Bergen County Executive

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County Executive of Bergen County
Flag of Bergen County, New Jersey.gif
Jim Tedesco

since January 2014
Term lengthFour years; renewable
Inaugural holderWilliam D. McDowell

The Bergen County Executive is county executive of Bergen County, New Jersey, United States who, as the chief officer of the county's executive branch, oversees the administration of county government. The office was inaugurated in 1986 at the same time the Board of Chosen Freeholders, which plays a legislative role, was reconfigured. The New Jersey Superior Court had subsumed and replaced county courts in 1983. The executive offices are located in the county seat, Hackensack.

The executive is directly elected at-large to a four-year term on a partisan basis.[1] Since the first county executive took office, five individuals have served in the position. In 2014, incumbent James J. "Jim" Tedesco III was elected to his first term and was re-elected in 2018.[2] As of Election Day 2017 there were 593,454 registered voters in the county,[3] which in 2016 had estimated an estimated population of 939,151.[4][5]


In 1972, the State of New Jersey passed the Optional County Charter Law, which provides for four different manners in which a county could be governed: by an executive, an administrator, a board president or a county supervisor.[6]

A referendum to change the Bergen County form of government was held in 1974 and was rejected by a margin of 132,168 to 123,106, making Bergen one of four counties to reject proposals modifying the structure of county government, while four other counties passed changes. The measure was supported by the League of Women Voters and other groups as a method of improving the management of the county, while the loss of "home rule" in the county's 70 municipalities was one of the issues driving opposition to the referendum.[7]

In 1985, a second referendum was held. The proposal to create an executive branch was approved by a high margin: of the 490,437 registered voters, 116,031 voted for and 70,331 against. The change also reduced the number of members of the legislative branch, Board of Chosen Freeholders, from nine to seven.[8] The judicial branch, namely the county court, had been subsumed and replaced by the New Jersey Superior Court Law Division in 1983.[9]

The executive has power to appoint a County Administrator as well as department heads (with approval of the Board). Responsibilities include preparation/submission of operating and capital budgets, introduction of legislation, the hiring and dismissal of personnel, and approval or veto Freeholder ordinances. The Board of Freeholders board have the power to investigate administrative actions of the executive, approve ordinances and resolutions, initiate service contracts with municipalities, and adopt an administrative code.[10][11]

Bergen is one of five counties New Jersey with a county executive, the others being Atlantic, Essex, Hudson and Mercer.[12][13]

County executives[edit]


William D. McDowell served one term.[14] McDowell had earlier served on board of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.[15][16]

McDowell, who at the time was County Sheriff, faced Democrat Matthew Feldman, a five-term member of the New Jersey Senate and former Senate President in the race.[11] McDowell was endorsed by Doris Mahalick, Feldman's rival for the Democratic nomination.[17] McDowell beat Feldman by a margin of nearly 20,000, capturing 112,619 votes (55% of ballots cast) to 92,649 (45%) for Feldman.[18]


William "Pat" Schuber, a Republican, served 12 years as the County Executive.[19] Schuber had previously served both as a councilman and mayor of Bogota, New Jersey and was elected to five successive terms in the New Jersey General Assembly[20] In 2011, he was appointed to a six-year term on the board of commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).[21][22]


Dennis McNerney, was the first Democrat to serve as County Executive,[23] which he did from 2003 to 2011.

He took office in January 2003 after being twice elected to the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders, in 1998 and 2001, defeating[24] McNerney was reelected to a second term of office as county executive in 2006, defeating former Freeholder Todd Caliguire.[25] He lost reelection in the 2010 election to Kathleen Donovan in a race in which the Republicans captured all three open seats on the Board of Chosen Freeholders to regain control on the board.[26]

In his February 2008 State of the County address, McNerney called for Bergen County municipalities with populations less than 10,000 to merge, saying "The surest way to significantly lower homeowners' property taxes is to merge small towns and reduce administrative overhead." Half of Bergen County's 70 municipalities have fewer than 10,000 residents each.[27]


Kathleen A. Donovan is a Republican who served one term as county executive.

Donovan was a part-time public defender of her hometown, Lyndhurst from 1983 to 1988. From 1986 to 1988, she represented the 36th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly.[28] She was first elected County Clerk in 1988 and was reelected in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008. As County Clerk she also functioned as a Recorder of Deeds for Bergen County.

In 1994 Donovan was appointed by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. She later became the chairwoman.[29] Donovan stepped down as Port Authority Chairwoman in December 1995 in order to unsuccessfully run for Congress in the 1996 election, but she retained her seat on the agency's Board of Commissioners. Donovan remained a Port Authority Commissioner until 2002 when she was replaced by Gov. James McGreevey when her term expired.

Donovan unsuccessfully sought support to run for Bergen County executive in the 2002 Republican primary, and lost a campaign for the 2006 Republican nomination for county executive. Donovan ran for county executive in 2010 and was swept into office with her three Freeholder running mates, in an election in which perceived corruption by the Democratic incumbents, rising spending and taxes were the major issues.[30] Donovan won with 52.9% of the vote (117,104), while McNerney received 47.1% (104,366).[31]


James J. Tedesco III was sworn as county executive just hours into 2015, and was later publicly sworn in on January 4, 2015, at Bergen Community College.[32] Before being elected as county executive, Tedesco served as a councilman in Paramus from 2000 through 2002 and served two terms as mayor from 2003 through 2010.[33][34]

Tedesco was elected to the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders on November 5, 2013 and took office in January 2014. Before beginning his term as Freeholder, he testified on the citizens' behalf at a Port Authority Board meeting on the Fort Lee lane closure scandal in November 2013.[35]

After winning the Democratic nomination, Tedesco challenged incumbent county executive Kathleen Donovan.[36][37][38][39] in an election in which the major issues were the county budget, consolidation of the county police and sheriff, and issues regarding lawsuits filed between the different branches of government.[40] Tedesco won with 54.2% of the vote (107,958), ahead of Donovan with 45.8% (91,299),[41][42] in a race in which Tedesco's campaign spending nearly $1 million, outspending Donovan by a 2-1 margin.[43]

His first day in office, Tedesco approved an arrangement merging the Bergen County Police Department and the Bergen County Sheriff's Office. The deal went through following the approval of the freeholders.[44]

In 2017, Tedesco signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for county employees to $15 per hour.[45]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders Archived 2018-03-21 at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County, New Jersey. Accessed March 20, 2018.
  2. ^ "Jim Tedesco to seek reelection as Bergen County executive". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Statewide Voter Registration Summary" (PDF). New Jersey Department of State. November 7, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  4. ^ State & County QuickFacts – Bergen County, New Jersey, United States Census Bureau. Accessed April 9, 2017.
  5. ^ State & County QuickFacts – Bergen County, New Jersey, United States Census Bureau. Accessed March 10, 2018.
  6. ^ Miller, William (1974), Model County Administrative Codes Under the Optional County Charter Law of New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, retrieved February 28, 2018
  7. ^ Phalon, Richard. "Democrats Take Over Bergen's Board", The New York Times, November 7, 1974. Accessed March 16, 2018. "The Democrats promised greater efficiency in government and were generally in favor of a proposition voted down yesterday by 132,168 to 123,106, a referendum on a charter revision that would have put the day‐to‐day operations of the county in the hands of an elected executive and turned the board of Freeholders into a legislative and policy‐making body. Similar propositions were rejected in Passaic, Camden and Middlesex Counties, and approved in Atlantic, Hudson, Union and Mercer."
  8. ^ Parisi, Albert J. "Bergen to Vote on Executive", The New York Times, October 27, 1985. Accessed March 20, 2018. "In addition to voting for a Governor and Assemblymen on Election Day, Bergen County residents will decide, in a binding referendum, whether they want to change to a new type of county government and administration. The county now has a nine-member Board of Chosen Freeholders. Voters will be asked whether they want a county executive type of government and a reduction in the Freeholder membership to seven."
  9. ^ State v. Natoli, 237 N.J. Super. 52 (1989) 566 A.2d 1167 (New Jersey Superior Court November 20, 1989) ("The county district courts were abolished by L. 1983, c. 405, effective December 31, 1983, and their jurisdiction was then subsumed by the Law Division.").
  10. ^ Parisi, Albert J. (20 April 1986). "Bergen Is Optimistic On Executive Post". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  11. ^ a b Hanley, Robert (October 30, 1986). "The Poitical Campaign; Bergen, After 271 Years, to Elect First Executive". The New York Times. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  12. ^ Robert D. Prunetti, County Executive of Mercer County, Plaintiff, v. Mercer County Board Of Chosen Freeholders, Defendant (Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division November 13, 2001) ("In 1972, the Legislature adopted the Optional County Charter Law, providing a county the opportunity to reorganize its form of government into one of four alternative forms: (i) the County Executive Plan; (ii) the County Manager Plan; (iii) the Board President Plan; or (iv) the County Supervisor Plan. See N.J.S.A. 40:41A-1 et seq. Six counties have elected to reorganize their governmental structure pursuant to the Optional Charter Act. They are respectively: Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Mercer and Union Counties. Five of these counties...have opted for the County Executive Plan.").Text
  13. ^ Rinde, Meir. "Explainer: What’s a Freeholder? NJ’s Unusual County Government System", NJ Spotlight, October 27, 2015. Accessed October 26, 2017. "Five counties -- Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Mercer -- opted for popularly elected county executives in addition to freeholder boards."
  14. ^ Edge, Wally (16 April 2007). "Bill McDowell, first Bergen County Executive, dies". Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  15. ^ Sullivan, Joseph F. (12 October 1986). "Politics; Bergen Voting For More Than Executive". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  16. ^ Salmore, Barbara G (2013), New Jersey Politics and Government: The Suburbs Come of Age, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 9780813561417
  17. ^ Sullivan, Joseph (12 October 1986). "Politics; Bergen Voting For More Than Executive". New York Times. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  18. ^ Sullivan, Joseph F. (5 November 1986). "The Elections: Changes in Jersey; Continuity in Connecticut; New Jersey: Shapiro Loses in Essex County; McDowell Is Winner in Bergen". New York Times. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  19. ^ "Executive Decision". The New York Times. 1 September 2002. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  20. ^ William "Pat" Schuber, Esq., BA, JD Archived 2018-03-21 at the Wayback Machine, Fairleigh Dickinson University. Accessed March 10, 2018.
  21. ^ "Former Bergen County executive assumes role on Port Authority Board of Commissioners". 29 July 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  22. ^ "The Port Authority of NY & NJ". Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  23. ^ James, George. "Government; It's County vs. Mayor", The New York Times, April 4, 2004. Accessed February 16, 2011. "Mr. McNerney took office last year and is the first Democrat to hold the post. Efforts to build a shelter eluded his Republican predecessor, William P. Schuber, who suggested building one in 1998."
  24. ^ Jones, Richard Lezin. "The 2002 Elections: New Jersey; Supporter of Newark Arena Is Elected Essex Executive", The New York Times, November 6, 2002. Accessed February 16, 2011. "In Bergen County, Dennis McNerney, a two-term Democratic freeholder, defeated Henry P. McNamara, a veteran Republican state senator, in the race for county executive."
  25. ^
  26. ^ Gartland, Michael. "Donovan leads Republican sweep in Bergen", The Record (Bergen County), November 2, 2010. Accessed February 16, 2011.
  27. ^ "County exec urges mergers of towns". 2008-02-08. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  28. ^ Fitzgerald's Legislative Manual: State of New Jersey (2007), Skinder-Strauss Associates, Newark, New Jersey, p. 325. ISBN 1-57741-245-1.
  29. ^ "County Executive – Bergen County, NJ – Official Website". Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  30. ^ Editorial. "Republicans Triumph", The Record (Bergen County), November 4, 2010. Accessed December 27, 2014.
  31. ^ Staff. "Election results", The Record (Bergen County), November 4, 2010. Accessed December 27, 2014.
  32. ^ Ensslin, John. "Tedesco to be sworn in as Bergen County Executive Jan. 4", The Record (Bergen County), December 10, 2014. Accessed April 8, 2016. "James Tedesco will be sworn in as the new County Executive at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4, in a formal ceremony at Bergen Community College."
  33. ^ "Freeholder James J. Tedesco III". Bergen County. Archived from the original on 2016-12-19. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  34. ^ Bergen County Directory. Bergen County. p. 10.
  35. ^ Ensslin, John (March 4, 2014). "Bergen County Freeholders call for chairman of Port Authority and N.J. commissioners to resign". The Record (Bergen County).
  36. ^ Kleimann, James (February 18, 2014). "Tedesco to face Donovan in Bergen County Executive race".
  37. ^ Strunsky, Steve (March 20, 2014). "In Bergen County executive race, Bridgegate is an issue for at least one candidate".
  38. ^ "Donovan's Chief Of Staff And Bergen County Administrator Questioned About Campaign Contributions". The Bergen Dispatch. 18 May 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-05-21. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  39. ^ Ensslin, John C.; and O'Neill, James N. "Tedesco upsets Donovan in race for Bergen County executive", The Record (Bergen County), November 4, 2014. Accessed December 27, 2014. "Democrat James Tedesco, in a come-from-behind upset, won a hard-fought race for Bergen County Executive Tuesday, dealing Republican incumbent Kathleen Donovan her first loss at the county level in 25 years."
  40. ^ Ensslin, John C.; and O'Neill, James N. "Tedesco upsets Donovan in race for Bergen County executive" Archived 2014-12-28 at the Wayback Machine, The Record (Bergen County), November 4, 2014. Accessed December 27, 2014. "Democrat James Tedesco, in a come-from-behind upset, won a hard-fought race for Bergen County Executive Tuesday, dealing Republican incumbent Kathleen Donovan her first loss at the county level in 25 years."
  41. ^ Ensslin, John (February 21, 2014). "Tedesco emerges to face Donovan". The Record (Bergen County).
  42. ^ Staff. "Results Of Municipal And County Races", The Record (Bergen County), November 5, 2014. Accessed December 27, 2014.
  43. ^ Ensslin, John C. "Tedesco outspent Donovan 2-to-1 in Bergen County Executive race, final tally shows", The Record (Bergen County), December 4, 2014. Accessed December 27, 2014. "Tedesco spent $990,980, compared with $429,213 spent by Donovan in her unsuccessful bid for a second four-year term, reports compiled by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission showed."
  44. ^ Staff. "New Bergen County Executive Signs Deal Merging Police, Sheriff’s Departments", WCBS-TV, January 1, 2015. Accessed April 8, 2016.
  45. ^ "Minimum wage for Bergen County workers is now $15 an hour". Retrieved 14 March 2018.