they are complying with the law and that all of our residents are treated fairly with dignity and with respect.”
Solomeno said the Surrogate is also responsible in times when minors inherit funds or win funds and is responsible for making sure those funds are managed appropriately.
“So it is not necessarily an aged-based issue it is really a public policy challenge and I believe we need a more active and energetic Surrogate to take on those challenges and I would like to be that person,” he said.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity because what it is going to require is putting every working day meeting with individuals, listening to their concerns, sharing my ideas and hopefully earning the trust of my fellow residents.
“I think my background, my education, my experience, what I hope that it communicates is a belief in the potential for public service, to make a big difference in terms of protecting our residents and making sure they have access to information and resources, and most importantly, that the Surrogates office is run in a way that is efficient and maximizes tax dollars so that we are delivering the best possible services at the lowest possible cost.
“I believe it is time for a new generation of leaders [and] I have fresh ideas and new ideas to offer the people of Monmouth County.”