January 5, 2009



Board Unanimously Re-Elects

Blonnie Watson President and Ralph Caputo Vice President

(Newark, NJ) – Amid the soaring stone arches, muraled walls and grand staircases of the recently refurbished Essex County Historic Courthouse, eight members of the nine-member Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders were sworn into office on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2009, to begin their three-year terms. After taking their oaths of office from Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello, the Freeholders then unanimously re-elected Freeholder Blonnie R. Watson as President and Freeholder Ralph R. Caputo as Vice President of the Board for 2009 during their Organization Meeting.  Freeholder Patricia Sebold, who is recovering from a recent hospital stay, was sworn-in at her home earlier in the day by Essex County Clerk Christopher J. Durkin, witnessed by Essex County Counsel James R. Paganelli.

The Board is comprised of four members elected at-large and five members elected to represent specific geographical districts.  The at-large freeholders are: Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson, Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson and Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., all of Newark, and Patricia Sebold of Livingston.  The district members are: District 1 - Freeholder Samuel Gonzalez of Newark; District 2 - Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley of Irvington; District 3 - Freeholder Carol Y. Clark of East Orange; District 4 - Freeholder Linda Lordi Cavanaugh of West Orange; and District 5 - Freeholder Vice President Ralph R. Caputo of Belleville.

The Swearing-In Ceremony was highlighted by remarks from each of the freeholders as well as welcoming remarks from Governor Jon S. Corzine, Judge Costello, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., and Deputy Mayor Ronald Salahuddin, representing Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, the host city and county seat.

During her acceptance remarks, Freeholder President Watson thanked the voters for electing her to another term, as well as her colleagues for selecting her to serve as their President for another year.  She also spoke of the pride she felt as an African-American woman when she said, “I, as a woman born and raised in the segregated South, cannot put into words how moved and honored I was to see my name printed on the same ballot with President-Elect Obama.  This election is a testament to all Americans and an example to the world of how extraordinary the United States of America is; where all things are possible in a nation founded on divine, and now proven principles”.

Freeholder Vice President Caputo also thanked the voters as well as his colleagues for re-electing him Vice President.  Commenting on the financial crisis, he said, “These are frightening and challenging times…our neighbors, friends and family members are losing their jobs, losing their homes, or are afraid they soon will.”  He went on to say, “As we begin the process of reviewing the 2009 County Budget, fiscal restraint and awareness of the financial burden on the taxpayers must be our mantra.  For all of us who enter public service to make things better for our communities, there will be frustrating days ahead.  But I am confident that with your support, patience and understanding, we will weather this storm together.”

Eight of the freeholders were re-elected to office on November 4th; Freeholder President Watson and Freeholders Cavanaugh and Sebold to their fifth terms, Freeholder Vice President Caputo and Freeholders Beasley and Clark to their third terms, and Freeholders Gonzalez and Payne to their second full terms.  Freeholder Rufus Johnson, who has served as Chief of Staff to State Senator Ronald Rice since 1998, was elected to the Board for the first time.

In addition to Governor Corzine, the following distinguished guests were in attendance: Congressman Donald M. Payne (D - 10th District): State Senators Ronald Rice (D–28th), Nia Gill (D–34th) and M. Teresa Ruiz (D–29th); Assemblymen Thomas P. Giblin (D-34th) and Alberto Coutinho (D-29th); and Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D-27th) and Grace Spencer (D-29th).  Other guests included County Clerk Christopher J. Durkin, Register of Deeds & Mortgages Carole A. Graves, Surrogate Joseph P. Brennan, Jr., Prosecutor Paula T. Dow, Essex County College President Dr. A. Zachary Yamba and Philip Thigpen, Essex County Democratic Chairman.

The program also included invocations by Reverend Dr. Gloria White of Newark’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Reverend Monsignor Michael E. Kelly, Headmaster of Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange. The benediction was given by Imam W. Deen Shareef of the Waris Cultural Research & Development Center of Irvington, and musical selections were performed by Mark Beckett, the Performing Arts Teacher at the Essex County Vocational Schools’ West Caldwell Campus.  At the conclusion of the event, all guests were invited to enjoy a Reception in the spectacular Courthouse Rotunda.

The photo above is a group photo of the 3 at-large freeholders as they were being sworn-in by Essex Co. Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello. From left to right: Judge Costello, Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson, Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., and Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson. The 4th at-large freeholder, Patricia Sebold, did not attend the ceremony.

The photo above is a group photo of the 5 district freeholders as they were being sworn-in by Essex Co. Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello (although she is out of the frame). From left to right: Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley, Freeholder Carol Y. Clark, Freeholder Linda Lordi Cavanaugh, Freeholder Samuel Gonzalez, and Freeholder Vice President Ralph R. Caputo

The photo above is a group photo of the 8 freeholders present at the ceremony with Governor Jon S. Corzine (Freeholder Sebold did not attend). Front row, from left to right: Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., Freeholder Samuel Gonzalez, Freeholder Vice President Ralph R. Caputo, Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson, Freeholder Linda Lordi Cavanaugh and Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley. Back row, from left to right: Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson, Governor Jon S. Corzine and Freeholder Carol Y. Clark

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For additional information, please contact:

Gary Kroessig, Public Information

Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders