FREEHOLDER CHAIRMAN
SERGIO GRANADOS
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Sergio Granados

Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados, a native of Elizabeth and community activist, was re-elected to his second term in 2016. In 2013, he became the youngest Freeholder ever elected to the board and youngest Democratic Freeholder elected in NJ.

As the Chairman of the Board for 2018, Granados announced “Moving UNION COUNTY Forward” initiatives, including first-time programs that promote advocacy and equality, volunteerism, public safety, and the environment. There are also announcements assisting seniors, families and youth.

Granados served the past year as the Chairman of the Union County Open Space Trust Fund, where he worked to create the Kids Dig In! Community gardens grant program, that awarded grants to 32 schools, educating students about gardening and donating produce to local food pantries.

Granados worked to launch “Level the Playing Field,” for 2018, a new grant program that provides funding for local playgrounds to include inclusive equipment for people with special needs.

As a member of Parks Advisory Board for the past few years, he helped champion the creation of the first inclusive playground in the County, and the opening of the new Warinanco Sports Center.

As the Freeholder liaison to the Workforce Development Board, Granados oversaw efforts through the agency to identify thousands of new jobs through public-private partnerships and provide job training to residents. Granados also oversaw efforts creating WE Are One NJ-Union County,  helping residents become US citizens. 

Granados also supported efforts to assist Veterans under the County’s UC HERO initiative.

As a member of the Fiscal Committee in 2017, Granados helped oversee efforts that led to the County achieving a “Aaa” bond rating from Moody’s—the highest attainable.

Granados has supported environmental initiatives leading to the County’s ordinance banning fracking on County properties.

Granados founded Moving New Jersey Forward Foundation, a non-profit that works to raise awareness and education efforts on social justice. The organization sponsored events raising funds to assist Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, community meals for families in need, and relief drives for various disaster-stricken communities.

Granados has served with many non-profit organizations, including Hispanos Unidos, the Elizabeth Portuguese Lions, the Portuguese Instructive Social Club, the Elizabeth Portugal Day Committee, New Leaders Council of NJ, and the Union County Latino-American Chamber of Commerce.

Granados has been honored for service through agencies such as Community Access Unlimited, the Urban League of Union County Young Professionals, the Lions Club International, the Hispanic Law Enforcement Association of Union County, the Boy Scouts of America, the New Jersey Veterans Network, and the South Asian Community Outreach.

Granados attended Union County College, and graduated from Kean University with a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Public Administration. 

Initiatives

Union County Heart

Stands for Helping, Empowering, Advocating for, Reaching and Teaching others

  • At the core of the UC HEART initiative, is the creation of the Office of Community Engagement and Diversity. The goal of the office will be to promote volunteerism and outreach. The office’s coordinator will work with other agencies to identify volunteer opportunities, coordinate events, and create a network of volunteer organizations to build relationships with the County’s different communities. 
  • Partnering with the Union County Economic Development Corporation (UCEDC) to reinvest and create more jobs in Union County’s diverse communities. The UCEDC will receive a $250,000 grant to conduct outreach efforts in these areas and will provide at least half a million dollars in low interest loan capital to small businesses. 
  • The creation of the state’s first-ever LGBTQ Office. This office will advocate for our LGBTQ residents in working to provide the services they need and deserve. “This Freeholder Board has a proud record of honoring Union County’s diversity,” said Granados.
  • The creation of the state’s first-ever, Office for People with Special Needs. This Office will provide recreational and social opportunities for those with special needs, “as all residents deserve an equal chance,” Granados said. As part of this effort, the Sheriff’s Office will also revitalize and expand the Project Lifesaver program which provides tracking bracelets for those with special needs and those with Alzheimer’s. The County will also open a new Sensory-Friendly Trail at the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside—the County’s first such facility. And as the final part of this effort, the County will administer the Level the Playing Field grant program—yet another example of a “first”—as Union County will become the first County in the state, and perhaps nation—to have every municipality create an inclusive playground. This effort, which is funded through Union County’s Open Space program, will assist our towns in creating, enhancing, or replacing recreational facilities to make them inclusive for all wishing to use them.
  • The continuation of UC HERO, which has helped so many Veterans. This year will bring new job fairs, and the exploration of ways to diminish the PTSD epidemic. As a whole, the County Freeholder Board will continue to expand on the successful job fairs and employment training it has sponsored for all residents through the Union County Workforce Development Board.
  • Creation of the Union County Science, Technology, Engineering and Math grant program (known as UC STEM).  Under this program, funding will be available for STEM-related enrichment in our elementary and middle schools.  

Union County Plant A Seed

Involves educational and environmental components

  • The continuation and expansion of the UC Kids Dig In! Garden grants program, which offers grants to schools that engage young students in community gardening and donating produce to local shelters and pantries.
  • The County will continue to investigate the feasibility of constructing a Countywide Animal Shelter.
  • New state funded Union County recycling initiatives with programs that encourage recycling amongst our municipal partners and will provide recycling supplies for schools and seniors. The recycling programs will be funded through state recycling grants.
  • Continuation of the Union County Means Green grant program.

 

Parks Initiatives

  • The building of numerous turf fields in Plainfield, Summit, Scotch Plains and Rahway;
  • A skate park at Mattano Park in Elizabeth;
  • A spray park at Wheeler Park in Linden;
  • A new golf clubhouse at the Ashbrook Golf Course in Scotch Plains;
  • Tutoring and mentoring programs at the Warinanco Park Sports Center in Roselle;

 

Public Safety Initiatives

  • The County will partner with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in NJ, and offer a gun buyback program through the County Police, Prosecutor’s Office, and Sheriff’s Office.
  • The County Police will partner with local police departments to provide additional public safety services for our school districts.
  • The expansion of prisoner re-entry programs that give a second chance for those who seek it: The Department of Corrections will be providing special assistance easing their re-entry into society; and the Department of Human Services will be providing support services after their release, aimed at reducing recidivism.

Latest Press Releases featuring the Chairman

Union County Freeholders Host Free Documentary on Gun Violence

Union County Residents Advised on Mosquito Control

Union County Announces 2018 Library Grants

New 24-Hour Emergency Hotline for the Homeless in Union County

Free Outdoor Movies and Music in Union County

Union County to Celebrate National Night Out August 7 at Meisel Park in Springfield with Law Enforcement Displays followed by Family Fun Flix

Paint by the Pond Event to be Held Sunday, August 19 at Warinanco Park

Free Resume and Interview Workshop for Union County Job Seekers

ASK” for Information about Senior Services in Union County

Union County’s Free Mobile Document-Shredding Program Will Visit Union Township in August

Union County to Host LGBT Older Adults Focus Group

Freeholders Announce Upcoming Scrap Metal Recycling Dates

Union County Residents Can Bring Household Hazardous Waste to Free Recycling Event in Scotch Plains, August 4

Union County Provides Free Recycling Bins for Schools

50 Full Time Traffic Control Positions Available in Union County

Play it Safe in the Sun: Get a Free Skin Cancer Screening and Learn How to “Choose Your Cover”

Victoria’s Secret Hiring for 30 Positions in Union County

Union County Seeks Caring, Compassionate Volunteer Advocates

“Family Fun & Flix” in Warinanco Park Tuesday, July 24 Featuring “Peter Rabbit”

Union County Summer Arts Festival Continues July 25 at Echo Lake Park Featuring The Vinny’s & Katfish Lucy

Shakespeare in the Park Returns to Union County Sunday, July 22

Step Up and Build a Stronger Union County

Union County Hosts Events and Programs for Special Needs Residents

Employment Help Offered Throughout the Summer in Union County

Union County Honored for History Projects

Prisoner Re-Entry Program Thriving In Union County

Enjoy a Lifetime of Discovery in Union County Parks

Award-Winning Senior Art Exhibited at Freeholders Gallery

Union County’s Free Summer Arts Festival Continues July 18 at Echo Lake Park Featuring 5 Against 1

Union County Students Invited to Experience a Unique Silent Party

FLEEK Program Provides a Summer of Art and STEM for Union County Students

Volunteers Help “Spruce” Up Deserted Village

Union County Park Contributes “Natural Fireworks” to Holiday Festivities

Union County Freeholders Announce 100 New Hospitality Positions Available for County Residents

Union County’s Free Paper-Shredding Events Will Visit Rahway and Hillside in July

Trailside’s Annual Summer Wednesday Matinee Series Features Live Animals & Scientific Fun – July 11 to August 15

“ASK” for Information about Senior Services in Union County

Union County 4-H Pet Club Seeks a Leader

Thanks to Volunteers, Now You Can Name That Tree

Union County Residents Can Help Plan Ahead for Senior Services

Reminder: Eligible Seniors Can Receive $25 in Free Vouchers for Farmer’s Markets, Starting June 25

[UPDATE: JUNE 22 CONCERT MOVED INDOORS] Union County’s Free Summer Arts Concert Series Launches this Friday, June 22

Union County Residents Can “Recycle Right” without Plastic Bags

Union County Announces 2018 Recycling Enhancement Grants

Help Is Available for Suicide Prevention

 “Back in Time” Offers Enriching Experience for Union County Residents with Special Needs

Reminder: Free Electronics Recycling for Union County Residents, June 30

Drawings by Mel Holston on Exhibit at Pearl Street Gallery

Message from Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados regarding LGBTQ related activities

Union County Teens Invited to LIGHT UP THE NIGHT – TEEN PRIDE Celebration

Fuzzy Lemons Featured at Free Union County CommUNITY PRIDE Day Celebrating All Families

Recycle Unwanted Electronic Equipment at E-cycling Event in Scotch Plains, June 30

2018 UC STEP Start Now Grant Winners

2018 Union County Senior Citizens Art Exhibit

Freeholder Board Offers More CPR Classes

Special Event for Model Railroad Fans in Union County

Stay Safe with Union County’s Free Car Seat Inspections and Bicycle Guidance this Summer

Go Green this Week with Union County Recycling Events

Union County Pride Flag Raising Ceremony

Reminder: Celebration of Carnegie Libraries in Union County Kicks Off in June

Rebecca Williams of Plainfield appointed to Freeholder Board

Union County Offers Free Public Recycling Events in June

Freeholder Board Announces Launch of Free Farmers’ Market Vouchers for Seniors

Free Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Event in Cranford, June 9

Union County Employees’ Art on Display in Freeholder Gallery

Spraying for Adult Mosquitoes tonight

Union County Sheriff’s Office first to train rank and file in Wellbeing

Celebrate National Trails Day with a Trail Restoration Project, June 2

Freeholders Bruce Bergen and Bette Jane Kowalski laud Senator Booker and Menendez support for advancing legislation to expedite the completion of the Rahway River Flood study

Union County Freeholders Honor Assemblywoman Linda Carter

Union County Honors the Roselle Catholic High School Girls Basketball Team

Union County Honors the Westfield High School Blue Devils Football Team

Union County Honors the Elizabeth Portugal Day Committee

Union County 4-H Teens Pitch in for Geology Open House

Union County Offers Free Traffic Safety Education Programs throughout the Summer

6th annual Union County Women Mean Business Summit

How to Find Beneficial Native Plants for Healthy Yards and Gardens

Union County Celebrates National Trails Day with Free Guided Hikes and Activities, June 2

County of Union to Fly Rainbow Flag for the First Time on June 4

Goethals Bridge New Jersey-Bound Lanes to be Closed this Weekend, May 18-21

Union County Honors Residents During Military Appreciation Month

Union County Honors Frank Cuesta of Elizabeth’s Promise

International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

National Community Action Month

Sample Ballots Now Available on Union County Clerk Elections Website and App

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will perform at [Update: the Union County Performing Arts Center] on Friday, June 22nd, 7:30 p.m.

Freeholders Announce Earliest Opening Date Ever for Ulrich Memorial Pool in Rahway

Peace Officers Memorial Day

PAINT BY THE POND SCHEDULED FOR SATURDAY, MAY 12th at Warinanco Park Canceled due to inclement weather

Union County Freeholders Observe May as 54th Annual National Community Action Month

Recycle Unwanted Electronic Equipment at Free E-cycling Event in New Providence, May 12

Union County’s Mobile Document-Shredding Program Will Visit Elizabeth and New Providence in May

The LACADA 2018 Volunteers of the Year

Freeholder Board Hosts “Union County Women Mean Business” Seminar and Networking Event, May 23 Featuring First Lady Tammy Murphy

Freeholder Board Awards Grants for 27 “Union County Means Green” Garden Projects

Exterior Restoration to Begin at the Historic Frazee House in Scotch Plains

Union County Takes National Honors for History Projects

61 Schools and Organizations Receive 2018 Union County Kids Dig In! Garden Grants

WellCare Sponsors Union County PRIDE Events

Women’s Empowerment, Yoga and Meditation Event “The Time is Now” offered at Union County College

County of Union Awards 2018 Infrastructure Grants to all 21 Municipalities

Linden High School Seniors Easter Egg Design Displayed at The White House

Union County Infrastructure and “Level the Playing Field” grants

The Willows at Rahway Opens

Union County Freeholders, Scotch Plains officials Open New Senior Café in Scotch Plains

The Ohio Players Headline Union County’s Free Rhythm and Blues by the Brook Music Festival in Plainfield, June 2

Union County Recognizes “Lesbian Visibility Day”

Freeholder Board Announces 2018 Road Resurfacing Program – 18 Miles in 14 Municipalities

Public Notice – Amending the Freeholder Meeting Schedule

Free Workshop on May 17 Explains “HEART Grant” and “Local Arts Grant” Applications

EVENTO EL SÁBADO 12 DE MAYO EN EL PARQUE WARINANCO PINTE JUNTO AL ESTANQUE

Vote-By-Mail Ballots Available May 1st

29th Annual Union County Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale, May 20

What Everyone Should Know about “Good Plants” and “Bad” Plants in Union County

(event postponed) Make a Difference Today – Join the Green Brook Park Special Cleanup Event

New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Full-Scale Multi-Disciplinary Exercise in Linden

Union County Launches New Recycle Coach Mobile App

Union County Hosts Teen PRIDE Alternative Prom Event for High School Youth

La Escribana del Condado de Union Ofrece Tarjetas de Identificación para los Padres con Estrella Dorada

Compartiendo y Devolviendo: Conviertase en un Voluntario para Defender las Víctimas de la Violencia Sexual

Paint by the Pond event to be held Saturday, May 12 at Warinanco Park

Hillside Students Celebrate Arbor Day

Union County Freeholders Open New Senior Café in Scotch Plains

“ASK” for Information about Senior Services in Union County

Union County Employee Art Showcased in New National Arts Program Exhibit

Paint by the Pond Event to be Held Saturday, May 12 at Warinanco Park

Union County Clerk Offers Gold Star ID Cards for Parents

4th Annual Race 4 the Children 5K Fundraiser

Como Reportar los Baches en la Calle en el Condado de Union

“Touch A Truck” Event to Take Place Sunday, April 29 at the Loop in Watchung Reservation

Join a Celebration of Carnegie Libraries in Union County

Find Your Inner Archer – Visit the Union County Archery Range Open House on June 16

Sharing Strength, Giving Back: Become a Volunteer Advocate for Victims of Sexual Violence

Panel De Debate Público Sobre Agresión Sexual y Consentimiento

How to Report Potholes in Union County

Union County Offers More CPR Classes by Popular Demand

Union County Adopts Fire Safety Resolution in Support of Stronger Building Codes

“My County” Poster Contest Winners

Union County Freeholder  Chairman Sergio Granados Releases Statement On Behalf Of Freeholder Board And County Government On Death Of Assemblyman Jerry Green

United Way of Greater Union County and Freeholder Board partnership results in Job Pilot for 60 Youth

Shop for a Cause on April 19 and Help the Trailside Museum Association

Free Public Panel Will Explore Sexual Assault and Consent

Union County Freeholder Board Reminds Seniors on New Medicare Cards

Union County Senior Art Exhibit Now Accepting Applications from Artists Age 60 and Older

“Get Outdoors With Family & Friends” at Trailside’s Wild Earth Fest, April 29

Free Living History Event Showcases World War I Centennial

Freeholders Proclaim April 2018 as Autism Awareness Month in Union County

April 2018 is National Donate Life Month in Union County

Union County Corrections #Heroes4Heroes a Top Earner for Special Olympics New Jersey

Trailside’s Spring Talks Space Station, Birds, Butterflies & the Garden State

Spring has Sprung at Trailside

Touch A Truck – Sunday, April 29 at the Loop in Watchung Reservation

Surrogate James LaCorte Video about Evening Hours

Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Video and Photos)

“Sights & Sounds” Inclusive Artwork on Display at the Union County Freeholders Gallery

Paintings by Alicia Flynn Cotter of Mountainside on Exhibit at Pearl Street Gallery

Spring has Sprung at Trailside – Register now for Children’s Workshops

Union County Offers Free Scrap Metal Recycling April 21 – Drop Off centers in Rahway and Cranford

Join Union County’s 1st Annual Autism Walk at Mattano Park in Elizabeth, April 28

Los Legisladores del Condado de Union Apoyan el Mes de Crear Conciencia a Favor del Autismo

Union County Freeholder Board joins Moms Demand Action of Union County in sponsoring  “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” event at Hamilton Stage in Rahway

Evento Para el Dia del Planeta Tierra: Traiga sus Despercidios Domésticos a Reciclar el 14 de abril en Scotch Plains

Llueva o Truene La Trituradora Ambulante del Condado de Union Visitará La Ciudad de Scotch Plains el Sábado 7 de Abril

Rain (or Snow) or Shine, Union County’s Mobile Document-Shredding Program Will Visit Scotch Plains Saturday April 7th

Pitch in for Earth Day: Bring your Household Hazardous Waste to Free Recycling Event in Scotch Plains, April 14

Union County Freeholders Support Autism Awareness Month

Bring the World of STEM to Afterschool Programs

Making a Difference for LGBTQ Older Adults in Union County

Summer Job Opportunity in Union County

Union County’s Peregrine Falcons Welcome Two New Eggs

Winter Weather Advisory | All County Services and Offices are operating normal hours

Union County Offers CPR Training

Trout Fishing Season Begins April 7th in Union County’s Parks

“ASK” for Information about Senior Services in Union County

Women of achievement and leadership – Hon. Judge Karen Cassidy, Assignment Judge

Union County Board of Chosen Freeholder Statement in Support of all Transgender People in Recognition of Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31) and Progressive Gender-Affirming State Legislation

Clark ShopRite Recognized for Fighting Hunger

Union County to Host ‘Pledge and Protect’ Training Workshop for Older LGBTQ Adult Service Providers

Union County Offers Free History Grant Workshop

Union County Honors M. PoWeR Arts for Revitalization of the Arts in Plainfield

Union County Child Support Unit Named Child Support Agency of the Year

Visit Union County’s Green Online Shop and Celebrate Earth Day with a New Compost Bin or Rain Barrel

New Jersey State Police Issues Commercial Travel Ban

Union County Celebrates Arbor Day 2018 with Free Trees for Schools

Student Volunteers Put Fun and Games to Work for Special Needs Learners

26th annual Women of Excellence

2018 Union County Teen Arts Festival

Union County 4-H Club Reaches Out to Help after Hurricane Maria

Girls Helping Girls Period Donates to the YWCA of Union County

New Union County “Level the Playing Field” Grants Awarded to All 21 Municipalities to Improve Playground Access for Children with Disabilities

Freeholder Board Advises on Power Outage Safety

Statement by Union County Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados on Status of JCP&L Repairs in Union County

Reminder: There is Still Time to Volunteer with the Union County Rape Crisis Center

Teacher Training at Trailside

Union County Residents Urged to Limit Travel during Latest Storm

Union County Freeholders Announce New Office of Community Engagement and Diversity

Union County Senior Focus Grant Helps Mountainside Open New Senior Lounge

Freeholder Bruce H. Bergen appointed Chairman of Raritan Valley Rail Coalition

Union County Roundtable Meeting for the Special Needs Community

Just “ASK” for Information about Senior Services in Union County

Reminder: Free Wellness Program for Women

Schools Invited to Apply for Union County Kids Dig In Garden Grants

Union County Hosts First LGBTQ Roundtable

Save The Dates For Sensory Friendly Fun!

Giving Back: Learn How to Help Victims of Sexual Violence

2018 Union County Black History Month Celebration featuring a screening of Men of Bronze

Union County Means Business

Reminder: Free Wellness Program for Union County Military Women

2018 LGBTQ Roundtable Meeting

National FFA Week in Union County

National Career and Technical Education Month in Union County

2018 Union County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Honorees

Do you know an Environmental Hero in your Community?

Union County Partners in Upcoming Hiring Events

Union County Offers “Boots 2 Heels” Program for Women Veterans

82nd Annual Union County Baseball Association Hot Stove Awards

Kim Nesbitt Good of Elizabeth Receives the Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award

Union County Freeholder Board offers Grants for Community Gardens

Free Union County Women’s History Month Event Showcases World War I Centennial

Car Donated to Disabled Veteran

Local Athletes from Berkeley Heights, Clark, Cranford, Elizabeth, Linden, Plainfield and Union Will Be Honored at Hot Stove Awards Dinner in Clark, Feb. 11

Union County Hosts 2nd Annual LGBTQ Pride Event

“ASK” for Information about Senior Services in Union County

WFS – Worldwide Flight Services Job Opportunities

Wellness Program for Women offered at Maskers Barn in the Deserted Village of Feltville

Union County Women’s Donation Drive

Just “ASK” for Information about Senior Services in Union County

Union County Goes Red to Promote Awareness about Women’s Heart Health

Union County College Celebrates Black History Month

Kindness Rocks!

Elizabeth Resident Kim Nesbitt Good to Receive Union County’s Annual Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award

Explore African-American History and More at Trailside Nature and Science Center

Freeholder Chairman Granados and County Administrators meet with Immigration Advocates

Witness the Remarkable American Woodcock at Watchung Reservation and Lenape Park

Union County Business Owners Invited to Discover their “ABLE-ities”

Freeholder Board Offers Free Scholarships to Attend Union County College

February Festivities at Trailside: Mad Science, Maple Sugaring and More 

Union County Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados thanks Crystal Orr and Keyonah Orr of the Urban League of Union County Young Professionals for a donation of business clothing for men & women

Union County Honors Dreamer Sara Mora of Hillside on Role at Governor’s Inauguration

Students Lauded for Countywide “Branches Against Bullying” Campaign

Freeholders Appoint Ed Oatman as new County Manager

26th Annual Union County Women of Excellence Awardees Announced

Klondike Derby to be Held at Watchung Reservation Beginning Jan. 27

(Meeting Postponed) Union County to Hold Meeting for New and Current Adopt-A-Trail Stewards

Union County Joins National Survey of Homelessness

Freeholders Announce First Office For People With Special Needs Office In New Jersey

Union County Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados and Freeholder Vice Chairman Bette Jane Kowalski thank Elizabeth residents, Sima Farid and Alex Mendoza, for donation through County’s Office of Community Engagement and Diversity

Sensory Friendly Theatre Welcomes Champions of Magic this Sunday

Service fairs for the Homeless

Union County Establishes the First County LGBTQ Office in New Jersey

Volunteers Are Needed for March 15-16 Union County Teen Arts Festival

Men of Bronze, Harlem’s Rattlers Featured in Union County Black History Month Celebration

Union County Library Grants at Work at the Plainfield Public Library

New Program in Union County for Environmental Action

Union County to provide assistance to those laid off from Sam’s Club

Photographs by Fred T. Rossi of Scotch Plains on Exhibit at Pearl Street Gallery

Make the Road New Jersey Joins Union County Freeholder Chairman to Condemn End of Protected Status for Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans

Union County Freeholder Chairman Granados Announces “Moving Union County Forward” Initiatives During 162nd Annual Reorganization

Union County Government hosts 162nd Annual Reorganization on Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Reorganization / Oath of Office and Chairman’s Address

Speech

Good afternoon Clergy, fellow Freeholders, elected officials, family, friends, and citizens of Union County:

I wish you all a Happy New Year and appreciate your attendance. I specifically want to thank Judge Cassidy again, for allowing us to use your courtroom.

I’d like to begin by thanking my family, because without their support, I would not be here today.

I’d also like to thank our Chairman, Jerry Green, for his leadership and years of public service.

I want to acknowledge a very special leader and mentor to us, Senator Ray Lesniak.

Not only has he dedicated the last six decades of his life to governing…he is also one of the most influential legislators in the history of the state. 

Once again, thank you Ray.

I wish to congratulate my Freeholder colleagues (Angel Estrada and Chris Hudak) on their re-elections.

I would also to like to welcome our newest Freeholder Angela Garretson, and the new Sheriff in town, Pete Corvelli.

It is always a pleasure to welcome new faces that will continue to re-energize County Government.

I would like to thank my colleagues for choosing me as your Chairman. I look forward to serving alongside Freeholder Vice Chairwoman Kowalski.

I also would like to give a special acknowledgement to our County Manager Al Faella, for all his hard work alongside our County Directors and our employees.

It is truly a great honor to be standing here today.

When planning this speech, I asked Senator Scutari for advice, and he said “Keep it short.” I Then asked Senator Lesniak, and he said “Don’t worry, take your time, the Rutgers football season is over.”

And with that being said, you’ve been warned, so I would like to begin by sharing my own family story.

My father came to the United States on his own from South America at a young age, so that he could find a job and work towards a better future.

My mother’s parents came from Portugal with their two children, and I still remember the countless stories of my grandparents starting their new lives here working at the Singer factory.

What ties them all together is their pursuit of the American dream—this notion of equality, inclusiveness, and above all—the opportunity to succeed in the greatest country in the world.

And so, my story is like so many others that are part of the great mosaic that is America.

That is why I am so enthusiastic about supporting the We Are ONE NJ Center.

The Center provides others with the opportunity to make their American dreams come true with more than 3,000 immigrants coming through the center this past year alone.

My Freeholder colleagues and I are so proud to support this effort. For this is truly the American way.

As President Obama once said: 

“That is the true genius of America:

*a faith in simple dreams;

*that we can tuck our children in at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm;

*that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door;

*that we can have an idea and start our own business;

*that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes will be counted.”

We will continue to champion the ideals that make our County progressive and inclusive in line with the honorable Phil Murphy as our new Governor.

This year, I am announcing a set of initiatives called “Moving UNION COUNTY Forward.

 “Moving UNION COUNTY Forward” promotes advocacy, equality, volunteerism, public safety and the environment.

There are programs assisting seniors, families and our young people.

Most of these initiatives are at little or no additional cost, or use existing funding.

We will be setting many “firsts” this year, with innovative programs that will put Union County at the forefront of the progressive movement in the State of New Jersey.

Growing up I learned,

*You must empower yourself through hard work and effort;

*Second, you must work on ways to help others empower themselves;

*and third, always give back to your community. Success is meaningless without helping others.

The people I surround myself with have big hearts, and taught me to have one for others.

This is reflected in my first set of initiatives simply known as the Union County HEART initiative.

UC HEART stands for Helping, Empowering, Advocating for, Reaching and Teaching others.

At the core of our UC HEART initiative, is the creation of the Office of Community Engagement and Diversity.

The goal of this office will be to promote volunteerism and outreach. 

Volunteering is one of my favorite endeavors. For as Winston Churchill once said: “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”  

The office’s coordinator will work with other agencies to identify volunteer opportunities, coordinate events, and create a network of organizations to build relationships with the County’s diverse communities.

We will conduct outreach to our business community by partnering with the Union County Economic Development Corporation to create more jobs in our diverse communities.

The UCEDC will receive a $250,000 grant to conduct outreach efforts in these communities and will provide at least half a million dollars in low interest loan capital to small businesses.

This Freeholder Board has a proud record of honoring Union County’s diversity. The third part of UC HEART empowers those who have lacked a voice with the creation of the state’s first-ever LGBTQ Office.

This office will advocate for our LGBTQ residents in working to provide the services they need and deserve.

Next we will create an Office for People with Special Needs, another first in the State.

This Office will promote empowerment and provide recreational and social opportunities for those with special needs, as all residents deserve an equal chance.

In line with providing inclusive services, we will also cut the ribbon on the Watchung Reservation Sensory-Friendly Trail, the first of its kind in the County.

The Trail will allow all residents to enjoy the beautiful surroundings at the Trailside Nature and Science Center.

Every child, regardless of ability, deserves play areas and we will address this need through the Level the Playing Field grant program.

This is yet another example of a “first”—as Union County will become the first County in the state, and perhaps nation—to have every municipality create an inclusive playground.

This effort, which is funded through our Open Space program, will assist our towns in creating, enhancing, or replacing recreational facilities to make them inclusive for all wishing to use them.

Through the assistance of Sheriff Corvelli, we will also revitalize the Project Lifesaver program which offers tracking bracelets to those with special needs, and we will expand UPON it by offering it to County residents who have Alzheimer’s.

As the fifth part of this initiative, we look forward to continuing UC HERO, which has helped so many of our Veterans.

This year will bring new job fairs focused on our Veterans, and the exploration of ways to diminish the PTSD epidemic amongst our Veterans.

And as a whole, we will continue to expand on the successful job fairs and employment training we’ve sponsored for all residents through the Union County Workforce Development Board. In 2017, the board offered more than 2,000 job opportunities to County residents, and we look forward to creating more in 2018.

As per the teaching component of UC HEART, we will create the Union County Science, Technology, Engineering and Math grant program (known as UC STEM).

Under this program, funding will be available for STEM-related enrichment in our elementary and middle schools.  

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Our second initiative, known as Union County Plant A Seed,   has educational and environmental programs that green our County.

First, we will continue the UC Kids Dig In! Garden grants program, which offers grants to schools that engage young students in community gardening and donating produce to local shelters and food pantries.

Our first year was a phenomenal success, and we will continue to work on expanding the program, providing more opportunities to schools this year.

Also, continuing on Freeholder Bergen’s idea, the county is actively investigating the feasibility of constructing a Countywide Animal shelter.   While many hurdles remain, the process is ongoing.

We will also have new state funded Union County recycling initiatives with programs that encourage recycling amongst our municipal partners and will provide recycling supplies for schools and seniors.

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My third initiative focuses on a series of announcements involving our Parks system and recreation programs.

So coming soon this year:

*The building of turf fields in Plainfield, Summit, Scotch Plains and Rahway

*a skate park in Elizabeth

*a spray park in Linden

*a new golf clubhouse in Scotch Plains

*and tutoring and mentoring programs at the new Warinanco Park Sports Center in Roselle.
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My fourth initiative addresses the fact that you cannot move Union County forward without ensuring safe communities.

While our County continues to be one of the safest places to live in NJ, we aim to keep it that way through new public safety programs:

*We will partner with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in NJ, and we will offer a gun buyback program through the County Police, Prosecutor’s Office, and Sheriff’s Office.

*Our County Police, in partnering with local police departments, will offer additional public safety services to our school districts.

And as we believe in Second Chances, we will expand prisoner re-entry programs that give a second chance for those who seek it.

The Department of Corrections will provide special assistance easing their re-entry into society;

and the Department of Human Services will provide support services after their release, aimed at reducing recidivism.

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Finally, I promise that we as a Freeholder Board will continue to be fiscally responsible this year. We will work with the County Manager to realize new cost savings through the creation of a Fiscal Efficiency Taskforce.

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My friends, we have announced many “firsts” today.

This all speaks to the vision of this Freeholder Board moving Union County forward in a progressive manner.

*WE ARE CONNECTED.

*WE ARE INCLUSIVE.                          

*WE ARE UNITED.

And we will work to support one another.

I look forward to “Moving UNION COUNTY Forward” with all of you.

Thank you!

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