NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders is once again whole.
Leslie Koppel of Monroe was sworn in to fill an empty seat on the board just after 6 p.m. tonight in the county’s administration building in New Brunswick. She took the oath of office with her hand on a Bible held by her daughter.
“I’m delighted to be a part of it,” Koppel told TAPinto New Brunswick before she joined her new colleagues in executive session.
The vacancy came after former Freeholder Deputy Director Carol Bellante resigned early this year from the board. That was the panel’s second resignation since October.
Bellante said she left the governing body to retire and spend more time with family.
Koppel will serve the remainder of Bellante’s three-year term, which expires at the end of the year.
Middlesex County Democrats recently tapped Koppel to replace Bellante, a fellow party member.
“Carol Bellante has been a true trailblazer for women in politics and in the labor movement, and her contributions in both of these areas cannot be overstated,” the party’s chairman, Kevin McCabe, said today in a statement. “While we’re losing a tireless advocate on behalf of Middlesex County’s working families, I believe Council President Koppel will be a very worthy successor to the mantle that Freeholder Bellante is leaving behind.”
If Koppel chooses to compete in the upcoming election, she will run alongside Freeholders Charles Tomaro and Shanti Narra.
Narra, a former North Brunswick official, was appointed to the board last fall following an earlier resignation.
The decision to appoint Koppel keeps the composition of the board at two women and five men, a ratio that ranked eighth among the state’s 21 counties in terms of representation by women.
Prior to becoming a freeholder, Koppel served as Monroe’s council president. She served on that panel since 2006, according to the township.
A lifelong resident of Monroe, she holds a master’s degree in politics and public policy from Rutgers University. She heads a social-services nonprofit group called Rise: A Community Service Partnership.
Upon being sworn in, Koppel received a standing ovation from freeholders and county administrators in the audience. Before taking her seat on the dais, she hugged and shook hands with her new colleagues.