Posted Thursday, January 7th, 2016

The Morris County Board of Freeholder held their annual reorganization meeting on Sunday, with new freeholders Christine Myers of Mendham Township and Deborah Smith of Denville, taking office, and Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo of Roxbury selected as the county governing board’s leader for a second straight year.

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Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen administers the oath of office to Kathy DeFillippo. Her husband, Bob, holds the Bible.

Board members spoke of several key priorities for 2016, including a continued effort to hold down county government spending, enhanced security to deal with potential terrorism, a continued aggressive effort to improve county roads, and creation of a long-term vision for the county.

Myers and Mastrangelo both stressed the need to focus on the county’s economic growth, including an improved effort to draw and keep businesses and jobs in Morris County.

“We will face some difficult decisions in 2016 that will force us to find the right balance between resources and services – between meeting the needs of all residents and keeping taxes from becoming an overwhelming burden,’’ said Freeholder Director DeFillippo.

“It will take leaders who have the courage and the understanding that we were elected to act in the best interests of all residents of Morris County, not just the loudest or those who represent special interests,’’ she added.

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Assemblyman Joe Pennacchio administers the oath of office to John Cesaro

In addition to DeFillippo, Myers and Smith, the all-Republican 2016 Freeholder Board includes Freeholder Doug Cabana of Boonton Township, Tom Mastrangelo of Montville, John Cesaro of Parsippany-Troy Hills, and Hank Lyon of Montville.

Lyon was selected as deputy director for 2016 by his peers, while Cesaro took the oath of office on Sunday for a second three-year term as freeholder.

DeFillippo said 2015 was a year of significant accomplishment, including:

  • No increase in county taxes for a third year in a row;
  • Maintaining the county’s coveted Triple-A bond rating;
  • Continued financing of an aggressive road improvement effort, with paving of nearly 30 miles of roads in 2015;
  • Settlement of the county’s solar litigation to limit the county’s financial exposure – “something none of us was completely happy about but a difficult decision that had to be made;
  • Ensured that historic churches across Morris County would continue to have access to historic preservation funds.

“It will be critical that we, as the county’s elected representatives, step up and be the leaders that residents of Morris County sent us here to be,’’ she said.

Doug Cabana

Doug Cabana

Cabana, who is the longest serving freeholder, outlined what he said would be a “major focus on Homeland Security’’ in 2016 and the need to be prepared for violent incidents.

Included is development of a Rescue Task Force Program by the county Office of Emergency Management that focuses on the ultimate goal of saving lives in the event of attacks.

“Recent incidents throughout the nation and world concerning active shooter and hostile incidents are becoming increasingly frequent occurrences,’’ Cabana said.

“We learned from the tragic attack in San Bernardino that we all must be vigilant during this volatile time in world history. Morris County is not immune from this violence.’’

Morris County will spend $500,000 of federal Homeland Security funds this year as part of this initiative to better prepare first responders for such attacks, with a primary focus to quickly treat the injured and save lives.

As part of this effort, the county will offer specialized training to all local response agencies. Police officers who completes the course will get a kit with specially designed life-saving equipment, while many first responder ambulances and other response vehicles will receive specialized medical kits.

On a separate issue, Freeholder Director DeFillippo announced a change in times for country government meetings in 2016. They will be still be held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

The board’s work sessions – which are open to the public – will be held at 9:30 a.m., and regular public meetings, at which residents can voice their comments, will be held at 7 p.m. in the County Administration and Records Building at 10 Court Street in Morristown.