On behalf of the entire Board of Freeholders, we wish everyone here and all the people of Ocean County a blessed and healthy 2018.
While the New Year gives everyone an opportunity to reflect on the future, it is also a time to give thanks to those who are with us today and to everyone here who works all year ‘round to assure that Ocean County is a great place to work, raise a family and to retire.
First, the Board would like to thank Pastor Occhipinti, Rabbi Schenkolewski and Father Rossell for being with us today to share God’s blessings for the year ahead. You are with us in times of joy and celebration, as well as in troubled times of sorrow and loss.
The members of this Board of Freeholders are individuals of faith. We thank you, Pastor, Rabbi and Father for your continuing prayers all year long. Your prayers inspire us to serve Ocean County faithfully.
I know also that John, Joe, Jack, Ginny and I want to give special thanks to Debbie, Cyndy, Debbie, Gail and Carol for all they do to keep us on the straight and narrow. These talented professionals manage our offices, make sure we are where we are supposed to be and sometimes try to gently talk us out of a crazy idea.
This Board is composed of five individuals who often agree and sometimes disagree. But our overriding commitment is to try our very best to reach a consensus approach to policy decisions.
Most often the individuals responsible to build a consensus are our County Administrator Carl Block and Assistant Administrator Mike Fiure.
The County is truly blessed to have Carl as our Administrator and Mike as our backup. We thank them for all they do to help this Board develop and implement the best-possible services for Ocean County.
There are many department directors here today who have the hands-on responsibility of making sure our parks and open spaces under Deputy Director Bartlett preserve our quality of life; our senior services and consumer services under Freeholder Vicari protect our elderly; our law enforcement training, public safety and engineering under Freeholder Kelly keep our communities safe; our social services, human services and planning under Freeholder Haines help our needy and vulnerable citizens; and that our veteran services, road and vehicle services and recycling continue their work to patch the potholes, keep the snowplows running and make sure our veterans get the help they have earned by serving our nation.
Our IT Department keeps our communication systems on line, our Public Information office sometimes has to make lemonade out of lemons and our finance department works with the Board to maintain our fiscal stability and fiscal restraints so the people of Ocean County may continue to enjoy a Triple-A bond rating saving taxpayers millions of dollars over the years.
All of us thank Deputy Director Bartlett and our Finance Director Julie Tarrant for their leadership in helping Ocean County maintain fiscal stability for our taxpayers.
Our Clerk of the Board and County Counsel are essential and we rely on them to make sure this Board crosses every “T” and dots every “I”. Our Health Department, Board of Social Services, Library Commission and Ocean County Utilities Authority provide outstanding services for our citizens and cooperate fully with the Board of Freeholders to keep costs as low as possible for taxpayers.
All of us would also like to thank the many local officials who are with us today and our constitutional officers, Sheriff Mike Mastronardy, Surrogate Jeff Moran and County Clerk Scott Colabella. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder with this Board in serving the people of Ocean County.
We must also recognize the political process that has re-elected Freeholder Vicari today and each of us in past years. None of us would be here today without the support of the Ocean County Republican Organization, which is widely acknowledged as the strongest in New Jersey and second to none across the country.
With us today are two individuals, who along with municipal leaders in all 33 towns, have led our Republican Organization for more than 40 years to elect local, county, state, and national officials to serve our citizens.
Let me introduce former Ocean County Freeholder and Lakewood Mayor, our Chairman Emeritus Joe Buckelew, and our Chairman for over twenty years now, George Gilmore. I don’t believe George has lost a county or state legislative election. These gentlemen have made certain that the elected officials who serve our county are individuals who serve with integrity and dedication.
So, what can our taxpayers expect for 2018? And, who are these freeholders, my colleagues?
All of us have similar childhoods that shaped our lives and how we manage the peoples’ business and the peoples’ tax dollars.
We are all Baby Boomers, actually early Boomers who came along just a few years after our fathers returned home from WW II. We were old enough to watch our Dads march in Memorial Day parades in the 1950s. We Freeholders are the children of American patriots and like our fathers before us, we are also patriots. We support our veterans. We support our police and first responders. We support the Constitution of the United States of America and we stand and cross our hearts for the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Like most of the people of Ocean County we are proud of the United States of America and we are proud to be Americans.
All 5 of us came from humble beginnings, from working class families who struggled to make ends meet.
Our parents grew up in the Great Depression and we grew up listening to our parents and grandparents tell stories about the hardships of the Great Depression. We learned the value of hard work and the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made for their families.
That’s why this Board supports the American work ethic over welfare dependency. We support job creation over more government bureaucracy. We believe personal responsibility is fundamental for America’s future, not more government regulation.
From our earliest days at the dinner table we heard our families discussing everyday choices about what we could afford or could not afford.
We learned the value of money and learned that it took hard work to earn it.
That is why this Board considers the fiscal management of the tax dollars of the people of Ocean County as our highest priority.
Unlike Washington or Trenton, this Board will produce a balanced budget that pays our bills and maintains core services for veterans, seniors, working families and the needy. Our budget will improve county roads, bridges and facilities. Our budget will help fund our County College, Vo-Tech Schools and provide a helping hand to our poor and needy. Our budget will include an adequate surplus to keep Ocean County’s AAA bond rating.
Under Deputy Director John Bartlett’s leadership our budget will continue fiscal stability, and as we say every year, “there will be no surprises.”
Lastly, I would like to underscore that this Board of Freeholders is ONE TEAM. We may focus our attentions on different issues throughout the year, but when it counts, we all strive to do what is best for the people of Ocean County, to serve them faithfully and to speak as a united voice as their advocates. Our 33 municipalities are also ONE TEAM and our mayors and local officials are dedicated to their communities to maintain their quality of life as well.
As we move into this New Year with many challenges and opportunities ahead, our common commitment is to continue to work together to keep Ocean County a great place to live, work and retire.
May God bless the United States of America and may God Bless Ocean County. Thank you.