Untitled Document
January 3, 2012


Board Unanimously Re-Elects Blonnie Watson President And Elects Patricia Sebold Vice President

(Newark, NJ) – Amid the soaring stone arches, muraled walls and grand staircases of the imposing Essex County Historic Courthouse, the nine members of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders were sworn into office on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2012, to begin their three-year terms. After taking their oaths of office from Superior Court Judge Robert H. Gardner, the Freeholders then convened their 2012 Organization Meeting during which they unanimously re-elected Freeholder Blonnie R. Watson as President and elected Freeholder Patricia Sebold, also unanimously, as Vice President.

The nine members of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders were sworn into office during a ceremony held at the Essex County Historic Courthouse in Newark on New Year's Day. Pictured above are: (front row, left to right) Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold, Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson, Freeholder Carol Y. Clark and Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley; and (back row, left to right) Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson, Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla, Freeholder Leonard M. Luciano and Freeholder Brendan W. Gill. (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Six of the nine freeholders were re-elected to office on November 8th: Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson of Newark to her sixth term; Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold of Livingston to her seventh term; Freeholders D. Bilal Beasley of Irvington and Carol Y. Clark of East Orange to their fourth terms; Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., of Newark to his third term; and Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson, also of Newark, to his second term.  Freeholders Rolando Bobadilla of Newark, Brendan W. Gill of Montclair and Leonard M. Luciano of West Caldwell were elected to their first terms, although Freeholder Bobadilla had been appointed to fill the seat vacated by Freeholder Juan Rivera in September, and Freeholder Luciano had been appointed to fill the seat vacated by Freeholder Linda Lordi Cavanaugh in August.

The Freeholder Board is comprised of four members elected at-large and five members elected to represent specific geographical districts; the at-large freeholders are Watson, Johnson, Payne and Patricia Sebold, and the district freeholders are Bobadilla (District 1), Beasley (District 2), Clark (District 3), Luciano (District 4) and Gill (District 5).

NJ Superior Court Judge Robert H. Gardner administered the oaths of office to the At-Large Freeholders (left to right) Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson, Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold, Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., and Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson. (Photo by Glen Frieson)

NJ Superior Court Judge Robert H. Gardner administered the oaths of office to the District Freeholders (left to right) Freeholder Carol Y. Clark (3rd), Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla (1st), Freeholder Brendan W. Gill (5th), Freeholder Leonard M. Luciano (4th) and Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley (2nd). (Photo by Glen Frieson)

The Swearing-In Ceremony was highlighted by remarks from each of the freeholders and welcoming remarks from U. S. Congressman Donald M. Payne (D.-10th C.D.), Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., and Modia Butler, Chief of Staff for Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, the host city and county seat.

During her 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 a sixth consecutive year, saying,  “We are at a time when the qualities of leadership are constantly being tested… and I pledge to provide leadership based upon integrity, accountability and accessibility.”  She recounted the many accomplishments achieved through the close working relationship of the Freeholder Board with County Executive DiVincenzo, saying, “We have overcome many challenges, and have experienced many successes as a testament to our teamwork”, including the creation of recreational facilities that are second to none and to keeping tax increases at a minimum, “… without layoffs or furloughs of county employees, even in these difficult economic times.” Looking ahead, she said, “We’ve done much, and yet there is still much to do.  This afternoon we stand poised at the start of a new year, with uncertainty and many challenges before us, yet we can be optimistic because of our past successes and triumphs.”

Freeholder Vice President Sebold also thanked the voters for permitting her to represent them for a seventh term and expressed her appreciation to her colleagues for electing her Vice President, a position she previously held in 1996 and from 2003-2006.  She also commented that she was “…savoring every minute…” of the ceremony, recalling that she had been unable to attend the 2009 swearing-in ceremony because she was at home recovering from very serious injuries sustained during a fall, saying, “Let me tell you that it has been so much more enjoyable, for so many reasons, to be here in person.”

She also commented on how proud she was to serve as a freeholder, and to hold the record as Essex County’s longest-serving freeholder since the change in the form of government in 1979.  Sebold also stated that she looked forward “…to doing all I can to continue to help the residents of Essex County, to utilize the powers of county government to improve the quality of their lives, and to continue to work with County Executive DiVincenzo in ‘Putting Essex County First’”.



During his remarks, Freeholder Rufus Johnson paid tribute to his 80-year old mother, Florine Johnson Graham, who raised nine children on her own and who told him stories when he was a child about having rocks and bottles thrown at her when she campaigned for Newark’s first African-American mayor, Ken Gibson.  “Mom, this second term is dedicated to you!”






Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., noted that he was proud to follow in the tradition of his father, Congressman (and former freeholder) Donald M. Payne, and his uncle, Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff (and former assemblyman) William D. Payne, who set the standard for public service.  He also committed himself to working to improve the services provided to the neediest residents of the county, saying, “From this day on, we will put the people of Essex County first.”





Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla thanked his family and the voters of the first freeholder district and promised “…to meet each challenge head-on, and to do what’s best for my district and the County of Essex with integrity and honesty.”







Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley commented on how much has been accomplished through the teamwork of the administration and the freeholder board during his nine years as a freeholder, saying, “There is no other period in time that I would have preferred to serve.  There has been so much progress, and to be a part of that has been a rewarding experience, because it all boils down to serving our communities.”




“I’m proud to be from District three!”, said Freeholder Carol Y. Clark, after being sworn-in as the District 3 Freeholder, which she referred to as “the ‘heart and soul’ of Essex County”.  She spoke of the undeniable improvements that have occurred in many areas of the county, but struck a cautionary chord when she referred to the national job crisis and the growing social service crisis in Essex County, saying, “It is great for us to build things, but the sad reality is that some, if not most, of the people I represent cannot afford the price of admission to many of our venues.”





After wishing attendees a great New Year, Freeholder Leonard Luciano reflected on what a good year 2011 had been for him, including his election as the District 4 Freeholder at age 30, musing, “Wow, who woulda thought!”  He went on to thank state, county and local officials, and especially the residents of his district, who “…stood behind me and believed that a young man could become the next District 4 freeholder”.





District 5 Freeholder Brendan W. Gill remarked that he was both humbled and grateful to be the newest addition to the Board.  Looking ahead to his term, he commented that the County and the nation are at a crossroads where the values of the hard-working middle class are under attack.  “In the midst of these hard times, I believe it is our role as elected officials to stand up for them, for the people who do not have a voice, who are trying to make ends meet, and who don’t know how they’re going to make the next mortgage payment.”  “For them”, he said, “we must come together … united in our mission… to represent the interests of our residents.”



In addition to Congressman Payne and County Executive DiVincenzo, the following distinguished guests were also in attendance: State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29th); Assemblymen Ralph R. Caputo (D-28th) Albert Coutinho (D-29th) and Thomas P. Giblin (D-34th); and Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D-27th) and Cleopatra Tucker (D-28th).  Other guests included Deputy Chief of Staff William D. Payne; County Administrator Ralph J. Ciallella and Deputy County Administrator Paul J. Hopkins, II; County Clerk Christopher J. Durkin and Deputy County Clerk Anthony Jackson; Register of Deeds & Mortgages Philip Thigpen and Deputy Register William Narvaez; Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura and Undersheriff Kevin Ryan; Acting Commissioner of Registration & Superintendent of Elections Kathy Sumter; and N. J. Superior Court Judge Michael J. Nelson.

The program, which was led by the Mistress of Ceremonies, Essex County Freeholder Clerk Deborah Davis Ford, also included invocations by: Rabbi Clifford M. Kulwin of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston; Reverend Edwin D. Leahy, Headmaster of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark; and Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef of Masjid Waarith ud Deen at the Waris Cultural Research and Development Center in Irvington.  The benediction was given by Dr. Ralph Grant, Vice President of Somerset Christian College in Newark, and musical selections were performed by Calvin Pearson, an Adoption Clerk in the Office of the Essex County Surrogate.  At the conclusion of the event, all guests were invited to enjoy a Reception in the spectacular Courthouse Rotunda.  

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For Additional Information:
Gary Kroessig, Public Information
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5696 (fax)


Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695