Vicari named director of Ocean County freeholders

The Ocean County Board of Freeholders organized for the new year on Jan. 6 and named Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari as its director for 2014.

John P. Kelly and James F. Lacey were sworn in to their eighth three-year terms on the board.

“I want to congratulate my colleagues Jack Kelly and Jim Lacey as they return to the dais to begin serving new three-year terms,” Vicari said. “Both have worked tirelessly for the citizens of this great county.”

In setting goals for 2014, Vicari said the board will continue with the work needed to recover from superstorm Sandy, which hit in October 2012, while also providing educational and employment opportunities for residents and business owners. He stressed there would be no surprises when it comes to the 2014 county budget and county property taxes.

“In 2013, we faced many unprecedented challenges and while it may have been a difficult year, we were still able to provide quality services and programs to the nearly 600,000 people who call Ocean County home,” Vicari said. “Despite the challenges that came with superstorm Sandy in 2012, including a substantial decrease in our ratable base, a fractured infrastructure and devastating loss to thousands of our residents, Ocean County government persevered. And with all they withstood, our residents and our businesses have not lost hope.”

He noted that past planning practices, especially the board’s conservative fiscal policies, allowed for the continuation of services and programs that are relied upon by residents and taxpayers.

“From home-delivered meals to community outreach through our library systems, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders continued its ongoing pledge to be there for all its citizens,” Vicari said.

He added that even in the face of financial challenges, the board, with the leadership of Freeholder John Bartlett, was able to maintain an AAA bond rating — the highest possible rating, “which truly highlights that our approach to finances works in Ocean County and it works well.”

Vicari said the creation of the Office of Tourism and Business Development will work with seasonal and year-round businesses in an effort to make them more successful in 2014.

“Tourism brings in more than $4 billion each year and helps to create upward of 70,000 jobs in Ocean County,” Vicari said. “This year, in an effort to look at the industry as a year-round industry, I have combined the office of tourism with business development. We will work to secure grants for businesses so they can flourish again. In a county where mom and pop businesses are the backbone of the economy, I will step up efforts to help.”

Vicari also noted the importance of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst as it relates to homeland security and to Ocean County’s economy.

“I will continue to also work with Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to tap into the economic value of this base, encouraging its workers and military personnel stationed there to be a greater part of Ocean County,” Vicari said.

Bartlett, who is serving his 35th consecutive year on the board, said the county works as a family and a team. He noted that in 2013, the efforts of the county to remove 1.5 million cubic yards of debris from roads and rights of way following Sandy came under criticism by some.

“And yet, we paid for the cleanup without having to borrow the money, we did this to put some order back into towns devastated by the storm, to help with public safety and to get the storm recovery under way,” he said. “We were able to help our towns that are now in the process of paying us back and we were able to do this because of sound financial planning.”