NEWARK, NJ – Freeholder Blonnie R. Watson of Newark and Freeholder Patricia Sebold of Livingston were re-elected President and Vice President, respectively, of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders during the Board’s Annual Reorganization Meeting held on Wednesday at the Hall of Records. They were re-elected unanimously.
Watson was nominated by Freeholder Brendan Gill of Montclair, Freeholder Rufus Johnson of Newark and Freeholder Leonard Luciano of West Caldwell, while Freeholder Vice President Sebold was nominated by Freeholder Carol Clark of East Orange, Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley of Irvington and Freeholder Gerald R. Owens of South Orange. Watson and Sebold, both re-elected unanimously, were sworn-in by Essex County Surrogate Theodore N. Stephens, II.
“It is a great honor and privilege to be elected to serve as Vice President this year, and to work alongside our outstanding President, Blonnie Watson,” said Sebold. She went on to say that the freeholders were lucky to work with an excellent county executive, Joseph DiVinenzo, by adding, “Putting Essex County First is his motto, and we all work together to make that a reality, improving the lives of all the residents of our county, and I am happy to be a part of that process as an elected official.”
Sebold explained that since the County Executive took office in 2003, “more has been accomplished than in any other administration in Essex County’s history, and as he seeks his fourth term, I am pleased to work along with him as Essex County becomes even better.”
Sebold spoke with pride of her role in the improvements in all 22 county parks as a member of the Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board, and of the county’s excellent correctional facility, juvenile detention center, hospital center, new government complex, excellent vocational school system, upgraded South Mountain Recreational Complex, and especially of Turtle Back Zoo, which she pointed out was rated New Jersey’s No. 1 zoo by New Jersey Monthly Magazine.
“We are receiving awards and recognitions in many areas,” she said, “and I am proud to be a part of a model government.”
She also remarked that the county now has financial stability, and that since the current county executive was sworn into office in 2003, the county’s bond rating has improved from “junk” status to AA2, “the highest status we have ever achieved.”
She concluded her remarks saying, “Our mission is to work as hard as possible to ‘Put Essex County First,’ and as vice president I will work as hard as I can to do what is in the best interests of all the people of this great county, and to work alongside Freeholder President Watson and County Executive DiVincenzo to make Essex County even better.”
Freeholder Vice President Sebold has been an At-Large member of the Freeholder Board since April 1993, having been elected to seven consecutive terms. She is currently serving as Vice President for the third consecutive year, a position she also held on five earlier occasions in 1996 and 2003-06. Freeholder Sebold taught English at West Orange High School from 1970 until her retirement in 2001, served on the Essex County Vocational Schools Board of Education, as a Commissioner on the Essex County Board of Elections, and has been chairperson of the Livingston Democratic Municipal Committee since 1976. She is a member of the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club and the Boards of Trustees of the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and the Jewish Community Housing Corporation.
Freeholder President Watson began her remarks by expressing her gratitude to her freeholder colleagues saying, “There are no adequate words to express how appreciative I am to have the privilege and honor to lead this esteemed body for another year. I am mindful of the obligations this office and leadership carries, and I commit to you that I am prepared and able and will never take the responsibilities of being a freeholder and president of this board for granted.”
She added, “Now, more than ever, we must meet the challenges and expectations of our constituents, who expect and are due strong leadership that yields progress and is fiscally accountable for how tax dollars are spent and services are rendered.”
Addressing county residents directly, she said, “I pledge to you that I will continue to provide leadership founded on integrity, accountability and accessibility. I commit to be unbending when these important principles are at stake, yet open-minded and caring with the everyday problems of Essex County residents.”
She also spoke with pride about all that has been accomplished during her tenure as president, and specifically called attention to the recent posting of the Essex County Code on the freeholder board’s website saying, “This is yet another way of making county government transparent and available to the people we serve.”
She also thanked the board’s staff for their hard work and professionalism, as well as her family and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo for their support. She concluded her remarks by offering the following quote: “Instead of living in the shadows of yesterday, walk in the light of today and the hope of tomorrow.”
Freeholder President Watson has been an At-Large member of the Essex County Board of Freeholders since 1996, having been elected to six consecutive 3-year terms, and will begin her eighth consecutive year as the Board’s President. Prior to beginning her first term as President in 2007, she served as Vice President of the Board from 1998-2002. She serves as President of the High Park Gardens Cooperative Corporation in Newark and is a former Board member of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives. She is also a housing consultant, a retired U. S. Postal Service executive, former Commissioner on the Newark Zoning Board of Adjustment and former Essex County Democratic County Committee Chair for Newark’s Central Ward. She is a member of the National Congress of Black Women and the Newark Housing Authority’s Dr. MLK Blvd. Stakeholders Committee. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her public and community service and has been named twice in the Congressional Record by Congressmen Peter Rodino and Albio Sires.
The program’s opening and closing prayers were offered by Assistant Pastor Glenn Hurt of Unity Freedom Baptist Church in Newark, and the program included congratulatory remarks by Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.