HACKENSACK, NJ -- An emotional Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco delivered his annual State of the County Address today, his first such address since being sworn-in to his second term on the job.
"As I begin initiatives for my second term, I want to end my first term by thanking all of you who come to work every single day to do something positive every day to change the lives of people in this county," Tedesco said.
Throughout his speech, he asked County employees to stand and be recognized for their work, including Adam Eng, a special olympic medalist, and Barbara Lazeri, who has worked in the County's Department of Public Works for 51 years.
Tedesco also asked for a moment of silence to honor three County employees who had died in the past year.
Tedesco was very proud of internal improvements the County has made, such as I.T. upgrades, mandatory job-specific safety taining, and becoming the first County in the state with a minimum $15/hour wage for all employees.
The County Executive cited the fiscal impact of shared services between municipalities and the County, and investments in the County hospital, New Bridge Medical Center (previously Bergen Regional Medical Center) to provide addiction services, longterm care to seniors and expanded Veterans services.
According to Tedesco, the previous adminstration under former County Executive Kathleen Donovan wanted to sell the hospital but "I said no, we're not going to sell it, we're going to fix it."
He also touted socially progressive measures, like establishing Bergen County as Stigma Free, and holding the first ever Gay Straight Alliance High School Summit, organized by Freeholder Tracy Zur.
Tedesco defiantly stated his goal to have the word Bergen removed from the Bergen-Hudson Light Rail until and unless NJ Transit actually includes service in Bergen County.
On the subject of transportation, Tedesco became visibly emotional when talking about the tragic East Brook Middle School bus crash that claimed the life of student Miranda Vargas, and teacher Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy, and said the County has since fully funded the purchase of seven school buses that meet the highest safety requirements, and will continue to purchase more.
Tedesco paused his remarks while the video projection screen came down and played a rendition of the song What the World Needs Now. After a few moments of the song, Tedesco retook the stage to assert that "we have a tremendous amount of love here in Bergen County."
Bergen is the largest county in New Jersey, with just under a million residents.