Essex County commissioners sworn in at 2021 organization meeting

The Essex County Board of Commissioners

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — District 2 Commissioner Wayne Richardson, of Newark, was unanimously elected president of the Essex County Board of County Commissioners — formerly called the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders — and District 5 Commissioner Carlos Pomares, of Bloomfield, was unanimously elected vice president, during the board’s annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 6.

Taking the oath of office prior to the election of officers were Commissioners Patricia Sebold, at large, of Livingston, for her 10th term; Rufus Johnson, at large, of Newark, for his fifth term; outgoing President Brendan Gill, at large, of Montclair, for his fourth term; Romaine Graham, at large, of Irvington, for her second term; Leonard Luciano, District 4, of West Caldwell, for his fourth term; Robert Mercado, District 1, of Newark, for his second term; Tyshammie Cooper, District 3, of East Orange, for her second term; as well as Richardson for his third term and Pomares for his second term. All were sworn in by New Jersey Superior Court Judge James Paganelli.

Richardson is president of Laborers Local 55. In addition, he is a lead organizer for the Laborers Eastern Region Organizing Fund and chairs the city of Newark’s Central Planning Board.

“This board, along with the county executive and the administration, has worked to meet the simultaneous challenges of a global pandemic, racial injustice and civil unrest,” Richardson said. “We acted responsibly with COVID-19 relief bill funding, from testing to food distribution, PPE and, most recently, vaccination sites. We supported legislation for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. We are a diverse board, representing the diversity of Essex County, yet we have called for support of Black Lives Matter and Juneteenth as a holiday. We supported policy to improve police and community relations, opposed the transferring of ICE detainees, and supported the elimination of private for-profit prisons in New Jersey. We are poised in 2021 to continue our valuable work for the residents of Essex County.”

Pomares is the first Latino to be elected to a leadership role on the Essex County board. He previously served as councilman at large in Bloomfield. He currently serves as the executive director of the Cuban Artists Fund and is a history and political science lecturer at Hudson County Community College.

“The opportunity to represent our communities is a challenge we have all embraced,” Pomares said. “Essex County was hit extremely hard by COVID-19. Although times were challenging, we as county government officials never wavered. County Executive DiVincenzo, under your leadership we provided our residents with much needed relief in the form of weekly food distribution events and easily accessible COVID-19 testing. I look forward to 2021 and continuing to work diligently to serve and uplift the people and the communities of Essex County.”

As outgoing president, Gill noted the accomplishments of the last three years, including banning of smoking in county parks, allocation of more than $1.6 million for legal services for ICE detainees held in the Essex County Correctional Facility, and establishment of the ECCF Civilian Task Force. 

“As we move forward under the leadership of President Richardson, I am confident the board will continue to deliver results we can be proud of as county legislators and community leaders,” Gill said.

Remarks were made by Gov. Phil Murphy, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. and Essex County Democratic Party Chairperson Leroy Jones, who spoke to the virtues of good government and service the board has demonstrated.

The Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem were performed by Valerie Adams of Smooth Productions, and the invocation was a joint effort presented by three members of the clergy: Rev. Anita Wright, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montclair; Rabbi David Vaisberg, senior rabbi at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston; and Imam W. Deen Shareef, imam of Waris Cultural Research & Development Center in Irvington. The Rev. Paul Donohue of Saint Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church in Newark provided the event’s final benediction.