As Somerset County officials were assigned to their respective positions this month at the annual reorganization meeting, history was made when Shanel Robinson was sworn in as the first ever black female Freeholder Director.
The meeting, which was held at the Somerset County Courthouse on Jan. 2, saw Gov. Phil Murphy, participate in a historic transfer of the freeholder board and sheriff’s office control to democratic leadership.
Officials said hundreds of New Jersey Democrats crowded the county courthouse to celebrate Murphy swearing in Melonie Marano as the newest Somerset County Freeholder and Darrin Russo as the new Somerset County Sheriff as well.
After Marano was sworn in, Robinson was unanimously elected freeholder director and Sara Sooy was unanimously elected deputy director by the bipartisan board, officially marking the transfer of control to the Democratic Party for the first time since 1965.
Robinson is the first black woman to serve as Somerset County Freeholder Director, and Sooy is the first Latina to serve as deputy director.
“After a year of service on this board, I know how fortunate we are to have the team that’s in place. While our priorities will change our commitment to the people of Somerset County will not,” Robinson said in a statement. “I have been given the awesome responsibility of leading the county as the director and I am required to not only take an oath but to live by and uphold the oath along with my Air Force core values— integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all I do.”
Robinson was elected to the Somerset County Freeholder Board in 2018.
She has been assigned to multiple positions such as Human Services which oversees several divisions; human services; mental health services; veterans services; youth services; Office of Aging and Disability; Social Services; Community Development; volunteer services; and Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
Robinson’s experience spans more than a decade of civic involvement in Franklin Township, including service as councilwoman and council president with involvement and oversight on municipal finance, the Hamilton Business Street Advisory, Housing Authority, Fire Prevention, Public Safety, IT Steering Committee, Fire Chiefs Committee, and Puerto Rican Action Board.
She attended Southern University A&M College where she was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma (Physics Honor Society) obtaining a background in electronics useful to service in the United States Air Force Reserves where she served for eight years as an Avionics Specialist.
She also served as an Information Technology Infrastructure Library-certified Information Technologies Manager at Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in New Brunswick.