FREEHOLD – A focus on health and housing is on the to-do list of newly elected county freeholders Susan M. Kiley and Gerry P. Scharfenberger, sworn into duty at the Jan. 3 reorganization meeting of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Kiley, who was appointed the freeholder liaison to the County Health Department, Human Services Advisory Council, and the Board of Addiction Services, said she hopes to use her background in the medical field to make an immediate impact.
Prior to entering the political arena, Kiley had a 30-year career in the medical field, initially as a registered nurse and eventually serving as the vice president of national health care sales for Sodexo.
“With your trust, and the experience I can bring, I’m going to work tirelessly to continually improve the quality of our lives in Monmouth County,” said Kiley, a former Hazlet Township Committee member and mayor, who defeated Democratic candidate Amber Gesslein for a full three-year term on the freeholder board.
According to statistics published by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO), 2018 marked the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths, particularly deaths related to heroin and opiates, since the organization began tracking and reporting those numbers in 2012.
The latest data made available by the MCPO showed 175 recorded overdose deaths in 2018, a significant increase from the 151 reported in 2017, and considerably more than the previous high of 164 recorded in 2016.
Deaths related to heroin and opiates also climbed from last year’s total of 134 up to 156 and surpassed the previous high of 150 registered in 2016.
Scharfenberger, who was appointed to the freeholder board in February 2018 to fill a vacancy left in Serena DiMaso’s transition to the state assembly, said it was his and his fellow freeholders’ responsibility to advocate for county taxpayers, especially during a health crisis.
“This means speaking out against policy in the upper regions of the government that we find harmful to our quality of life in the county, including the legalization of recreational marijuana in the midst of a heroin epidemic. The Monmouth County Freeholders will not remain silent,” added Scharfenberger, who defeated Democratic candidate Larry Luttrell for a one-year unexpired term.
One year ago, the freeholders adopted a resolution stating it could not support any attempt by the state of New Jersey to legalize recreational marijuana.
The resolution made Monmouth the first county in the state to oppose the push made by Gov. Phil Murphy – a Middletown resident – toward legalization.
Though the resolution did not bar municipalities from accepting marijuana dispensaries, Tom Arnone, Board of Chosen Freeholders director, said he hoped the resolution would inspire county towns to follow suit. Several Two River-area municipalities did, including Colts Neck, Fair Haven, Little Silver, Middletown, Oceanport, Rumson and Shrewsbury.
Partnership with Habitat for Humanity
Scharfenberger said one of the initiatives he looks forward to developing in 2019 is Monmouth County’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the international nonprofit organization devoted to constructing simple, affordable housing options for those in need.
According to Sharfenberger, the goal of this relationship is to help foster affordable housing growth within the county without it being forced upon municipalities.
“This is the way it should be done; without the heavy hand of government and some costly, environmentally devastating, unfunded measure being forced upon taxpayers,” Scharfenberger said.
It was also announced at the meeting that Tom Arnone will serve as director, and Pat Impreveduto as deputy director of the board. The fifth member of the freeholder board is Lillian Burry. Freeholders receive a salary of $27,000 annually; the director receives $27,900.
This article was first published in the Jan. 10-Jan. 16, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.
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