Land area: 127 square miles
Water area: 3.3 square miles
Highest point: 691 feet above sea level
Average annual: 54 degrees F
Average temperature January:
High 38 degrees F, Low 24 degrees F
Average temperature July:
High 86 degrees F, Low 69 degrees F
Average annual: 44-48 inches
Average number of days with precipitation: 111 days
Single Family Units: 120,150
Median Housing Values, owner occupied: $394,300
Total Housing Units: 310,379
Major Colleges and Universities: 10
Total Public School Enrollment, ages 3 and older: 210,103 (2009)
Number of Public School Districts: 23
Number of Charter Schools: 29
(Years of School â€“ 2009)
Less than 9th Grade: 8.3 percent
High School Graduate or Higher: 81.1 percent
Bachelor's Degree and Beyond: 30.7 percent
County Executive Plan:
Elected County Executive and Board of Chosen Freeholders (nine members)
County Seat: Newark
ELECTION STATISTICS (2009)
Registered Voters: 451,561
Ballots Cast: 84,575
Third largest county in New Jersey by population
783,969 total population
Median Age: 35.8 years
Total Civilian Labor Force, ages 16 and over: 390,358
Per Capita: $30,991
Median Household Income: $54,176
Median Family Income: $67,030
County Park System
First County Park System created in United States
Organized in 1895
Includes 20 parks, five reservations and various facilities
5,985 acres of parkland
highways accessible to Essex County
Garden State Parkway
New Jersey Turnpike
Interstates 78, 80 and 280
Routes 1-9, 21, 22, 23, 24 & 46
Total mileage: 1,673
Interstate mileage: 27
State highway mileage: 59
County road mileage: 233
Municipal road mileage: 1,330
County has three of the nation's major transportation centers:
Newark Liberty International Airport
Within East Orange
GOVERNMENT: The Structure, History and Responsibilities
As the United
States grew, each of the 50 States developed its own individual geographic
and governmental structure. In New Jersey, there are 566 municipalities,
organized into 22 Counties. Counties were created as geographic and political
subdivisions of the State, and derive their powers from the State Constitution
and the State Legislature. Their original mission was to provide road
maintenance and hospitals for the mentally ill. The County has no authority
which is not either specifically granted or implied by statutes, and many
County functions are mandated or supervised by the State.
Counties still provide those services, plus others, and have no jurisdiction
over municipal governments, because the concept of home rule is strong
in New Jersey. Therefore, in New Jersey, municipalities perform some governmental
and service functions done by Counties in other States, and vice versa.
COMMISSION: A Precursor of Change
In 1966, the State created the County and Municipal Government Study Commission,
chaired by William V. Musto, to study the structure and functions of county
and municipal governments. Known as the "Musto Commission,"
the study identified four main areas of inadequacy in the then structure,
which had members of the elected Board of Chosen Freeholders acting as
both the legislative and administrative leaders. The Commission cited
inadequacies in the legal, fiscal, structural and administrative areas,
as well as political invisibility regarding governmental responsibilities.
recommended that counties be given the general power to reorganize in
three ways: (1) County Executive Plan, (2) County Manager Plan, and (3)
County Supervisor Plan. The Commission also recommended that counties
be empowered to initiate area-wide and inter-local services, to provide
for a legislative and policy-making role for the Board of Chosen Freeholders,
and to provide central, professional administration. The New Jersey Legislature
incorporated these recommendations into the Optional County Charter Law
in September of 1972.
County Charter Change Commission
From 1798 until 1977, Essex County was governed by the Essex County Board
of Chosen Freeholders, a traditional form of New Jersey County government
which changed very little in 180 years. The name, in early days, indicated
that the people who were elected owned their land, or were "freeholders"
based on recommendations of the Optional County Charter Law, Essex County,
by resolution of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, was one of nine Counties
to establish a Charter Study Commission, by referendum in the November,
1973 election. At the same time, from a field of 30 candidates, nine members
were elected at-large for this non-partisan Commission by a 2 to 1 majority.
Five of the nine Commissioners were attached to County government.
In all eight
of the other counties where the voters elected Charter Study Commissions,
the Commissioners recommended the adoption of one of the three alternative
charters, but in Essex County, after nine months of deliberation, the
Commission, in a 6-3 party-line vote, decided that the current form of
government was working well. A minority report was filed, which recommended
a change in the structure of County government to the County Executive
Charter Change Battlelines are Drawn
The Optional County Charter Law specified that citizens could petition
to put an alternative charter plan on the ballot. In 1975, in a movement
spearheaded by the Essex County League of Women Voters, a bipartisan citizens
group called Citizens for Charter Change was formed to conduct a petition
drive to put the minority report recommendations on the ballot.
Question for the ballot read, "Shall the County Executive Plan of
the Optional County Charter Law be adopted for Essex County, with provisions
for a Board of Freeholders of nine members to be elected for concurrent
terms and elected five by districts and four at-large?" Under the
provision of the Charter Law, the petition had to be signed by 15 percent
of all County residents who were registered to vote 40 days before the
1975 Primary Election. Therefore, more than 56,000 signatures were therefore
1975, after a campaign at shopping centers and on street corners throughout
the County, 67,000 signatures were gathered by Citizens for Charter Change
and presented to the County Clerk. Disputes arose as to the validity of
the signatures and as to the actual number needed. Finally, after almost
three years and many court battles, the necessary signatures were approved
and the question of Essex County Charter Change was placed on the ballot
in November 1977.
Charter is Changed; a New Government is Formed
Citizens approved the change in form of government by a 72,226 to 64,238
vote. As per the approved plan, Essex County was divided into five districts,
by population and geography, with each district represented by one Freeholder,
and the four remaining Freeholders were to be elected at-large. The following
year, the new officials were elected on November 6, 1978, and were sworn
into office on the steps of the Essex County Hall of Records one week
later, Tuesday, November 13.
two branches of government: the Administrative Branch, headed by the County
Executive, and the Legislative Branch, the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
by law, an Administrative Code creating a government with clearly defined
Executive and Legislative branches was written and adopted on May 1, 1979,
by the Board of Chosen Freeholders, and approved by the County Executive.
This document set forth in detail the organization of the County government,
proscribing the duties and powers of all major officials, elected and
appointed, and the composition and responsibilities of each of the departments
and non-departmental agencies.
consolidated 68 previously existing departments, agencies, boards and
commissions into eight new departments under the administrative supervision
of the elected County Executive and the County Administrator hired by
him, as the senior professional manager, with the Advice and Consent of
the Board of Freeholders.
eight new departments, 33 separate divisions conducted County government
operations and programs. In addition, a number of advisory boards were
created to provide citizen input and help develop policy and program initiatives
at the department and division levels. According to the Administrative
Code, Article 9, Section 9.Od, "all advisory boards, shall consist
of at least five members plus two freeholders," and shall reflect
the "population of the County and the public served by the agency
EXECUTIVE: A New Leader for Essex County
The County Executive, elected from the County at-large, for a four-year
term, is the chief political and administrative officer of the County.
The duties and powers of the County Executive are contained in Article
4 of the Administrative Code. The first elected County Executive was Peter
Shapiro, a 26 year old NJ Assemblyman, who was representative of the bi-partisan
coalition of activists that had battled the established political leaders,
of the County Executive
with the Advice and Consent of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, the County
Administrator, County Counsel, Department and Division Heads, and members
of all County Boards, including Advisory Boards, Commissions and Authorities.
all departmental employees, subject to the Administrative Code and Civil
Service requirements, but may delegate this power to department heads.
the County Charter and all general laws pertaining to the County.
the annual Operating and Capital budget for review and adoption by the
Board of Chosen Freeholders.
the collection of revenues, as well as the audit, and control of all disbursements
an annual State of the County Message.
contracts for the County subject to the approval of the Board of Chosen
all Ordinances, contracts and bonds.
9. May veto
any legislation except the budget and other
resolutions. (The Board of Chosen Freeholders may override a veto by a
two-thirds vote of the full membership.)
to those powers and responsibilities described in the Optional County
Charter Law and formalized in the Administrative Code, the County Executive
is the visible representative of the County in dealings with the public,
the business sector and the municipal governments. Furthermore, the County
Executive represents County interests through lobbying efforts on the
state and federal levels.
Executive's Office staff is composed of the personal choices of the County
Executive, and these appointments are not subject to Advice and Consent.
The Staff works with the County Administrator and the Department Heads
to assure that policies of the County Executive are carried out, direct
press, community, and inter-governmental relations, and work with the
Administrator and Director of Personnel to find the best persons for staff
and Board positions.
ADMINISTRATOR: a Professional Manager
The County Administrator, appointed by the County Executive with the Advice
and Consent of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, serves at the pleasure
of the County Executive.
Administrator is responsible for the day to day operations of County Government.
This includes serving as liaison between the County Executive and the
Board of Chosen Freeholders, and the Freeholders and the Department Heads.
Among the primary responsibilities of the position are supervising the
Department Directors, advising the County Executive, and developing management
policies and procedures.
functions are performed through regularly scheduled weekly meetings, and
on-demand, as required problem-solving sessions. The County Administrator
meets regularly with the County Executive to discuss general County issues
and specific operational problems, Board of Chosen Freeholders agenda
items, and personnel matters. The County Administrator, County Executive,
and Department and Division Heads also formally review goals and objectives.
OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS: the Legislative Body
The Board of Chosen Freeholders consists of nine members, five of whom
are elected from districts and four of whom are elected at-large. They
are elected for three-year concurrent terms and may be re-elected to successive
terms at the annual election in November. There is no limit to the number
of terms they may serve. The Board holds meetings, which are open to the
public on Wednesdays or Thursdays at a variety of locations around the
County and at the Hall of Records in Newark. All meetings begin at 7:00
pm. An annual meeting schedule is available from the Office of the Clerk
to the Board of Freeholders, and is published in daily and weekly newspapers.
of the Board of Chosen Freeholders is to perform the legislative and investigative
powers granted to it by the Optional County Charter Law. It passes whatever
ordinances and resolutions it deems necessary for proper and good governance
of the County. The Board also gives Advice and Consent to appointments
by the County Executive of all Department and Division Heads, County Administrator,
County Counsel, and members of all Boards, Commissions, and Authorities.
A prime function of the Board is to conduct investigations that will aid
it in formulating legislation and exercising budgetary powers. The Board
appoints its own counsel, who serves at its pleasure, and in addition,
the Board may, within the limits of its budget, appoint professional and
clerical staff and consultants deemed necessary to perform its statuary
and Vice President of the Board are elected by majority vote of the Board
at its annual organizational meeting. They serve for one year but may
be re-elected to successive terms. The President acts as chairperson for
all formal meetings and sets the agenda. As presiding officer, the President
may move and second motions from the chair but, when wishing to participate
in a debate must relinquish the position for the reminder of the debate.
and Vice President are the Board's liaisons to the Administration, and
meet frequently with the County Executive, County Administrator and the
Chief of Staff. Although standing committees are prohibited, the President
establishes and appoints all Board committees as needed. All ordinances
and resolutions passed by the Board are signed by the President. In the
absence or inability of the President to serve, the Vice President acts
in that capacity.
It is the responsibility of the Freeholders to appoint a Clerk to the
Board who is their office manager and serves at the pleasure of the Board.
The Clerk operates with a budget and staff separate from the Administration's.
The Clerk prepares the Agenda for Conference and Board meetings, attends
all formal meetings of the Board, records all the votes and actions taken,
and keeps the minutes. Finally, the Clerk receives all documents and certifies
them, provides secretarial service and handles correspondence for the
Board of Chosen Freeholders. The Office is the official repository for
One of the
most important powers of the Board is the power of the budget. On or before
January 15th of each year, the County Executive, after formal review and
hearings, must submit a proposed budget and budget message to the Board
of Chosen Freeholders. Aside from the total annual expenditures for each
department, division, commission, and agency, the budget contains recommendations
for a budget for the Board of Chosen Freeholders based on information
supplied by the Executive to the Board.
in order to hold its own hearings, must file a schedule of requests for
information and appearances by County officials with the County Executive
within ten days after submission of the budget. All Board requests for
appearances by County personnel must be filed at least 48 hours before
the time set for such appearances.
then holds its own budget hearings and sets County policy and direction
in its budget decisions. After passage of the budget, the Freeholders
may request quarterly reports from the County Executive to help them monitor
the budget throughout the year. The County Executive cannot veto the budget
as passed by the Freeholders and must have Freeholder approval to make
changes in the budget during the year.
of Chosen Freeholders oversees non-departmental agencies (see page 39,
Article 10 of Administrative Code), which are those agencies that are
not part of any other agency of the County but which must adhere to the
same regulations and controls as the eight departments of government.
The Board may by ordinance create, change, alter, or dissolve agencies
that are not deemed autonomous or mandated by law.