James C. Welsh, an affable Union County politician who served as a mayor, freeholder and judge, died on March 21. He was 74.
Welsh served as Hillside municipal prosecutor and township attorney, and won several terms on the township committee.
He began his political career as a Republican, winning seat on the Hillside Town Commission in 1975 on a ticket with Louis Santagata. After the municipality changed to a township committee form of government, he was re-elected in 1975.
He switched parties along the way and wound up spending thirteen years on the governing body, including a stint as mayor. He later served as municipal prosecutor and township attorney.
Welsh was elected to the Union County Board of Freeholders as a Democrat in 1988, running with incumbent Walter Boright and former freeholder Gerald Green.
They defeated incumbents James Fulcomer and Bill Eldrdidge and Union Township committeewoman Diane Heelan after a grand jury presentment criticized the handling of county insurance policies by the Republican-led freeholder board.
Welsh finished third among the Democrats, but won the seat by about 1,000 votes over the damp-handed Fulcomer. He won despite George Bush and Matthew Rinaldo being at the top of the GOP ticket.
He was defeated for re-election in the anti-Florio 1991 Republican landslide. Welsh, Boright and Clark councilman Fred Eckel lost to Republicans James Keefe, Mario Paparozzi and Frank Lehr by more than 20,000 votes.
Welsh made some national news in 1992 when a former Hillside police officer, Arthur Seale, was charged with kidnapping and murdering Exon executive Sidney Reso. Welsh had been police commissioner during Seal’s time in the town, and knew his father, the Hillside deputy police chief.
He retired in 2015 after 22 years as a worker’s compensation court judge and was supervising judge at the time of his retirement.
He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Patricia, his two children and four grandchildren.
Due to the recommended safety measures caused by coronavirus, funeral services will be privately arranged by The Dangler Funeral Home. A memorial service will be held at a later date.