NEWTON, NJ – In the historic courtroom, packed with local mayors, council and committee members, and other public servants, the first meeting of the Sussex County Freeholders in 2013 was called to order by Elaine Morgan, the Clerk of the Board, on January 4.

Flanked on one side by the new board, on the other by State Legislators, the Honorable Carl Lazzaro, Mayor of Fredon Township, gave the invocation. 

Jeffrey M. Parrott, Sussex County Clerk, then read the Determination Statement for the November 6, 2012 election.

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Seats formerly occupied by Susan Zellman and Rich Zeoli, were filled by newcomers Gail Phoebus and Dennis Mudrick.

Phoebus, accompanied by her husband, was then sworn in by Judge Frederic G. Weber for a three-year term.

Mudrick, accompanied by his wife and three sons, took his oath of office, also administered by Weber.

The first order of business for the Council was to elect and appoint a Freeholder Director for the year 2013.  A motion was made by Freeholder Richard Vohden, seconded by Phoebus to nominate Parker Space as Freeholder Director. 

“I would like to nominate a life-long resident of Sussex County, who served for many years as mayor and firefighter, along with his father and his son. I’ve known this man for most of his life," said Vohden. "I nominate Parker Space as Director of the Sussex County Freeholders.” 

“With great honor, I would like to second the motion,” said Phoebus. 

A roll call vote passed the motion, and Space took his oath of office, accompanied by his family. 

Resuming his seat, Space took over running the meeting.

Space asked for nominations for deputy director, for the times he may be absent. Former Sussex County Freeholder Director Phillip Crabb said, “I would like to nominate someone who was at one time the newest and oldest member of the board, who spent his first two years as a student of Sussex County, who makes his presence known all over the county, who has been an inspiration to watch. I nominate Richard Vohden.” 

The motion was seconded by Mudrick.

Vohden, accompanied by Zellman, was sworn in by Weber.

Then, Ailish Hambel, Chairwoman of the Sussex County Republican Committee, recognized the dignitaries who were present. She delivered greetings from U.S. Congressmen Scott Garrett and Rodney Frelinghuysen, who were in Washington, dealing with the fiscal crisis. Present were New Jersey Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Gary Chiusano, Assemblywoman Alison McHose, New Jersey State Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths, Sussex County Sheriff Michael Strada, former freeholders Zellman and Glen Ventrano, and a long list of county appointees, deputies, mayors, and council members, with warm applause for each. 

“People who put their foot forward and serve people are special people,” said Hambel. “On behalf of all of us in Sussex County, we thank you.”

Remarks were made by each freeholder. 

Crabb spoke first.  “I’d like to welcome everyone here to our first meeting of 2013. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their support in the past year, and especially departing freeholders, Richard Zeoli and Susan Zellman for their leadership in one of the most challenging years we’ve faced. I’d like to welcome our two new freeholders, and look forward to working with them. I grew up in Franklin Borough, a community with a great mining history. We understood that life gave us challenges that had to be taken head-on. In that pragmatic way, we always found ways to make ends meet. It was a community where we could all greet and curse in five different languages, yet no one was considered a minority. We found ways to collaborate to make things work. So it is today, where common sense and reality drive what we do. At the end of the day, most of the public cares very little about politics here. What really matters to them is delivery of results. This was a year of accomplishments. The story is about getting back on our feet after the one-two punch of Irene and Sandy. Despite that, we’ve moved ahead on very important projects. Sussex County was awarded the International Special Achievement Award for its GIS technologies. Sussex County was declared best in the nation in its population class for its professional implementation of county-wide cloud and virtual environments. We received the Sunshine Award, the highest in New Jersey, for our website work and transparency in government. We began a solar project spanning thirteen local governments, saving over $7 million over a 15-year span. We held a groundbreaking for the new centralized 911 office, which will be available as a significant shared service for all municipalities. We began a transitional program that will be closing the gap between patients and health care providers, not only saving money, but making our constituents healthier. The difficult decisions our senior staff has made over the past few years are starting to pay off.  We are no longer looking over the fiscal cliff. We are recalibrating our process and changing the way we do business to get to the new normal.  There is no one who leans on a shovel in this county. God bless this county and God bless all of you here.”

Freeholders Vohden, Mudrick, Phoebus and Space, all expressed their pride in Sussex County, faith in their colleagues, and their thanks and best wishes to each other, and those present.

Space added, "We've had to make some tough cuts, we cut $1 million from the college and much from [Sussex] Vo Tech. We are getting to the light at the end of the tunnel. We are now at a place where we can think about putting money back to the places we had to take drastic cuts from."

Next, official business transpired, such as resolutions for the payment of bills, salaries, banking, meeting schedule, holiday schedule, and advertising.

Then, over 30 appointments were made, including assigning freeholder representation to committees.

Dennis R. McConnell was retained for County Counsel; John Eskilson was appointed County Administrator; and Bernard A. Re was appointed treasurer, each for a three-year term.

During the Open Public Session, Strada congratulated the board and offered the full support and cooperation of the Sheriff’s Office.

Seeing no other matters before the board, a motion for adjournment was seconded and accepted.


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