Following her confirmation and swearing in by the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee on March 25, Claribel Cortes was sworn in on March 26 by Middlesex County Clerk Nancy J. Pinkin to serve as Middlesex County’s surrogate.
With her confirmation and swearing in, Cortes becomes not only the first Latina to serve as Middlesex County surrogate, but the first Latina constitutional officer in Middlesex County history, according to information provided by Middlesex County.
The county surrogate acts as the judge of the Middlesex County Surrogate’s Court, which is responsible for probating wills; processing adoptions, contested probate matters and alleged incompetents; filming and recording all probate proceedings; investing minors’ funds; appointing guardians of minors; and handling the administration of estates without wills, according to the statement.
“Today is an important day not only for Claribel Cortes, but it is an historic one for Middlesex County,” Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald G. Rios said in the statement.
“We are honored to have her take on the role of county surrogate, a position which will see her directly impact the lives of countless Middlesex County residents.
“On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, I offer my sincere congratulations and a warm welcome to Surrogate Cortes. I look forward to working together on behalf of the people of Middlesex County,” Rios said.
Cortes currently serves on the North Brunswick Township Council, where she is the communications liaison. She filled the vacancy left by the late Robert Corbin in 2020 and was elected to the seat in the November election.
From 2017-20, Cortes was a member of the North Brunswick Township Board of Education, where she chaired the board’s Community Relations Committee.
She is a past member of the Board of Trustees of Middlesex College.
Since 2017, she has been a vice chair and board member of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, which represents more than 119,000 Hispanic-owned businesses throughout New Jersey.
Cortes is a media executive with nearly three decades of experience working for such companies as Fox News, ABC News, and, most recently, the Associated Press.
As the director of digital media for the Associated Press, she managed a global news division, securing partnerships with Warner Brothers, Sony and Disney, according to the statement.
Since 2017, Cortes has served as the co-founder and president of the Setroc Group, a New Brunswick-based, minority- and veteran-owned business that assists mid- to large-size firms and government agencies in expanding their media footprint in the Hispanic market via digital and broadcast media.
She is currently completing an executive program at Penn State University in social impact strategy and will continue on to an MPA.
As an avid runner and marathoner, she volunteers as a head coach for the organization Girls on the Run.
Cortes takes over the position of county surrogate left vacant by former Surrogate Kevin J. Hoagland, who retired in December after 28 years of service.
The Office of the County Surrogate will be on the ballot in the November 2021 general election.
Cortes could not be reached by press time.
The North Brunswick Democratic Organization will choose three candidates and decide who will replace Cortes’s vacant seat.