SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ -New Jersey Assemblyman and South Brunswick native Andrew Zwicker has lead the decision to change the outdated term ‘Freeholder’ from the state’s definition of words and phrases. Mr. Zwicker has sponsored a bill that would amend the name of the Board of Chosen Freeholders to County Commissioners. To read the entire bill, click here.
A Freeholder in New Jersey is a member of a board in county government which manages, controls, and governs the property, finances, and affairs of a county. The term comes from the 18th century, and is a reference to the white male owners of slaves who held public office. New Jersey is the only state in the country which uses this phrase in government.
On Thursday, July 9th, 2020, Governor Murphy announced that the government plans to phase out that term. The bill to change the phrasing was introduced to the state legislature on March 5th, 2020 and was sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker.
The bill was first introduced by former Assemblyman Alex Decrocce and former State Senator Joe Pennacchio over ten years ago. Assemblyman Zwicker decided to reintroduce this bill after a conversation with Shanel Robinson, the first female African American Freeholder for Somerset County. Robinson expressed her discomfort with the term freeholder, which inspired Zwicker to reintroduce the bill.
“I believe that words matter, I think labels and titles matter. I think that changing the name, while symbolic, is symbolic of the time that we are in” Zwicker said, “I think it is part of a movement to change the very systems that we have held for hundreds of years. We are supposed to be the land of the free for all. I believe we are seeing real significant movement to rewrite public policies that are not dependent on your zip code or the color of your skin.”