DiVincenzo Sworn in for Third Term as County Executive
Chris Durkin sworn in for second term as county clerk.
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. touted his fiscal responsibility and renovations and expansions of county facilities as he was sworn-in to his third term in office on New Year's Day.
"We have accomplished so much," said the eight-year, two-term veteran of the state's largest county as he spoke to the standing-room only crowd at the county's Historic Courthouse. "Eight years ago, we had a $64 million deficit when I took over. Today we have a $20 million surplus."
DiVincenzo pointed to the $42 million renovation of the Veteran's Courthouse and Historic Courthouse and the creation of the $4.8 million South Mountain Recreation Complex — which includes the Turtle Back Zoo, miniGOLF Safari and a boathouse restaurant that's set to begin construction in March.
Gov. Chris Christie swore-in DiVincenzo, and said the executive has the "faith" and "confidence" in the government of Essex County, "He does what he believes in his heart, based on some of the best information that he can gather. That's all, I think, in the end, that you can ask of any elected official is to have the motivation for their decisions be pure ones and not ones based on self interest or any other type of greedy motivation."
DiVincenzo said he will stick by his slogan, "Putting Essex County First" in his next term. He said the state, county and country are in a financial crisis and government must make tough decisions.
"Things the way they used to be years ago are no longer ... things are changing ... and, guess what? We have to change for the times," he said. "It's not about being Democrat or Republican, it's about getting things done."
He said the county's budget is his top priority for the next four years, particularly pension and health insurance costs. He said pension costs rose this past year by $12 million, while health benefits jumped $10 million.
"These are bankrupting every one of the towns and in every level of government, things have to change," said DiVincenzo. "That's $22 million dollars right off the top that we have to find somewhere and we can't afford it any more."
Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker attended the swearing-in ceremony and said 2011 is the year the city, county and state must work together, "If there's any year that we need each other, it will be 2011."
Booker said DiVincenzo is the person to lead the county into these changes. "It's been your example to be a good leader," he said about DiVincenzo to the audience. "If you look around Newark and see all the new parks built ... that's the Joe DiVincenzo playbook."
Christie said he received a number of requests to attend ceremonies Saturday, but chose only Essex County's because it's his "home."
"I was born in the city and I grew up here in Essex County; I went to high school in Essex County, so this is a special place for me," he said. "My first job in the law was a clerk in this building, so Essex County holds great, great sentimental value because it is who I am and where I'm from."
Christie said he attended the ceremony because of his friendship with DiVincenzo. "That goes back many years ago ... and I wanted to be here this morning to acknowledge his public service," he said. "There are many other things he could be doing other than this, especially after eight years of this."
Saturday's swearing-in ceremony also honored Christopher J. Durkin, Essex County's clerk, who was sworn-in to his second term in office by his godfather Essex Vicinage Civil Court Presiding Judge Eugene Codey.
Durkin was accompanied by his wife and children, "I want to thank the voters of Essex County because I understand how important it is to be part of government."
"I'm proud that we are a revenue-generating office," he said. "We've generated more than $2.5 million for the county of Essex over the last four years for fees associated with passports, registered business names and identification cards. We have touched all 22 municipalities and they know who we are and what we do."