PHOTO: Lillian Burry
FREEHOLD, NJ – It was the unplanned but accomplished achievements Freeholder Lillian Burry has faced since first being elected to the Board 12 years ago that are her proudest records, the newly elected Director said at Thursday’s reorganization meeting of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders. Freeholders Thomas Arnone and Serena DeMaso were sworn in to new terms on the board, and Burry was elected Director.
Also sworn in at the two hour long meeting were Sheriff Shaun Golden and Surrogate Rosemarie Peters, elected with Arnone and DeMaso last November. The five member freeholder board also includes Gary Rich and John Curley, who was elected Deputy Director.
Burry’s election by the Board to the top position marks the fourth time she has headed the freeholders for one year terms which previously started in 2008, 2010, and 2014. This year, she succeeds Arnone as Director.
In her acceptance speech, Burry stressed the need to continue “moving firmly forward,” during 2017, citing local and national events which have helped form the Country in the past and which, through strong leadership have made Monmouth County stronger and more prosperous.
Both the national recession and Superstorm Sandy, “which permanently transformed coastal communities and left many residents with issues still unresolved,” were traumatic experiences for the county, she continued, adding that “the closing of Fort Monmouth also took thousands of jobs and highly skilled residents” New Jersey to Maryland. None of these issues was planned for, Burry said, “but all required the County to respond.”
In response, action of the Board of Freeholders meant an aggressive analysis of the budget which set the county on a path “aimed at making government smaller and more efficient while still staying productive for the residents.” Both the municipalities and the county government learned to become more resilient and sustainable after Sandy, and with the closing of Fort Monmouth, the County became an active participant in FMERA, the body overseeing the redevelopment of the former Army installation.
All the board’s efforts to respond to each of these economic crises, Burry told crowd of several hundred, resulted in Monmouth County being “one of very few counties in the entire country to retain a Triple A bond rating while cutting spending, reconfiguring assets and continuing to pursue core objectives…”
Still facing major change, Burry noted that Fort Monmouth redevelopment is now in Phase II and the County is taking a lead role in turning “this hundred million dollar property into a powerful driver of economic development that will bring new high value jobs and renewed prosperity to Monmouth County.”
Burry said that as a member of the Fort Hancock Advisory Committee she has also played a role in seeing the beginning of the conversion of one of the historic buildings on the historic site into a gym and needed additional classrooms for MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, one of the County’s five highly respected vocational high schools.
“None of these was part of my plan when I first became a freeholder,” the Director acknowledged, adding, “these are not things that were accomplished quickly, but they all make a strong case for a persistence of vision. All of them have helped to provide the foundation for a stronger, more prosperous county, a county better positioned and better prepared to respond to whatever unforeseen challenges and opportunities may still be ahead. It is my goal to lead us forward into the bright future that things have made possible.”