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Essex County Board of Elections Chair Beth O'Toole. (Photo: Beth O'Toole).

Essex County will honor Beth O’Toole, Craig Coughlin at Irish Heritage Month celebration

By David Wildstein, March 29 2023 8:04 am

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo will honor the 2023 Irishman of the Year, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and the 2023 Irishwoman of the Year, Bethany J. O’Toole, as part of their annual Irish Heritage Month.

O’Toole is the longtime chair of the Essex County Board of Elections and the highest-ranking Republican in county government.  Over more than two decades as a commissioner, she has been part of two rounds of county commissioner and municipal redistricting and has been involved in counting votes in a huge number of close local races.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin at Gov. Phil Murphy’s FY2024 Budget Address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

She is also the chief financial officer of the Essex County Utilities Authority; on her watch, the agency eliminated nearly $103 million in debt and became debt-free last year.  The removal of the annual debt service reduced garbage tipping fees for Essex County’s 22 municipalities.

A former councilman and judge, Coughlin is on the verge of becoming the longest-serving Assembly Speaker in New Jersey history.  DiVincenzo’s decision to honor him evinces a growing political relationship between Essex and Middlesex Democrats.

“The Irish Heritage event recognizes the impact Irish men and women have had on the cultural, civic, political, law enforcement and economic history of the county,” DiVincenzo’s office said.

DiVincenzo picked Gov. Phil Murphy as the Irishman of the Year and Rep. Mikie Sherrill as the Irishwoman of the Year in 2021.  These kinds of events are part of the secret sauce that has made DiVincenzo a six-term county executive and one of the most popular elected officials in county history.

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