In what may likely be seen as a dysfunctional political family, swearing in ceremonies took two days to accomplish, despite pomp that included two U.S. senators and one member of the House of Representatives, as well as state senators, state assembly members, mayors, council members, and other dignitaries.
On Jan. 3, U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez led a host of dignitaries in swearing in most – but not all – of the county officials elected on Nov. 8.
While state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco swore in North Bergen/Secaucus Freeholder Tom Liggio, and most other mayors from Hudson municipalities swore in their freeholders on Jan. 3 in the Brennan Court House, State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack swore in Union City Freeholder Tilo Rivas at the Freeholder Reorganization meeting in the County Annex on Jan. 4.
“We are in some tough times, as well all know.” – Donald Payne
While Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy did attend and speak at the ceremonies, several Jersey City freeholders opted to be sworn in by other public officials.
DeGise got accolades from Menendez, who called him the best county executive Hudson County has ever had.
Menendez said that DeGise is a person who is suited for helping to meet some of the challenges faced by the county and the nation.
“He understands that in order to be able to compete for a good job, you have to have a quality education,” Menendez said, noting that his and the freeholders work with the Schools of Technology and Hudson County Community College have provided students here with some of the most advanced tools possible for getting that education.
Lautenberg also sang DeGise’s praises, celebrating DeGise’s initiatives in transportation and open space.
But Menendez took the opportunity to make broader statements about the nature of democracy, and how events like this showed “what makes America different from so many other places in the world, where citizens will choose who leads them out of a ballot box, not at the point of a gun and not through mob rule.”
State Sen. Sandra Cunningham celebrated the entire delegation of public officials at the event, from municipal to federal, saying it was an honor for her to be part of those who represent the people of Hudson County, calling them honorable.
Rep. Donald Payne said there are many things that have to be done, but that Hudson County has selected a good leader in Tom DeGise, and that he – along with the nine freeholders – has done an outstanding job. But he said what makes Hudson County stand out is that everyone has a voice, and this is evident by the diverse makeup of the Board of Freeholders.
“We are in some tough times, as we all know,” Payne said. “The stagnation in employment has been daunting. But we do have the answer. The answer is that if we can get the other party to put America first, rather than politics first, we can overcome these problems. We will overcome them because we have the right people here in Hudson County, the right people in the state of New Jersey, and our U.S. Senators here. I know that Hudson County will lead the way in putting this country back on the right track because we know how to do it. We just have to roll up our sleeves and put our shoulders to the boulder. And we will do it.”
Sacco in his remarks said that Hudson County is perhaps the most important county in the state, and it’s out of this county that many of the answers for the state’s problems will emerge.
In his own comments, DeGise said he has set new goals and is looking forward to the challenges of the future. He said ceremonies like these allow public officials to recharge their batteries and set new goals for the future, such as salvaging the long dominant Kopper’s Koke facility in Kearny to become a job-generating site again.
Bayonne Mark Smith, who also serves as chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, also echoed Menendez and Lautenberg about ceremonies like this that mark the transition of power.
“These are important because it is at ceremonies like this that we get to see up close and personal the people who we elected,” Smith said. He paid tribute to DeGise and his successes in the past, as well as DeGise’s vision for the future. “This is man who has a passion for his job and his family.”
Coming off a miraculous year
The reorganization meeting on Jan. 4 saw a change in chairmanship as Freeholder Bill O’Dea passed the mantle of leadership to Rivera, who served as vice chair in 2011. Traditionally, the chairmanship is an annual appointment, with leadership passing to the vice chair of the year before. But this is not always the case.
Freeholder Romano was named vice chairman for 2012, and Munos pro tem.
Jersey City Freeholder Jeff Dublin was named the county’s representative to the New Jersey League of Municipalities, where he will also serve as first vice president for the upcoming year.
In comments on both nights, freeholders Rivera and Dublin said they are coming off a miraculous year.
Rivera, who returned after ill heath in early 2011, said, “Doctors thought I was a goner at least three times, and they still can’t explain how my lungs began to function again.”
O’Dea said he and others have visited Rivera in the hospital in hopes that he would return.
“I know I have been MIA for a while,” Rivera said after being voted in by the freeholders as the new chairman. “God has been good to me and has allowed me to continue in service to the public, which I have been doing for more than 40 years.”
Meanwhile, Dublin talked about his son, who was born months premature in June at slightly over two pounds, and not only survived, but appears to be on his way to healthy growth.