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Title of county commissioner will replace freeholder as panel reorganizes for 2021

The five officials who comprise Monmouth County’s governing body will reorganize for 2021 in a meeting to be held at 4 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Collins Arena on the campus of Brookdale Community College, Lincroft.

The 2021 reorganization meeting will mark a milestone in Monmouth County government as the panel changes its centuries-old name from the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders to the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners.

The name change complies with legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law in 2020 that became effective on Jan. 1. The legislation requires the title of “chosen freeholder” to be changed to “county commissioner” and all “boards of chosen freeholders” to be known as “boards of county commissioners.”

In a press release, Murphy was quoted as saying, “We have an obligation to ensure that governance in New Jersey is inclusive and representative of the tremendous diversity of our great state. Amid a national reckoning to re-examine vestiges rooted in structural racism, this action will eliminate the use of the term ‘freeholder’ in county government – a title that is an outgrowth of a time when people of color and women were excluded from public office.”

The members of the 2021 Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners will be Thomas A. Arnone, Susan M. Kiley, Nick DiRocco, Lillian G. Burry and Ross Licitra. All five commissioners are Republicans.

In the Nov. 3 election, Burry and Licitra defeated Democrats Michael Penna and Moira Nelson in the race for two three-year terms on the board. Licitra won his first term on the board, while Burry was re-elected to continue her service to the county.

Official results posted online by the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office showed Burry receiving 199,277 votes and Licitra receiving 197,823 votes to win the seats. Penna received 163,321 votes and Nelson received 160,812 votes. There are 53 municipalities in Monmouth County.

County government in New Jersey dates back to 1798.

The responsibilities of the governing body include legislative and executive functions, including the oversight and regulation of county property and finances; the upkeep of 380 miles of county roads and nearly 1,000 bridges; maintenance of more than 15,000 acres of county park lands; preparing and adopting the county budget; authorizing expenditures and bonds; appointing county officials and members to boards, commissions and authorities; and supervising the administration of county government, according to the Monmouth County website.

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