Robinson, Sooy continue to lead county commissioner board in 2024

0
214
Somerset County Commissioners, from left to right, Doug Singleterry and Paul Drake, Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson, Governor Phil Murphy, Commissioner Deputy Director Sara Sooy and Commissioner Melonie Marano stand in the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville. PHOTO COURTESY OF SOMERSET COUNTY
Somerset County Commissioners, from left to right, Doug Singleterry and Paul Drake, Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson, Gov. Phil Murphy, Commissioner Deputy Director Sara Sooy and Commissioner Melonie Marano stand in the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville. PHOTO COURTESY OF SOMERSET COUNTY

The Somerset County Board of Commissioners held their annual reorganization meeting at the Historic Somerset County Courthouse on Jan. 5, after two years of being hosted in the larger Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) auditorium due to the pandemic.

The highlights of the reorganization meeting included the swearing-in of reelected Commissioners Paul M. Drake and Douglas Singleterry by New Jersey Gov. Phil D. Murphy. Shanel Robinson was reelected to serve as commissioner director for a fourth year, and Sara Sooy was selected to serve as deputy director.

“For the first time since I joined this board all five commissioners have been reelected by the voters, an indication that our mission to run an efficient, cost-effective, and world-class county government for all the people of Somerset County is not just popular, but successful,” said Robinson. “I am honored to be entrusted, once again, by my colleagues to serve as Director, and awed by the responsibility placed on myself and my colleagues to deliver for the people of Somerset County.”

“I want to congratulate Commissioners Drake and Singleterry on their second terms, and Director Robinson for being reelected to that important role,” Sooy said. “Thank you all for the honor of my third term as deputy director. I look forward to working with you in 2024, and to delivering for the people of Somerset County.”

The Board of Commissioners highlighted several successes from 2023 and presented a vision for continued progress in 2024. The highlights included:

Economic Development

  • The county is prioritizing five industries including agriculture, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, film production, and beauty and personal care products. These industries were selected for their historic strength, potential for growth, and links to other county priorities such as food security and tourism.
  • The county hosted a statewide Small Business Resource Fair and brought on new tools to help fill vacant properties.
  • The county launched a Film Commission, and this past fall organized a tour of the county for film location scouts, in partnership with the State Motion Picture and Television Commission, New Jersey Economic Development Association (NJEDA), Choose New Jersey, and the Hunterdon County Film Commission.
  • Major corporations moved into the county including Cellares, a leader in cell therapy research, which created 400 new jobs in Bridgewater. Fresh Pet’s corporate headquarters will move into Bedminster creating 50 jobs.

Education and Workforce Initiatives

  • The county was key to supporting RVCC’s designation as a leading educator for biomanufacturing, including the construction of a “clean room” for technical training.
  • In partnership with RVCC, a new Production Assistant program is being developed to help meet the needs of the film industry.
  • The county has partnered with the State of New Jersey to expand the Somerset County Vocational-Technical High School by expanding the capacity for evolving fields such as global logistics, biomedical services, and electric vehicles, which in turn will attract more students.

Human Services

  • Richard Hall Community Wellness Center has partnered with Zufall Health’s new primary and dental care center to improve access to care by allowing Richard Hall clients to pair up mental and physical health appointments, reducing time and travel barriers to care.
  • The Zufall Health Center is also available to the general public, which provides residents with an option for affordable, quality health care in Somerset County.
  • The county launched the Somerset County Helps Mobile Outreach Van that will visit communities and provide information about programs for veterans, youth and family, including job training, housing, substance use recovery, as well as help residents gain access to these services.

Promoting Tourism

  • Somerset County successfully advocated for New Jersey to create a “Central Jersey” region to help Somerset and neighboring counties tell their stories of agritourism, heritage tourism, eco-tourism, and arts/culture. A Somerset County farm, Hidden Spring Lavender and Alpaca Farm, is featured on the cover of the 2024 New Jersey Travel Guide Magazine.
  • Somerset County’s Destination Guide has expanded its area of distribution to the Midwest and the entire I-95 corridor. New modern digital kiosks were strategically placed in high-traffic areas throughout the county and at special events.
  • Local preparations are underway for the FIFA World Cup to be partly held in New Jersey with one county hotel already sold out over two years in advance.
  • Somerset County has announced a five-point plan to promote the county’s rich Revolutionary War history as the nation approaches its 250th anniversary in 2026.
  • The Somerset County Business Partnership is continuing the Sip & See passport program to promote craft beverages, farms, and historic sites.