By Jay Cook |
FREEHOLD – As former Monmouth County Freeholder Serena DiMaso this week took her second oath of office in as many years, her departure from the county government allows another politician to climb the political ladder.
But the question still remains: Who will it be?
DiMaso was sworn in to the state Legislature on Tuesday, as were her fellow 13th Legislative District Republican representatives, state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin. The district is comprised of 16 towns throughout northern Monmouth County.
While the outcome remains to be seen, the frontrunners for her open seat are Hazlet Deputy Mayor Sue Kiley and Middletown Committeeman Gerry Scharfenberger, multiple sources have confirmed. Both Kiley and Scharfenberger served as mayors last year and were not reappointed by their respective township committees for mayoral positions in 2018. They both also have been familiar faces at county functions over the past year and were present at the freeholder reorganization meeting last week.
Speaking to constituents one last time at the freeholder reorganization meeting on Jan. 5 at Biotechnology High School, DiMaso said it was “a bittersweet moment” as she closed out a six-year run as a county freeholder.
“As I move to the next stage of my public life, I will bring everything I have learned about the government from my time as a freeholder…to Trenton to make New Jersey the state people want to live in,” said DiMaso, also a former Holmdel mayor. “I will never forget where I came from, so I hope you will never forget that you have a friend in me.”
DiMaso’s rise started with an opening at the top of the 13th district. Republican Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., a 30-year veteran of the state Legislature, served his final day in office on Tuesday after announcing last year that 2017 would be his last year in office. O’Scanlon, formerly the 13th district assemblyman, was picked to be Kyrillos’ successor and won the seat in November. DiMaso then slid up from the county level to the Assembly after running on a ticket with O’Scanlon and Handlin.
As DiMaso’s policy work shifts to Trenton, it allows for an open seat on the freeholder board, now made up of four Republicans: Director Thomas Arnone, Deputy Director Lillian Burry, Freeholder John P. Curley and Freeholder Patrick Impreveduto.
Arnone said last week the county will have 10 days to advertise the seat to Republicans who wish to throw their name into the ring, according to state statute. He also said a Republican county convention would happen during the first week in February, when a number of potential candidates will vie for support of the seat.
Kiley just won her second election in November and operates on a 3-2 Republican majority in Hazlet, and Scharfenberger has been on Middletown’s governing body since 2005, last winning re-election in 2016. He even tested the waters for the legislative race last January when he announced his candidacy for the 13th Legislative District, though he eventually rescinded it.
When asked if the next freeholder was in the auditorium on Friday afternoon, Arnone was mum, reaffirming any candidate would need party-wide backing.
“We really have a good batch,” Arnone said. “It could be people that were here, but they have to actually go through the convention and get the committee people’s support.”
Ironically enough, DiMaso was the last freeholder to fill a vacant position on the board. She was appointed in January 2012 after then-Freeholder Robert D. Clifton was elected to the state Assembly’s 12th Legislative District. He still serves in that position.
This article was first published in the Jan. 11-18, 2018 print edition of the Two River Times.
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