FLEMINGTON, NJ – Freeholder Rob Walton plans to retire from the five-member county freeholder board, although he said in an interview today that he will finish his term.
It’s a difficult choice for Walton, who said a combination of both work and family obligations forced him to make the announcement.
Walton is an Area Manager for JCP&L. The job requires him to attend public meetings, which are often held two or three times a week. Between that and his role as Freeholder, “Some weeks, I’m not at home at all” in the evenings, he said.
Walton is also attending to a “family crisis” to which he wants to be able to provide “100 percent attention,” he said.
Walton, who is 45 years old, got started in politics when he was relatively young. He was mayor of Hampton at age 30.
In 2009, Assemblyman Mike Doherty was elected to the state Senate. When he resigned from the Assembly, Freeholder Erik Peterson was chosen to replace Doherty in that role, creating a freeholder vacancy that Walton was chosen to fill.
Walton then won election to the board in 2010 to finish Peterson’s term, and was re-elected in 2011 and 2014.
Walton said he isn’t removing himself entirely from public service, adding, “Where I can help, I’ll try to help when I can.” Walton said he’s enjoyed his years in public service and “being an advocate for conservative principles.”
Walton has sometimes been at odds with his fellow Freeholders on the all-Republican board. For the last year, he has argued that audio of freeholder meetings should be posted to the county website. He has also questioned expenses allocated to the county’s Heron Glen golf course and the structuring of the county’s Economic Development initiative.
In the wake of the news, Tewksbury Committeeman Shaun Van Doren has announced he’ll seek election to the Freeholder seat Walton now holds.
Van Doren was first elected to Township Committee in 1996 and was inducted into the state Elected Officials Hall of Fame in February, having just completed 20 years of continuous service.
In a press release, Van Doren said he would “promote a fiscally conservative platform aimed at keeping Hunterdon County affordable for young families and seniors on a fixed income.
“I now believe it is time to apply my experience, knowledge and ability to work with others to the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders,” he said.
Van Doren previously ran for freeholder in 2003 and 2007.
In his press release, Van Doren touts his years of public service. He names among his accomplishments his spearheading Tewksbury’s first Farmland Preservation Program, securing more than $14 million in state and federal funding to preserve 1,000 acres of farmland; flat municipal budgets for the last seven years; his reduction of debt without new borrowing; and his support of shared services and streamlined government.
Van Doren currently serves as a member of the county Agricultural Development Board and works as a Project Safety Engineer for Merck & Co.