Freeholder Vicari Named Board Director for 2014;
Freeholder Bartlett Named Deputy Director
TOMS RIVER - Stressing teamwork, stability and opportunity, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders organized Jan. 6 for the New Year naming Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari its Director and swearing in Freeholders John P. Kelly and James F. Lacey to their eighth three-year terms on the Board.
"I want to congratulate my colleagues Jack Kelly and Jim Lacey as they return to the dais to begin serving new three year terms on the Board of Freeholders," Vicari said shortly after being named Director for 2014. "Each has served on this Board since first elected in 1993 and both have worked tirelessly for the citizens of this great County."
In setting the goals for 2014, Vicari said the Board of Freeholders will continue with the work needed to recover from Superstorm Sandy which hit in October 2012 while also providing educational and employment opportunities for residents and business owners. He also stressed there would be no surprises when it comes to the 2014 county budget and county property taxes.
"In 2013 we faced many unprecedented challenges and while it may have been a difficult year we were still able to provide quality services and programs to the nearly 600,000 people that call Ocean County home," Vicari said. "Despite the challenges that came with Superstorm Sandy in 2012, including a substantial decrease in our ratable base, a fractured infrastructure and devastating loss to thousands of our residents, Ocean County government persevered.
"And, with all they withstood, our residents and our businesses have not lost hope," he said.
He noted that past planning practices especially the board's conservative fiscal policies allowed for the continuation of services and programs that are relied upon by residents and taxpayers.
"From home delivered meals to community outreach through our library systems, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders continued its ongoing pledge to be there for all its citizens," Vicari said.
He added that even in the face of financial challenges, the Board, with the leadership of Freeholder John Bartlett was able to maintain a AAA bond rating – the highest possible rating "which truly highlights that our approach to finances works in Ocean County and it works well."
Vicari said that the creation of the Office of Tourism and Business Development will work with seasonal and year-round businesses in an effort to make them more successful in the New Year.
"Tourism brings in more than $4 billion each year and helps to create upwards of 70,000 jobs in Ocean County," Vicari said. "This year, in an effort to look at the industry as a year-round industry, I have combined the office of Tourism with Business Development.
"We will work to secure grants for businesses so they can flourish again," Vicari said. "In a county, where mom and pop businesses are the backbone of the economy, I will step up efforts to help."
Vicari also noted the importance of Joint Base – McGuire, Dix, Lakehurst as it relates to homeland security and to Ocean County's economy.
"I will continue to also work with Joint Base – McGuire, Dix, Lakehurst to tap into the economic value of this base, encouraging its workers and military personnel stationed there to be a greater part of Ocean County," Vicari said.
Vicari added that residents can find educational opportunities within Ocean County that will provide the tools for lifelong skills.
"The Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools are nationally recognized," Vicari said. "Whether the MATES program, our culinary program, the arts or learning a trade, the various skills taught at each center is a lifelong learning tool that will help our students and adults secure better jobs and provide more opportunities."
He also highlighted the four-year partnership that Ocean County College now has in place with Kean University that gives students the chance to get a four-year degree that is affordable, that is convenient and that is respected.
"Education is so very important today and this Board has made every effort to give our citizens the ability to tap into higher education possibilities," he said. "Ocean County will not be a place of high unemployment and small dreams."
As Vicari pledged to continue the teamwork that exists amongst the Board of Freeholders, his colleagues pledged to do the same.
"I appreciate the support I have received and look forward to working with this Board in the New Year," Freeholder Kelly said.
Freeholder Lacey added that Ocean County government employees help make the Board successful as they work to deliver the programs and services that impact county residents.
"2013 was a difficult year, people are struggling, businesses are struggling," Lacey said. "We are aware of that and we will continue to do all we can to help."
Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who is serving his 35th consecutive year on the Board, and was named the 2014 Deputy Director, said the county works as both a family and a team.
"This is a team and we work together," Bartlett said.
He noted that in 2013, the efforts of the County to remove 1.5 million cubic yards of debris from roadways and rights of way following Superstorm Sandy came under criticism by some.
"And yet, we paid for the cleanup without having to borrow the money, we did this to put some order back into towns devastated by the storm, to help with public safety and to get the storm recovery underway," he said. "We were able to help our towns that are now in the process of paying us back and we were able to do this because of sound financial planning."
Freeholder Gerry P. Little said the County is successful because it is a team.
"We work together for the good of all of our residents," Little said. "We will continue to do this in 2014."