Chairman Alexander Mirabella brings experience in business and public service to the Union County Board of County Commissioners. First elected in 1997, he is serving his eighth three-year term. He has served as Vice Chairman five times. He was once again sworn in as Chairman for the sixth time for 2021, after serving in that capacity in 2020.
As Chairman in 2020, Mirabella oversaw Union County’s response to the pandemic, including the creation of the COVID-19 drive-through test center at Kean University and free walk-up mobile test sites in local communities, which have tested more than 100,000 residents.
Union County distributed more than 2 million meals for families and distributed tens of millions of dollars in Federal CARES funds to the County’s municipalities and to small businesses, schools, libraries, restaurants, nonprofit organizations, and residents in need of child care respite care, child care and rental assistance. In meeting these new challenges, Union County also leveraged years of prudent fiscal management to avoid a tax increase and layoffs.
For 2021, Mirabella announced a series of initiatives, entitled “Union County Rising,” which include COVID-19 testing and vaccination announcements, business and economic development programs, parks improvements, and services that reflect the Board of County Commissioners’ values on inclusion and acceptance.
In previous years, Mirabella helped implement the Open Space Trust Fund, sparking significant increases in Union County parkland. He developed the Sensory Friendly Theater program for persons with autism and other sensory sensitivities, assembled the shared services committee, and focused on infrastructure planning, workforce development, and sustainability measures.
Mirabella also oversaw the expansion of the Office of Veterans. He organized the annual Columbus Day Italian flag raising event and was honored by the Italian Tribune with the “Christopher Columbus Man of the Year Award.”
He was instrumental in creating the Union County Office of LGBTQ Affairs, the first office of its kind in New Jersey. The office organizes outreach and advocacy event, and community outreach, among its functions.
An advocate of education, Mirabella has been recognized for his support of Union County College and was instrumental in the creation of the Union County Vocational-Technical High Schools (UCVTS).
He was first elected to the Roselle Park Borough Council in 1991 and served until 1996. He graduated from Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. with a degree in Economics. He and his wife, Phyllis, have a son, Alexander, and a daughter, Micayla.
- Vaccinations: The County of Union is finalizing plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to its residents, and is ready to begin vaccinations as soon as they arrive. Having administered COVID-19 tests throughout Union County, the infrastructure is in place to allow for a transition to a vaccination program immediately. Union County will be providing vaccinations according to the priorities established by the State of New Jersey.
- The former Juvenile Detention Center in Linden: The County is planning to repurpose it as a Fire Academy, to train firefighters throughout the County.
- Dispatch expansion: The Department of Public Safety has begun work on the expansion of the Union County Regional Dispatch Center. This is an important shared service handling emergency calls for the County, and many other agencies.
“Union County Means Business for all initiatives:”
- The Union County Economic Development Corporation has started taking applications for its VIP Virtual Incubator Program. This is limited to minority and under-served populations;
- The Entrepreneurship as a Second Chance (ESC) program is to be held in April/May. The focus will be on Union county registrants, and the UCEDC is accepting applications now. This will be training to assist individuals explore business ownership;
- The “Open for Business Initiative,” which is designed to help underserved small businesses stay open and save jobs through the UCEDC;
- More information the above UCEDC programs is available online at ucedc.com.
Project Fresh Start: The County’s Human Services Department will provide mobile shower and laundry service for people in need and the homeless, and it will roll out this year.
The reboot of the Union County Foreclosure Task Force, which was created to help those in need after the financial crash in 2009. In its new form, the Task Force will also include tenants at risk of eviction.
The Office of LGBTQ Affairs will work with the National and NJ LGBT Chambers of Commerce to develop a virtual jobs fair with accepting businesses that value LGBTQ diversity in the workplace and offer affirming working environments where all are welcome.
In line with this, the County is working with UCEDC to develop an “Open for Business – Open for Everyone: Diversity and Inclusion Symposium” for business owners, managers and entrepreneurs. Upon completion of the LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion training program, businesses will be invited to sign the “Open for Business – Open for Everyone” pledge and receive a window decal or sticker to post at their establishment.
The Office of LGBTQ Affairs will work with our Parks Department to develop plans for a unique LGBTQ+ inclusive and welcoming space for all to enjoy at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield.
Parks Department announcements:
- Continuation of drive-up concerts and movies in the spring;
- Work should be completed by summer on the newly renovated Ulrich Pool in Rahway;
- A new turf field and baseball facility at Snyder Avenue will be completed in Berkeley Heights in the spring;
- The County will begin construction of a new outdoor riding ring for those with disabilities at the Watchung Stables. The ring should be completed by the end of the year;
- The County will complete the master plan for the Clark Reservoir in the next few months;
- The County plans to transform County property on Cushing Road into a working farm, as part of a unique educational opportunity for students at the Union County Vocational-Technical School District in Scotch Plains.
The County anticipates a groundbreaking on one of Union County’s largest and most important economic development projects ever — the construction of two new County office buildings on West Grand Street in Elizabeth. The plan is to consolidate employees from the current Administration Building and several other leased facilities into these two new buildings. By financing through the Union County Improvement Authority and eliminating leases, the County will save $120 million over 30 years.
Photos from the Reorganization
UNION COUNTY RISING January 3, 2021
Alexander Mirabella Chairman, Union County Board of Commissioners
To our residents, our family of County employees and directors, and my colleagues on the Union County Board of County Commissioners:
Thank you for joining us today – Happy New Year. 2021 will be a better year – it has to be.
It has been my highest honor to serve the people of Union County as Chairman of the Freeholder Board in 2020, and I am deeply honored to continue in this role under a new title, as Chairman of the Union County Board of Commissioners. The change from Freeholder to Commissioner should not go unnoticed – New Jersey retired an old, outdated and non-inclusive term and acquired a more appropriate, progressive title as Commissioner.
I thank my colleagues for re-nominating me. I’d also like to thank our Democratic Party Chairman, Senator Nick Scutari, for his confidence and support. Senator Scutari is not only a leader in our County, but in the entire state of New Jersey! I appreciate his hard work on behalf of our residents and I value our friendship.
I want to publicly thank Governor Murphy not only for being with us earlier today, but for his outstanding leadership throughout the pandemic. His steady, confident leadership has protected our state and has set us up for a path to put this pandemic behind us!
I want to congratulate County Clerk Rajoppi, Sherriff Corvelli and re-elected Commissioners, Hudak and Garretson as well as our newest colleague, Commissioner Leon – I’m looking forward to working with all of you in 2021 as well as Vice Chair Williams and Commissioners Granados, Kowalski, Palmieri -Mouded and Staten. We have a great team in Union County!
Many of us have never looked so forward to the start of another New Year.
We begin with our hearts filled with hope and our minds set on overcoming the pandemic, which has impacted every aspect of life as we know it.
This is the greatest public health crisis in more than a century, but we are now on the verge of defeating it.
Our hearts go out to all our residents who lost love ones, and must continue to soldier on. I’d like to take a moment of silence to honor the memory of all those we lost due to COVID-19:
(Moment of silence) Thank you.
Union County was dealt a severe blow by the pandemic in every way socially, economically and physically. Yet, we did what we always do when faced with tough times:
We came together, we helped each other, we healed each other, and we must now move forward.
First, I would like to thank the courageous efforts of the first responders, health care workers, and all the essential workers whose heroic efforts continue to inspire and help us through these times.
Next, the residents of our great Union County community stepped up. Elected officials, business owners, PBAs, church groups and so many others provided meals to our front line workers.
Community volunteers, County employees and students from local high schools and Kean University came out to assist with food distribution.
I’d also like to thank Kean University, starting with then President Farahi and continuing with President Repollet for allowing us to use their campus for the COVID-19 Drive-up Test Center, and for providing so many other resources. Your partnership was vital to our effort.
Together, we created a unique one-of-a kind partnership with Kean that resulted in the drive-thru testing strategy. We have expanded this collaboration to include another first: on-site test results, and opportunities for research and student employment.
Special thanks to the Township of Union for being such a gracious host, and providing meals, security and traffic assistance.
On the County side, I’d also like to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of our Union County family, including the leadership efforts of my Commissioner colleagues, County Manager Ed Oatman, Deputy County Manager Amy Wagner, our team of directors and our employees who stepped up in this emergency.
Union County responded quickly and comprehensively to the pandemic and set a series of firsts—we were the first County to open a free, COVID-19 Test Center in partnership with Kean University.
We were the first to expand mobile testing into our community. We were the first to develop a unique partnership with a University to deliver drive up testing.
We’ve tested over 110,000 residents, and will continue these efforts this New Year. We followed up with free flu shots for our residents throughout the County as well.
We have conducted door-to-door and phone outreach throughout the County, contacting tens of thousands of residents.
We raised awareness about the importance of being testing and referred those in need to life-saving services. Our contact tracers have reached out and assisted with outbreaks that have occurred.
We were among the first to do County-wide food distributions, and we have served nearly 2 million meals-more than any in the county in the state.
As I have joined my fellow Commissioners at these events, it has been inspirational to see our county employees and our county directors working together with community volunteers to distribute meals to those in need.
We are on pace to distribute tens of millions of dollars in Federal CARES Act COVID relief funds to our municipalities, restaurant owners, non-profits, small businesses, schools, libraries, tenants, and families in need of respite services and child care.
It is important to note we accomplished all of the above, delivering a zero percent increase in our budget.
But we can’t stop there.
To paraphrase a quote, the journey of a thousand miles that began with a single step now has an ending in sight.
Vaccines are on the way and Union County will once again play a leadership role in ensuring as many residents as possible are vaccinated. We are on the road to recovery, we are resilient, and we will be resurgent.
With this in mind, this year, our initiatives are called “Union County Rising.”
First, lets address the roll out of vaccinations. Here’s where we are:
The County of Union is finalizing plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to its residents, and is ready to begin vaccinations as soon as they arrive.
Having administered COVID-19 tests throughout Union County, the infrastructure is in place to allow for a transition to a vaccination program immediately. We have purchased freezers and the ancillary supplies to deliver the vaccines.
Union County will be providing vaccinations according to the priorities established by the State of New Jersey. When mass vaccines are provided by the state, Union County will be ready.
We urge all adult residents to get vaccinated.
If we are to survive this pandemic, we face no more important challenge than educating our constituents on the importance of getting vaccinated.
The County has set up a webpage at ucnj.org/vaccination for those seeking medical information about the COVID-19 vaccines.
While we await the delivery of mass vaccines, we will continue to test our residents for COVID-19, contact trace, distribute food to those in need, and conduct outreach. Our COVID-19 Test Center will remain open four days a week and our mobile testing unit will be out in our communities two days a week.
Now that we’ve addressed our response to the pandemic, life must go on as it should. Union County will continue to deliver high-quality services that our residents have depended on.
We had outlined a number of initiatives for the previous year that was disrupted by pandemic but now require our attention. This year, we will be completing many of them and adding new programming as well.
We begin with Public Safety. Last year, I asked the Department of Public Safety to begin work on the expansion of the Union County Regional Dispatch Center. This is an important shared service handling emergency calls for the County, and many other agencies.
Currently the facility handles calls for 14 municipalities and two medical centers along with six County and regional units. This saves our municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. We expect participation to grow.
I’m happy to report the expansion will move forward this New Year and we anticipate the newly expanded facility to open at the end of the year.
Second, we will repurpose the former Juvenile Detention Center in Linden as a Fire Academy. I had the chance to visit this location recently, and it is suited for the educational and physical requirements necessary to train firefighters throughout the County. Our firefighters deserve a modern, updated facility to train and protect our community!
We are also going to reinvigorate an initiative called “Union County Means Business for all.”
The pandemic has caused deep pain in our business community. Our partners at the Union County Economic Development Corporation have crafted programs that foster inclusion and will get folks back to work.
The UCEDC has started taking applications for its VIP-virtual incubator program. This is limited to minority and under-served populations. This is on-line business training that will be coupled with support from UCEDC mentoring staff. They are looking to hold a special class just for Union County residents in late spring/early summer.
Another new program is the Entrepreneurship as a Second Chance (ESC) program to be held in April/May. The focus will be on Union county registrants, and the UCEDC is accepting applications now. This will be training to assist individuals explore business ownership.
There are a number of other loan programs including the “Open for Business Initiative,” which is designed to help underserved small businesses stay open and save jobs. I strongly recommend our residents go online and access them at www.ucedc.com
Another program we started last year is “Project Fresh Start.” This is inclusive and developed through our Human Services Department. It will provide mobile shower and laundry service for people in need and the homeless, and will roll out this year.
As the pandemic lingers, more pain is likely to come for residents, especially if the state’s moratorium on evictions is allowed to expire in February.
I’ve instructed our Deputy County Manager Wagner to restart the Union County Foreclosure Task Force, which was created to help those in need after the financial crash in 2009.
In its new form, the Task Force will also include tenants at risk of eviction.
Under the “Union County Means Business for All” initiative, we have also developed new programs that reflect the value we place on inclusion and acceptance throughout all of our County programs.
First, I’ve asked the Office of LGBTQ Affairs to work with the National and NJ LGBT Chambers of Commerce to develop a virtual jobs fair with accepting businesses that value LGBTQ diversity in the workplace and offer affirming working environments where all are welcome.
The culture of equality creates trust and innovation, and fosters business growth.
In line with this, we are working with Union County Economic Development Corporation to develop an “Open for Business – Open for Everyone: Diversity and Inclusion Symposium” for business owners, managers and entrepreneurs.
This will focus on internal policies and practices to create affirming work environments for employees, and best practices for being open for business to serve all people.
Upon completion of the LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion training program, businesses will be invited to sign the “Open for Business – Open for Everyone” pledge and receive a window decal or sticker to post at their establishment.
This will show they are a welcome and safe space for our LGBTQ+ residents as employees and customers.
Although we expect all our Parks to be safe, I have also asked the Office of LGBTQ Affairs to work with our Parks Department to develop plans for a unique LGBTQ+ inclusive and welcoming space for all to enjoy at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield.
Our goal is to create a garden, trail or reflection area in the park’s extension at Stelle Avenue. It is our intention to further evaluate and implement the National Recreation and Parks Association “Parks for Inclusion” program that prioritizes LGBTQ inclusion.
As noted by the NRPA, “True to the very philosophy of public parks and recreation is the idea that all people-no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation-have access to quality programs, facilities, places and spaces that make their lives and communities great.”
Our Parks Department will continue a review that began last year of signage at County Parks to ensure that everyone feels at home and included.
Work is ongoing in conjunction with the Department of Human Services to ensure ADA compliance countywide as well.
The Parks Department, as a whole, will have a busy year moving forward with new facilities and new programs.
All throughout the pandemic, our residents sought parks and other outdoor spaces as a safe way to get out of their homes and enjoy a movie or some entertainment. We’ve been able to accomplish both through our drive-up movies, and concerts.
The concerts and movies have proven to be very popular, and I’m happy to announce we will resume this programming — free of charge — to our residents in the spring.
This year we open the following projects:
*First, work should be completed by summer on the newly renovated Ulrich Pool in Rahway. We’ve installed a new pool, a spray element and playground for families to enjoy;
*Second, a new turf field and baseball facility at Snyder Avenue will be completed in Berkeley Heights in the spring;
*Third, we’ve budgeted money for the construction of a new outdoor riding ring for those with disabilities at the Watchung Stables. The ring should be completed by the end of the year.
We also expect to complete the master plan for the Clark Reservoir in the next few months.
Through Senator Scutari’s efforts, the County received a quarter of a million dollars in state funds that will be used for the reservoir, which sits off Lake Avenue in Clark. We are looking forward to making improvements that will enhance the use of the reservoir by the public.
Last year we announced plans to transform County property on Cushing Road into a working farm, as part of a unique educational opportunity for students at the Union County Vocational-Technical School District in Scotch Plains.
The farm will connect the campus with emerging trends in bioscience, sustainability, urban agriculture and the farm-to-table economy. This project will move forward toward fruition this year.
And for our final part of our initiatives for this year, I have saved one of the most important:
We anticipate a groundbreaking on one of Union County’s largest and most important economic development projects ever — the construction of two new County office buildings on West Grand Street in Elizabeth.
The plan is to consolidate employees from the current Administration Building and several other leased facilities into these two new buildings.
By financing through the Union County Improvement Authority and eliminating leases, the County will save $120 million over 30 years.
We’ll work with our Union Labor partners where the construction will create dozens of new jobs as well.
The project will be managed and financed through the UCIA. We expect completion in 2023.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m proud of each County employee, who in their own way, enabled us to continue providing essential County services while managing new challenges brought on by the pandemic, including testing, tracking, tracing, emergency food distribution, and CARES Act grant programs. I want to highlight 4 County employees who continue to make a difference, Alex Chappotin, Sean Faughnan and Robert Charkowsky and Jess Cohen – all have stepped up in 2020!
We are facing formidable challenges this year, but I know that together we will rise above all.
Together, we can, we must, and we will get over the pandemic and move Union County forward.
I would like to also thank my family, my children Alex and Micayla and my wife Phyllis. They are my backbone and they provide me with so much help and inspiration and I’ll need it more than ever before in the coming year. I love you all.
I thank you for watching today, and I look forward to working with you all toward a healthier, safer and more prosperous New Year in Union County! May God bless you all and our great County and Nation!