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.
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.
- Continuing on Freeholder Bruce Bergen’s idea, 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.
- 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.
Reorganization / Oath of Office and Chairman’s Address
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.