What is a Freeholder?
The term “Freeholder” can be traced to the colonial period of American history. In New Jersey’s 1776 Constitution, the state vested the power to govern counties in an elected body of “men” who held or owned the land outright with no debt or mortgages to be Chosen by their peers. The body was deemed the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Although there is no longer a requirement to own land and all citizens of legal age have the right to vote and hold office, the term Freeholder has endured. New Jersey has 21 Counties governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders. No two counties are exactly the same. Counties’ demographic, geographic, and economic characteristics dictate how they deliver services to their communities. The organization and structure of counties are tailored to fit their community’s needs and characteristics.
In Passaic County’s commission form of government, the Freeholders discharge both the legislative and executive responsibilities of government. The seven-member board is headed by a Freeholder Director who is selected to serve a one-year term at the Board’s annual reorganization meeting held in January. Each Free-holder is elected at-large for a staggered 3-year term.
Freeholders were changed by state legislation to be renamed to “Commissioners.” (2021)
What County Commissioners Do?
The Passaic County Board of County Commissioners is responsible for an annual budget of about $463 million serving 501,000 residents in 16 municipalities. Some of the things they support and are responsible for:
- Maintenance of 248 miles of County roads and 358 bridges
- County Parks with over 4,044 acres of recreation and open space
- The Passaic County Sheriff ’s Office, with responsibility for public safety county wide, the County jail, and courthouse security; as well as the County Prosecutor’s Office
- The Preakness Healthcare Center, a 406 bed skilled nursing facility providing sub-acute, long-term, respite and hospice care
- The Passaic County Community College, serving 8,000 students in Northern N
- The Passaic County Technical Institute, a vocational/technical high school serving 3,200 students
- Social Service Programs for the elderly, the poor, and people with disabilities
- Other services to County residents, such as mental health and anti-addiction services, veterans’ programs, heating assistance, and more.