The first Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners has been seated and its members are ready to direct the fortunes of Monmouth County’s 53 municipalities and 617,000 residents in 2021 as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to batter lives and businesses from Sandy Hook to Allentown.
For hundreds of years, the county’s governing body was known as the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The historic name reflected the fact that for many years, only certain individuals could serve on the body.
The name change that became effective on Jan. 1 complies with legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law in 2020. 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.” Owning land is not a requirement to serve on a board of county commissioners.
And so, in a reorganization meeting that was held on Jan 7 in the Collins Arena on the campus of Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed into history and the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners was created.
In one of the new governing body’s first acts of business, Commissioner Thomas A. Arnone was elected to serve as the board’s director for 2021 and Commissioner Susan M. Kiley was elected to serve as the board’s deputy director for 2021.
Arnone and Kiley are joined on the board by Lillian G. Burry, Ross Licitra and Nick DiRocco. Republicans have 5-0 control of the county’s governing body.
“I would like to thank the board for appointing me to serve as the 2021 director,” Arnone said. “Last year (dealing with the coronavirus pandemic) was challenging, but I am proud of everything we accomplished here in Monmouth County and the fact that we have not taken one day off since March 9 and have remained dedicated to protecting and serving our residents and businesses.
“We held conference calls every single week with all 53 mayors, met regularly with business chambers, the arts community and the many people who needed our help. We received $108 million in CARES Act funding and distributed $35 million to our businesses and nonprofits, and $25 million to our municipalities to reimburse them for COVID-19 expenses.
“But our work is far from done. We will work now on the COVID-19 vaccine and continue with our testing program as we carry on our fight to end this pandemic here in Monmouth County,” Arnone said.
“I am honored the board has put their faith in me to serve as deputy director again this year,” Kiley said. “I look forward to continuing to work with Director Arnone and the entire board on behalf of our Monmouth County residents.”
Prior to the selection of the board leadership, Burry was sworn in to begin her fifth three-year term in county government by state Superior Court Judge Lisa P. Thornton. Licitra was sworn in to begin serving his first three-year term as a commissioner, also by Thornton.
“Having just been elected to a new three-year term, I am prepared to commit myself to making the restoration of Monmouth County my highest priority. I am convinced we can bring Monmouth County back as a stronger, more sustainable and resilient place for people to work, play, visit and call home. There will be a place in this process for everyone here and I believe that working together there isn’t anything we can’t do,” Burry said.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege for me to have been elected by the residents of Monmouth County to offer my service on the already tremendous Board of County Commissioners,” Licitra said.
“I have been a public servant my entire adult life and cannot think of a better place to bring my 35 years of government service than this board, joining the leadership of Monmouth County. We all play a role here – municipal, county, state and federal (officials). I will give 110% and I will be honest and fair,” Licitra said.
Each of the commissioners thanked the county administration and employees for their hard work throughout 2020, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year, we were met with unprecedented challenges that impacted our local economy, resources, social services and public health systems. These were challenges we could not have prepared for and I am proud of the work our county has done and continues to do for our residents,” said DiRocco, who is beginning his second year in county government.
“We are not done with COVID-19 yet and we are back in the throes of this pandemic. I am confident that next year, I will be able to stand here and say we once again delivered essential services to all county residents,” he said. “We will continue to do what is needed to clear all of the hurdles.”
Arnone summed up the reorganization meeting by saying, “It is a team effort here in Monmouth County. We will continue to work hard for you. We are here if you need us.”
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.