AskDefine | Define freeholders

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Noun

freeholders
  1. Plural of freeholder

Extensive Definition

In New Jersey, the Boards of Chosen Freeholders are the county legislatures of the 21 counties of the state.

Origin

New Jersey's system of naming county legislators "freeholders" is unique in the United States. The origin of the terms were the requirements, enshrined in the New Jersey State Constitution of 1776, which stated: Since property in "clear estate" is known as a freehold, the logical designation of such officeholders would be "Chosen (i.e. Elected) Freeholders".

Current use

Today, state law specifies that the Boards may contain between three and nine seats. Due to the small sizes of the boards and the possibility of electing an exactly split legislature with the inevitably resulting deadlock, an odd-numbered board is required.
The means of election of the Freeholders varies from all elected in districts to all elected at large to various systems in between. Elections are first past the post for single-member districts, and for at-large elections when only one seat is at stake. For at-large elections with more than one seat, plurality-at-large voting is used.
Depending on the county, the executive and legislative functions may be performed by the Board or split. In some counties, members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders perform both legislative and executive functions on a commission basis, with each Freeholder assigned responsibility for a department or group of departments. In other counties (Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Mercer), there is a directly-elected County Executive who performs the executive functions while the Board of Chosen Freeholders retains a legislative and oversight role. In counties without an Executive, a County Administrator or County Manager may be hired to perform day-to-day administration of county functions.
All of the above attributes may be changed by act of the board and a referendum, or by explicit change of the relevant laws by the New Jersey Legislature.

Board structure by County

  • Atlantic County: Nine member elected to staggered three-year terms. Five of the freeholders represent equally-populated districts; four are elected from the county at-large. Popularly-elected County Executive.
  • Bergen County: Seven members elected at-large to three-year terms, staggered. Popularly-elected County Executive.
  • Burlington County: Five members elected at-large to three-year terms, staggered. The Freeholder Director is elected annually by the Board from among its members.
  • Camden County: Seven members elected at-large to three-year terms, staggered.
  • Cape May County: Five members elected at-large for three-year terms, staggered. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director elected from Board at annual reorganization meeting in January.
  • Cumberland County: Seven members elected at-large for three-year terms, staggered. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director elected from Board at annual reorganization meeting in January. Appointed County Administrator.
  • Essex County: Nine members elected to serve concurrent terms. Five of the freeholders represent districts; four are elected from the county at-large. Freeholder President and Vice-President serve one-year terms. Popularly-elected County Executive.
  • Gloucester County: Seven members elected at large. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director.
  • Hudson County: Nine members elected from wards to staggered, three-year terms. Popularly elected County Executive.
  • Hunterdon County: Five members elected at large for terms of two to three years, staggered. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director elected from Board at annual reorganization meeting in January.
  • Mercer County: Seven members elected at-large to three-year terms, staggered. The Board has a Chair and Vice-Chair; these positions are rotated amongst board members each year. Popularly elected County Executive.
  • Middlesex County: Seven members elected at-large to three-year terms, staggered. In January of each year, the Board reorganizes, selecting one Freeholder to be Freeholder Director and another to be Freeholder Deputy Director. The Freeholder Director appoints Freeholders to serve as Chairpersons and members on the various committees which oversee county departments.
  • Monmouth County: Five members elected at-large for three-year terms. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director elected from Board at annual reorganization meeting in January.
  • Morris County: Seven members elected at large. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director elected from Board at annual reorganization meeting in January.
  • Ocean County: Five members elected at-large. Appointed County Administrator.
  • Passaic County: Seven members elected at-large for three-year terms. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director elected from Board at annual reorganization meeting in January.
  • Salem County: Seven members elected at-large to three-year terms, staggered. In January of each year, the Board reorganizes, selecting one Freeholder to be Freeholder Director and another to be Freeholder Deputy Director. Appointed County Administrator.
  • Somerset County: Five members elected at-large to three-year terms, staggered. Appointed County Administrator.
  • Sussex County: Five members elected at large.
  • Union County: Nine members elected at large. Appointed County Manager.
  • Warren County: Three members elected at-large for three-year terms, staggered. Freeholder Director and Freeholder Deputy Director elected from Board at annual reorganization meeting in January. Appointed County Administrator.

References

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