Rivas chosen as freeholder chairman

Outgoing chairman Maldonado praised for getting things done

Performing their annual power distribution ritual on Tuesday Jan. 5, Hudson County Board of Freeholders named Freeholder Tilo Rivas of Union City as chairman for 2016. Rivas, who represents District 6 in the county, previously served as chairman in 2010.
The nine-member county freeholder board is the county’s legislative branch. It helps the county executive oversee the county budget, facilities, roads, parks, and policy.
The chairmanship over the last decade has rotated each year, with the vice chair from the previous year becoming the chairman the succeeding year. Rivas was sworn in by state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
This year, Anthony Vainieri, who represents District 8 in North Bergen and a portion of Secaucus, was named vice chair. Freeholder Bill O’Dea of District 2, representing the west side of Jersey City, was named pro temp, the third-ranking officer.
Over the past year, Rivas served as chairman of the Education Committee, representative on the Workforce Investment Board, and as a member on committees including Economic Development and Housing; Ethics, Senior Citizens and Veterans Affairs, Task Force on the Homeless, and Tourism and Cultural Affairs.

“I always did things that were in the best interest of my constituency.” – Freeholder Chairman Junior Maldonado
The chairman oversees the freeholder meeting, establishes committees, and sets the agenda for the year. Some freeholders have particular issues they want to focus on during their term in office, such as providing services for the homeless or helping veterans.
The freeholder board allocates millions in state and federal money, including welfare, senior citizens, HIV victims, and aid to the mentally ill, often targeted to the most needy residents in the county. They board also oversees funding for the court system, the sheriff’s department, department of public works, and the county jail, and maintains the county parks.
They also play a significant role in deciding where funds from the Open Space Trust Fund are allocated, a fund that is used for developing or upgrading parks, sports fields, or preserving historic sites.
Rivas predicted 2016 would be a challenging year, just as 2015 was. But he predicted that 2016 would be more positive.
O’Dea said the county had a good year under Rivas’ leadership in 2010. “So I’m looking for the same this year,” he said.
County Executive Tom DeGise credited Rivas with being “a steady hand.”
“He is good leader for this board that had a mix of wily veterans and young blood,” DeGise said.
Coming into 2015, the board saw four new members added to the nine-member board, the largest shift in personnel since the 1990s.

Maldonado accomplished big things

Rivas replaces outgoing chairman E. Junior Maldonado, the freeholder for downtown Jersey City, who presided in 2015 over some of the largest county works projects in recent history.
Under Maldonado, the county opened its public golf course, funded a new School of Technology in Secaucus, and purchased land along Newark Avenue that will eventually house a new court house complex.
“We’ve already purchased about 60 percent of the land,” Maldonado said.
While the money to actually construct the new court complex is not yet in place, the land purchases will allow the county to make dramatic and necessary changes to roadways in the area, including the extension of Central Avenue to Newark Avenue. Prior to this, Central Avenue – one of the main roads coming south from Jersey City Heights – ended in a confusing web of narrow streets.
Rivas paid tribute to Maldondo’s leadership.
“He kept this board together and focused,” Rivas said. “Junior helped solve a lot of problems.”
As a newcomer last year, Vainieri praised Maldonado’s leadership.
“I learned a lot about government from him,” Vainieri said, “how things proceed and how to govern.”
DeGise called Maldonado “a diplomat,” someone who worked with the administration and department heads to get things done.
Maldonado said he tried to approach issues intelligently, to have the board discuss and then vote on them.
“I always did things that were in the best interest of my constituency,” he said. “I also enjoyed the role of helping and teaching my new colleagues.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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