James R. Kern III is expected to become the first director of the Warren County Board of Commissioners when the county holds their reorganization meeting on January 4.
Kern had served as deputy freeholder director in 2020 and will assume the top post as county governments across New Jersey replace their Board of Chosen Freeholders with a Board of County Commissioners, effective January 1.
The move came earlier this year as part of New Jersey’s move to confront issues dealing with systemic racism. The 1776 State Constitution declared that county representatives would be called freeholders, signifying that men holding the post would have to own their land free and clear.
Former Lopatcong Council President Lori Ciesla will take office as county commissioner. She was elected by 12,348 votes, 60%-40% against Democrat Theresa Bender Chapman, in November. The incumbent, Rick Gardner, did not seek re-election.
Ciesla becomes the first woman Warren County Commissioner. Warren has not had a woman freeholder since Susan Dickey stepped down in 2001 to become Surrogate.
Jason Sarnoski will become deputy director.
Kern, 31, was elected freeholder in 2018 when incumbent Edward Smith retired.
He was elected to the Pohatcong Township Council in 2010, defeating two incumbents while still finishing his senior year at Rutgers. Kern was elected Mayor in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015 with 88% of the vote.