SOMERVILLE, NJ – Brian Gallagher, former mayor of Somerville, was sworn to a three-year term as a Somerset County Freeholder during the board’s annual Reorganization meeting Friday at the historic Somerset County Courthouse.
Democrat Steve Peter, former Somerville Borough Council president, was sworn to a five-year term as Somerset County Clerk by fellow Democrat and Governor-elect Phil Murphy.
Murphy, who will be sworn in as New Jersey’s next governor Jan. 16, offered some brief remarks, promising to work in a bi-partisan fashion, reaching across the political aisle in an effort to tackle a myriad of issues facing New Jersey “in the spirit of good will.”
Patrick Scaglione of Bridgewater was voted 2018 director of the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders by a 5-0 vote; also elected unanimously as deputy director was Brian D. Levine of Franklin, who was sworn in to his second three-year term as freeholder.
Gallagher replaces former Freeholder Peter S. Palmer of Bernardsville, who retired in December after serving in public office for 55 years; he served seven terms as a freeholder.
Gallagher and Levine were sworn to office by state Superior Court Assignment Judge Yolanda Ciccone.
Gallagher was elected mayor of Somerville four times, serving in that capacity for 14 years; he also served on the borough council for an additional three years.
“I love Somerset County,” Gallagher said. “My message today is one of positive vision, leadership on tough issues, and dedication to our families, friends and neighbors throughout our entire county.
“For what we do as citizens, and what we do as a community has but one guiding principal, and that is to provide for a safe, secure, diverse, affordable and wonderful home for our children, our families, our friends and our neighbors here in our Somerset County,” he added.
“We have the best in government, planning, engineering, finance, parks and recreation, social services, strategic government investment, law enforcement, open space preservation – we truly have government of the people, and it is good government,” Gallagher said.
“Vision, determination, hard work and good people making smart decisions for the right reasons have created opportunity in Somerset County – and I am honored to now be a part of those decisions,” he added.
Other members of the board include Patricia L. Walsh of Green Brook and Mark Caliguire of Montgomery.
Scaglione joined the freeholder board in 2010 after serving on the Bridgewater Township Council for 12 years. Levine, who served as mayor of Franklin Township for 11 years, joined the board in 2015.
During his inaugural remarks, Scaglione offered best wishes to longtime Freeholder Peter Palmer and former County Clerk Brett Radi for their many years of distinguished service.
The freeholders presented Palmer with a proclamation honoring his 55 years of public iservice as an elected official, beginning as a member of the Board of Education in Bernardsville in 1962. He served on the school board, the borough council, and was mayor before running for freeholder in 1997.
“It’s been a great run and great experience,” Palmer said. Thank you all for making it happen.”
Scaglione highlighted some of the accomplishments of 2017:
“We again held the line on taxes under the 2-percent state cap while providing residents with the critical services they have come to expect and rely on,” he said.
“We continued our investment in education at RVCC and Vo-Tech. In fact, we have invested more than $100 million dollars in education over the past decade at these fine institutions,” he added. “We are gratified to see that the respected website schools.com has named RVCC the #1 county college in New Jersey.
“At the same time we’ve invested prudently in our infrastructure and open space. In 2017, Niche.com rated Somerset County the #1 county in New Jersey to raise a family.
“We continue to be one of a very few counties nationwide to achieve a Triple-A bond rating,” Scaglione continued. “With the addition of Mountain View Park in Hillsborough this past year, and upgrades at Colonial Park, East County Park and the Environmental Education Center, we’ve continued to enhance our award-winning park system.”
“Even with all that good news, we can’t afford to be complacent,” he said. Referring to the county’s new brand identity – “Making Vibrant Connections” – he said, “We are poised to start a new chapter in our county’s ongoing success story.”
“One of the many things we do well in county government is to make connections and develop partnerships that enable us to provide innovative public services,” he said. “Each of us is a conduit for Making Vibrant Connections for the benefit of residents and our community.
“Somerset County will continue Making Vibrant Connections every day with our citizens, through programs and services for seniors, youth and veterans, through high-quality infrastructure maintenance and through shared services ranging from 911 communications dispatch to curbside recycling, engineering and health services, cooperative purchasing and many more.”
The freeholders also made appointments to a variety of boards and commissions.
The Annual Reorganization meeting was attended by dozens of state, county and local officials, as well as New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th, whose congressional district includes 17 of the 21 towns in Somerset County.
Others included Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-16th, who will retire from the Assembly next week; Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16h and Assemblyman-elect Roy Freiman, who will represent the 16th District, replacing Ciattarelli.