Ocean County's Board of Chosen Freeholders sorts out the leadership line and sets its 2017 agenda, highlighted at Wednesday's reorganizational meeting in Toms River.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (third from left), flanked by Freeholders Ginny Haines, Jack Kelly (l), Joe Vicari, John Bartlett, Gerry Little (couresty Donna Flynn)
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (third from left), flanked by Freeholders Ginny Haines, Jack Kelly (l), Joe Vicari, John Bartlett, Gerry Little (couresty Donna Flynn)

Freeholder Joe Vicari assumes the Director's post, and Freeholder Gerry Little enters his second consecutive year as Deputy Director. Board members John Kelly and Ginny Haines were sworn to three-year terms by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno.

"As we look ahead to 2017, I can once again promise our residents that there will be no surprises when we announce the county budget in a few months," Vicari said. "Under the financial direction of Freeholder [John C.] Bartlett [Jr.], this board will again present a budget that combines affordability with outstanding core services."

Vicari, who chairs Senior Services and County Operations, prioritized programs that best meet the needs of the county's expanding senior sector, advocating for transportation projecs and attracting more business and tourist trade.

Kelly, beginning his ninth term, placed Ocean County's battle against heroin and narcotics atop his priority list, noting his ongoing communicaitons with County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato and Sheriff Mike Mastronardy.

"We will continue our work to help those who are suffering with addictions and making certain those who push drugs on our citizens go to jail," said Kelly, the Board's Director of Law and Public Safety.

He also emphasized his intent to keep dialogue open with municipalities about road conditions, repairs, upgrades and configuations to accomodate growth.

Haines said that county services need, and will get, the attention they need to maintain their levels of quality.

"I have said it many times, Ocean County is the premiere County," she said. "We have the best county park system, library system, educational opportunities at Ocean County College and the list goes on and on."

In Little's view, County government workers function as a family.

"It's important to acknowledge the work of Ocean County department heads and staff members," Little said. "They carry out the programs and services of the board with professionalism and dedication."

Little continues in his role as liaison to the Veterans Services Bureau, which opens its doors to more than 60,000 former military members who populate Ocean County.

Bartlett's immediate priority, as liason to Parks and Recreation, is the reconstruction of Berkeley Island County Park in Berkeley Township, and reopening of the renovated Cattus Island County Park Environmental Center, both battered by  Superstornm Sandy.

"Ocean County's park system is second to none," Bartlett surmised. "I am very proud of the facilities we have built. Parks make a special difference in the lives of our residents. They provide a place to go for all of our citizens free of charge to enjoy nature and participate in a host of recreational opportunities."

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