The Ocean County freeholder board gained a new member and a new leader on Wednesday, as throngs of the state’s top Republicans gathered in Toms River to see Freeholder Gary Quinn take the oath of office for his first term and Virginia Haines take the gavel to lead the board in 2019.
Quinn, of Lacey Township, was sworn in alongside his running mate, fellow Republican Gerry Little, of Surf City, by state Sen. Christopher Connors. The pair won November’s freeholder election by a wide margin, with Quinn filling the seat of longtime Freeholder John C. Bartlett, who died last month and bowed out of last fall’s race due to health issues.
The affair was filled with the pomp and circumstance that characterizes many of Ocean County’s officials ceremonies. Former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith and dozens of local mayors and council members were on hand. The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department color corps presented the American flag at the dais and county resident Caitlyn Civitano performed a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner to begin the event. Throughout the ceremony, the memory of Bartlett was a constant theme, with officials remembering the man who was the state’s longest-serving freeholder. Bartlett’s service to his county can be seen through the dozens of parks he helped build as well as the immense swaths of open space he helped preserve during his time on the board.
“Freeholder Bartlett said being a freeholder was the best office you could have because you could really get things done,” said Haines, of Toms River. “I couldn’t agree more.”
Haines, who teared up as she was selected by her colleagues to be the first woman to lead the board since Hazel Gluck in 1977. She pledged to be a steward of both the environment as well as the county budget and said her policies would be aimed at maintaining the county’s triple-A bond rating, a relative rarity in financially-troubled New Jersey government.
“Growing up, we all learned the value of money from hard-working parents who taught us that we have to know the difference between what we can afford and can’t afford,” said Haines. “Our budget will improve count roads, bridges and facilities.”
Quinn, in his remarks after being sworn in to his new seat, focused mainly on his own family. His family, including his two young grandchildren, all joined him as he took the oath of office.
“At the end of the day, all you have is your health and your family, and my family has always been a rock to me,” said Quinn, adding that he also valued the conversations he had with Bartlett before joining the board.
Quinn especially thanked Lacey Township residents for giving him his start in public service. Quinn served terms as school board member, committee member and mayor there.
“I’ve had a great time there, a great run and tremendous support,” he said, telling the audience that one of the major lessons he learned in local government was the importance of having a dedicated staff.
“Everything that is done is done because of the people behind the scenes,” said Quinn, who was joined by his former colleagues on the Lacey Township committee as well as Lacey Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh.
Little’s swearing-in was also an emotional one, as he was joined by his son, Matthew, who is currently serving in the military.
“We are together as a team here in Ocean County,” said Little, who has served on the board since 2003, having previously served as a Surf City councilman. “We work together and cooperate with each other, and that’s how we make Ocean County a great place to live, work and retire.”
Haines said the board is a team she is proud to lead.
“I love Ocean County,” she said. “There is no other place I’d rather be. My parents instilled in my a sense of pride in my community.”