Is new boss same as the old boss?

In the News • MARK ROSMAN

We are on the dawn of a new political landscape in Monmouth County — and it’s one that many people may have believed they would never see. After 23 years of Republican control, the Democrats will be in control of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders come January.

The election of Democrat Amy Mallet of Fair Haven on Nov. 4, which followed the election over the past two years of Democrats Barbara McMorrow and John D’Amico to the freeholders board, will give the Democrats a 3-2 majority in 2009. The Republican minority will be freeholders Lillian Burry and Robert Clifton.

Being in control of the freeholders board means the Democrats will set the agenda for the county next year. The Democrats will also control several key county appointments (i.e., jobs) and political insiders and the public will be watching to see which connected individuals wind up with lucrative positions in county government.

The Democrats came into power saying things will be different than they were under the Republicans’ long-standing rule of the county. We shall see.

Journalists can be a cynical group of people. We deal with a lot of different personalities who do a lot of things allegedly on behalf of the public. In an attempt to stay sane, we occasionally make a joke, or two, about some of the political personalities with whom we cross paths.

A colleague wondered aloud in the office last week what we would eventually call the Democrats’ Operation Bid Rig.

Operation Bid Rig, you will recall, was the name given by law enforcement authorities to a Monmouth County corruption scandal several years ago. Many of the people who were caught and convicted of a variety of crimes against the public were employees or appointees of the county’s Republican political machine.

And my colleague was just kidding, I think, about a Democratic scandal. It is up to the freeholders to set the tone from the top that no-show jobs are not acceptable, that qualified individuals — not connected individuals — will be placed in key operational positions, and that contracts for services will be awarded based on bids, not bribes.

The Democrats have already started sending out press releases, which give us some clue about the way things will be in 2009. McMorrow, D’Amico and Mallet have agreed that McMorrow will succeed Burry as the director of the freeholders board.

McMorrow, a former teacher and high school principal, broke through for the Democrats in November 2006 when she defeated Manalapan Township Committeeman Andrew Lucas for a seat on the freeholders board. It was the first win by a Democratic freeholder candidate in decades. McMorrow is a former member of the Borough Council in Freehold Borough and is a capable administrator. The seat she holds will be up for election in November 2009.

“I am honored to have the support of my colleagues,” McMorrow said in a press release. “We have a lot to accomplish in the coming year. We need to continue to build on what I have started through the implementation of pay-to-play, the budget task force, and the strategic plan. I can assure that this transition (to Democratic control) will involve a thorough look at all county operations and personnel to see what efficiencies can be realized. After 23 years of one-party rule there is bound to be waste throughout our current county structure. We will have smaller, smarter and more efficient government in Monmouth County.”

D’Amico was a freeholder in the 1980s — one of the last Democrats to serve on the county’s governing body before the Republicans gained full control. The Democrats agreed that D’Amico will serve as the board’s deputy director in 2009. He is a retired state Superior Court judge.

It would be naive to believe that politicians are not occasionally in the company of people who will seek to exploit relationships for personal gain, but the Democrats who will be in control of Monmouth County’s government in a few weeks — an educator, a judge and a businesswoman

Mallet), along with the Democratic power brokers who are behind the scenes, will have the chance to prove that it will not be business as usual in Monmouth County on their watch.

Mark Rosman is the managing editor of the News Transcript.