Ocean County has lost a giant of a man with someone who has a heart as big as the county he served for nearly four decades. John C. Bartlett Jr. was called home to God this morning after passing away at the age of 71 due to his long battle with cancer.

Bartlett had been battling colorectal cancer for a period of time and had been in failing health while fighting to serve the people of Ocean County in recent years.

He was known for his kindness, persistence and handling of the county budget for his 39-years on the Ocean County Freeholder Board.

Earlier this year he announced that he was retiring due to rising health concerns which led to Lacey Committeeman Gary Quinn running and since winning the spot vacated by Bartlett.

"John is not just the longest serving freeholder in New Jersey, but the longest serving friend," Freeholder Director Gerry Little told Jersey Shore Online in September of 2018.

Quinn replaces a Freeholder whose seen Ocean County develop to what it's become over the past four-decades.

"John has been a tremendous, tremendous freeholder. He's had such an impact on anything and everything that's happened in this county the last 39 years," Quinn told JSO in September of 2018. "They are very large shoes to fill. I promise I will do my best to continue John's work."

In addition to being the liaison to Ocean County Parks and Recreation Bartlett has been the architect of the County budget for his nearly 40-years on the Board.

He has made an effort to spend the money wisely on County related projects and matters and not engage in wasteful spending.

"Just because you put the money in the budget, it doesn't mean you have to spend it," Bartlett told WOBM News in January of 2018.

Under his budget watch Ocean County was recognized as having the third lowest tax burden in the entire state of New Jersey and its 21-counties.

Perhaps his biggest project that he was determined to see through was the rebuilding of Berkeley Island County Park which was renamed in his honor in October of 2018 just a few months following the re-opening ceremony.

The shovels hit the ground in December of 2016 for the rebuild work.

"This park...as small as it is, had a great following," Bartlett told WOBM News in December of 2016. "People have been very upset that it's taken so long for us to rebuild it."

Nearly a year and a half later he the park he envisioned for families to enjoy open once again.

He said at the time that there were a number of reasons why it took so long to build.

"The first reason is that there were other priorities that had to be faced first, this county was devastated pure and simple," Barlett said. "After that, we had to get all kinds of permits that cost money and take time and take studies and all of those other things that go with it. That's done through our park system, we have a limited staff, you can't snap your fingers and make the sky fall."

Today, on Tuesday December 12, 2018 Bartlett passed away knowing his work was finished.

Here is a statement from Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little and the rest of the OC Board of Freeholders:

"We were advised earlier today that our friend and colleague, Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. passed away following his hard fought battle with cancer.

This Board mourns the loss of a special man who dedicated most of his adult life to public service.

Freeholder Bartlett leaves an indelible mark on Ocean County and we are so very sorry that he will no longer be with us to serve our citizens and work with us as a Board.

There are few areas of Ocean County that have not been impacted by Freeholder Bartlett’s work.

For 39 years, he has served as a steward of our environment, the architect of the County budget, a champion of Ocean County College and a man truly dedicated to public service.

Born and raised in Ocean County, Freeholder Bartlett started his public service in 1974 when he was elected to the Pine Beach Council.

A few short years later, he was elected to the Board of Freeholders.

He often said that being a Freeholder was the best-elected position you can have doing the most good for your constituents because you always remained close to them.

Freeholder Bartlett took his work on the Board seriously and helped citizens through the most difficult of times like the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Yet he also enjoyed his time on the Board as he talked about his family and his love for gardening and history.

Freeholder Bartlett always spoke with great delight about his wife, Peg, his children and his beloved grandchildren.

They all became our family too.

John’s passing is a profound and deep loss for all of us on the Board of Freeholders.

While he was the longest serving Freeholder in the state of New Jersey, we all had the privilege to call him our longest-serving friend.

Saying goodbye is difficult for all of us.

With our deepest condolences and sympathy, we keep his family in our thoughts and prayers."

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone and Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry issue their own statement today offering condolences.

"On behalf of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, we would like to express our deepest condolences on the passing of Freeholder John C. Bartlett, Jr. Freeholder Bartlett was an exemplary public servant who spent 39 years working tirelessly for the residents of Ocean County.

 The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders joins all of those who mourn the loss of Freeholder Bartlett. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Ocean County College officials offered their condolences as well that reads in part:

"John Barlett’s connection to Ocean County College goes back to the very beginning of OCC, as he was a member of the College’s first graduating class, in 1968.

Following a successful career as a history teacher at Toms River High School North, Mr. Bartlett served as a Professor of Social Sciences at OCC for several years.

Mr. Bartlett’s broadest impact on OCC and Ocean County, though, was surely in his role as an Ocean County Freeholder.

John continually produced County budgets that would be the envy of other New Jersey counties.  

He always ensured that funding for essential services was available to residents at an affordable cost and established an aggressive debt reduction program while still providing money for new capital projects and a stable county tax rate.  

Because of his efforts, OCC received an AAA bond rating, the highest possible.

in 2013, during commencement, OCC was proud to present Freeholder Bartlett with the Ocean County College Distinguished Alumni Award.

 Freeholder Bartlett had been an unwavering supporter of Ocean County College, ensuring that OCC was always able to offer quality education at an affordable cost.  

No matter the circumstances, Freeholder Bartlett staunchly protected the well-being of the College and its students, not only through aid to its operating budget but also by assisting the College with capital programs.  

He was a champion of the Kean-Ocean program and had a strong hand in the funding to construct the Gateway Building, jointly owned by OCC and Kean University.

In late August of 2009, Freeholder Bartlett returned to the OCC campus for the dedication of John C. Bartlett, Jr. Hall.

The 32,000-square-foot building, which is LEED-certified, was built to accommodate our fast-growing student population, and comprises 17 multipurpose classrooms, some of which double as computer labs, along with offices and lounges.

John Bartlett was for so long linked to Ocean County College.  He will be missed."

On behalf of the WOBM News team and staff, I offer our condolences to the family and friends of John C. Bartlett Jr. who was a terrific man, honest, down the middle and stuck to the facts and was very passionate in what he did and the many lives he touched.

Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. and WOBM News Reporter Vin Ebenau. (Donna Flynn)