SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset County Freeholder Director Peter S. Palmer is set to retire after 55 years of serving as an elected official on the local and county level.

However, he is not about to turn his back on his prolific life as a public servant.

He let that be known during a tribute luncheon Friday hosted by the Somerset County Employers Legislative Committee at Verve Restaurant, Bistro & Bar.

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Dozens of guests, including fellow elected officials, business leaders, civic leaders, lawyers and small business owners took turns table-to-table to congratulate Palmer or to share an anecdote before Palmer was handed the microphone.

“Somerset County is without a doubt the best-managed county government in the state,” Palmer said.

“We have been bold and I trust that we will continue to be bold and I hope to be a part of that,” Palmer added.

The longtime Republican will retire from the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders after serving since 1997. He opted not to seek reelection in 2017. Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher, a Republican, ran for Palmer’s seat and won the election in November. Palmer’s final day in office will be Jan. 5, at which time Gallagher will be sworn to the office during the Freeholder’s annual reorganization meeting at the County Administration Building in Somerville.

Palmer is a lifelong resident of Bernardsville and was 25 when he was first elected to the Bernardsville Board of Education in 1962, serving until 1968, when he was elected to the Bernardsville Borough Council, serving until 1984. He served as the town's mayor from 1985-1994.

He was elected to his seventh 3-year term as a freeholder in November 2014.

He is also chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition. He is a past president of the New Jersey Association of Counties and was honored as Freeholder of the Year in 2011 by the NJAC.

One guest called him the “soul” of Somerset County, while another spoke of his approachability.

“He makes you feel like you’ve known him forever.”

Somerset County Freeholder Patricia Walsh, who has served alongside Palmer since 2008 lauded her colleague's institutional knowledge, one of several guests who made reference to his longtime service.

“He knows how to get the job done, and who to call,” Walsh said. “We revere him; we respect him and we will miss him, all over the building,” she added.

 “Peter Palmer has been the face of Somerset County government for decades,” said Carol Bianchi, co-chair of Somerset ELC. “His contributions are far too many to mention but it is safe to say that his impact will be felt by generations to come.”