Ocean County Commissioner Director Joseph Vicari, the longest-serving county official in New Jersey, will not seek re-election to a fifteenth term.
“After more than 43 years of public service, I have decided to retire and devote more time to my family,” Vicari said. Anyone who volunteers for public service is often forced to divide their time between that service and their family. That’s a concession I’m no longer willing to make.”
The 76-year-old Vicari was first elected to the Board of Freeholders in 1981 and served as a Toms River Township Committeeman—when the municipality was called Dover – from 1980 to 1994. He was mayor five times.
“I am forever thankful to the people of Ocean County, who have seen fit to return me to office time and time again since 1981. Thanks to their enduring support, I will leave office as the longest-serving freeholder/Commissioner in the State of New Jersey. I have worked hard over these nearly five decades to serve the people of Ocean County. I have dedicated much of my life to improving the quality of life of our senior citizens and our younger families alike.”
Ocean GOP officials are expected to reopen the filing deadline for potential commissioner candidates since others might have submitted letters of intent to run if they knew Vicari was not.
Two Republicans had filed letters of intent with the Ocean County Republican organization to take on Vicari: Berkeley Township Committeeman James Byrne and former Brick Councilman Michael Thulen, Sr. Thulen had sought party support for commissioner in 2021 and 2022.
In 2021, Vicari had briefly expressed interest in seeking the Republican nomination for governor.
In announcing his retirement, Vicari recalled a successful political career that began in 1979.
“During my long tenure, I witnessed Dover Township become Toms River Township, and the Board of Chosen Freeholders morph into the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. What hasn’t changed is my commitment to bringing our residents the best possible services at the most affordable cost,” he said. “While serving in elected office, I also dedicated myself to educating our children. As a lifelong educator, I worked as a teacher, school principal, and superintendent of schools.”
Vicari added, “Like everyone else, I’ve seen my share of good times and bad. Some of the worst times for us here in Ocean County were Super Storm Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our residents came through both disasters with resilience and fortitude. I truly believe Ocean County emerged stronger.”
Now, Vicari looks forward to spending more time with his wife of 51 years, Joyce, my children and my two beautiful grandchildren.