Fitzgerald leaving Colts Neck government for county post

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By Peter Elacqua
Staff Writer

COLTS NECK – Michael Fitzgerald will step down from the Colts Neck Township Committee in January in order to accept the position of county counsel in Monmouth County.

Fitzgerald’s resignation will be effective Jan. 8. Because Fitzgerald is a Republican, as are all five members of the town’s governing body, the local Republican Party will have 15 days to submit three names to the Township Committee for consideration as Fitzgerald’s successor. The committee members will then have 15 days to make an appointment to fill the open seat.

“I am honored to have been chosen for the position of county counsel,” Fitzgerald said. “It has only been available twice in 30-plus years and it only became available because my predecessor, Andrea Bazer, has chosen to continue her public service on the bench as a judge. I am excited to have the opportunity to be exposed to and to advise the different departments and so many different operations that serve the residents of Monmouth County.”

Fitzgerald is serving his third three-year term on the Township Committee. He served as Colts Neck’s mayor in 2013 and was expected to be named mayor for 2017 by his fellow committee members.

“It is a weird feeling to give up the opportunity of being mayor of a great town for work,” he said.

Fitzgerald said stepping down from the governing body “is bittersweet. The position I consider as a promotion in my field came at the cost of having to leave the committee prematurely. I would have loved to have stayed on the committee and continued to serve with the terrific public servants on the committee and the competent professional staff.”

For many years, the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders retained the services of a private attorney to provide legal services as needed. About a decade ago, the freeholders decided to hire an attorney and to bring the position of county counsel in house. Bazer was the first person to hold the in-house attorney’s position.

“[Bazer] transitioned very effectively and positively in the course of the eight years she was there,” Fitzgerald said. “During that time she made the office a much more professional and organized operation, which I expect to continue.”

The position of county counsel carries a salary of $160,000.