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COUNTY OF PASSAIC

Board of Chosen Freeholders

WHAT IS A FREEHOLDER?

The term “Freeholder” can be traced to the colonial period of American history. In New Jersey’s 1776 Constitution, the state vested the power to govern counties in an elected body of “men” who held or owned land outright with no debt or mortgages to be Chosen by their peers. The body was deemed the Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Although there is no longer a requirement to own land and all citizens of legal age have the right to vote and hold office, the term Freeholder has endured.  New Jersey has 21 Counties governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders. No two counties are exactly the same. Counties’ demographic, geographic and economic characteristics dictate how they deliver services to their communities. The organization and structure of counties are tailored to fit their communities’ needs and characteristics.


In Passaic County’s commission form of government, the Freeholders discharge both the legislative and executive responsibilities of government. The seven member board is headed by a Freeholder Director who is selected to serve a one-year term at the Board’s annual reorganization meeting held in January. Each Free-holder is elected at-large for a staggered three (3) year term.

WHAT DO FREEHOLDERS DO?

The Passaic County Freeholders are responsible for an annual budget of about $455 million serving 501,000 residents in 16 municipalities. Some of the things they support and are responsible for: 

  • Maintenance of 248 miles of County roads and 358 bridges

  • County Parks with over 4,044 acres of recreation and open spac

  • The Passaic County Sheriff ’s Office, with responsibility for public safety county wide, the County jail, and courthouse security; as well as the County Prosecutor’s Office 

  • The Preakness Healthcare Center, a 406 bed skilled nursing facility providing sub-acute, long-term,  respite and hospice care 

  • The Passaic County Community College, serving 8,000 students in Northern N

  • The Passaic County Technical Institute, a vocational/technical high school serving 3,200 students 

  • Social Service Programs for the elderly, the poor, and people with disabilities

  • Other services to County residents, such as mental health and anti-addiction services, veterans’ programs, heating assistance and more.

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JOHN BARTLETT

Freeholder Director

John W. Bartlett, Freeholder Director, was elected in 2012. In his first term as a Freeholder, he has served on most of the Board’s standing committees, including as chairman of the Budget Committee and the Health and Community Affairs Committee in 2014, and chairman of the Administration, Finance & Personnel Committee in 2013. In 2015, he chairs the Freeholders’ Planning & Economic Development Committee and serves as a member of the Budget Committee; the Administration, Finance and Personnel Committee; and the Committee on Energy and Sustainability. He also serves as Passaic County’s representative on the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, which oversees transportation planning and improvements for 6.6 million New Jerseyans all across the state.

Freeholder Bartlett is the County’s first alternate delegate to the N.J. Association of Counties, which formulates policy and best practices for county government and helps counties interface with our State government in Trenton. He is also a member of the Board of Social Services, whose programs provide essential support to Passaic County’s neediest children, families, and seniors.
Educated at Harvard Law School, Freeholder Bartlett is a Partner in Murphy Orlando LLC. His practice includes complex commercial litigation, appellate litigation, estate litigation, election and campaign finance law, and litigation and counseling for tax -exempt organizations. He has been recognized with the highest professional peer-review rating, AV-Preeminent, from Martindale-Hubbell, and as one of the New Jersey Law Journal’s “Forty Under 40” promising young attorneys in 2010.
 
Before attending law school, Freeholder Bartlett received a B.A. degree with honors from Brown University and was a Raoul Wallenberg Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He also wrote for The Associated Press in Israel, and served as communications director for the national anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids in Washington, D.C. His prior legal experience includes a year as Legal & Policy Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. From 2009 to 2013, Freeholder Bartlett served as the founding Chairman of the Board of Friends Of Passaic County Parks. Under his leadership, the foundation launched a summer concert series and developed opportunities for local residents to sponsor memorial benches, trees, plaques, and other commemorations for lost loved ones. Freeholder Bartlett lives in Wayne with his wife Dr. Khyati Y. Joshi and their son. 

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BRUCE JAMES

Freeholder

Freeholder Bruce James was elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders in November 2005. Freeholder James has dedicated much of his life to helping the residents of Passaic County as an employee of the Passaic County Board of Social Services, where he worked as a caseworker and then supervisor. He left that board once he was elected to serve as a full-time Freeholder.

Freeholder James was born to parents of both Irish and Italian descent; his maternal grandfather was an Italian immigrant who came to this country at the age of 17 to start a new life for
himself and his future family. Freeholder James has been a resident of Clifton for 28 years.  He attended William Paterson College where he majored in Political Science and Philosophy. He was named to the Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities and served as President of the Student Government. Freeholder James was a past member of
the Board of Trustees of the Greater Paterson Opportunities Industrialization Center and served as Fundraising Chairman of St. Joseph’s Hospital Early Intervention Program and the Passaic County Food Bank. He is a current commissioner for the New Jersey State Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council.

Freeholder James recognizes the importance and is a strong advocate for stable taxes, maintaining roads and bridges, preserving open space, and providing quality education at the county technical high school and Passaic Community College. He is a hands-on Freeholder who has made it his priority to develop a comprehensive energy plan that has already saved significant tax dollars for the county, as well as, for participating municipalities and government entities. 

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ASSAD R. AKHTER

Freeholder

Apart from his role as a public official, Assad currently works as the Director of Community Outreach for the St. Joseph's Healthcare System. Prior to this most recent position Assad worked for Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) over the course of 11 years in both his Washington and New Jersey Congressional offices.  In his capacity as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Congressman, he was directly responsible for managing the local district offices and staff for the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey. Before that assignment, Assad served as the Legislative Director in the Washington, DC office where he oversaw the Congressman’s legislative agenda and staff as he was tasked with coordinating the Congressman’s position on the House Ways & Means Committee, as well as staffing his assignment on the House Homeland Security Committee.  During his time as Legislative Director, Assad was able to work on a number of momentous pieces of legislation including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; all of which were keystones to President Obama's legislative agenda during his first term.

Assad started as a staffer on Capitol Hill in 2003 and previously worked for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) where he was the lead staffer for her assignment on the House Science Committee.  During college Assad also spent one summer working as a Legislative Fellow for Rep. David Bonior (D-MI). Prior to his appointment as a Freeholder, Assad was chosen to serve on the Board of Trustees at Passaic County Community College.  Assad currently serves on the Board of Directors at the Paterson YMCA and on the Alumni Board of Directors at Seton Hall University.  


As Freeholder, Assad serves on the Human Services, Planning and Economic Development, Energy and Sustainability, and Budget Committees.  He also is also assigned as a Freeholder liaison to the Passaic County Board of Social Services, the Board of School Estimate, the Open Space Advisory Committee and as an Alternate Delegate to the New Jersey Association of Counties.


Assad graduated from Seton Hall University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations.  He graduated from the Honors program and also received the Undergraduate Leadership Award from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at graduation.

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THEODORE "TJ" BEST

Freeholder

Freeholder Theodore O. Best Jr. was first elected to the Board on November 8, 2011, at the time becoming the youngest Freeholder ever in Passaic County and the State of New Jersey. Now in his second term, Freeholder Best has served two terms as Deputy Director and on every standing Freeholder committee in the county. Born and raised in Paterson, Freeholder Best got involved in public service at a very young age advocating for funding for recreation and after school programs as President of Eastside H.S.’s Student Government. Freeholder Best’s civic engagement followed him to Rutgers University where he served as Convener of the Dean’s Diversity Advocacy Board, Chairperson of the President’s Student Advisory Board, and headed the RU Voting Campaign, Minority Student Recurrent Week, Homecoming and Annual Student Leadership Summit. Building on his background in public policy, Freeholder Best moved to Washington, D.C. and served as a staffer for Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. where he worked on legislation that led to the creation of the nation’s newest national park at the Paterson Great Falls.

Freeholder Best returned to Paterson in 2008, purchased a home on the same street where he grew up and ran for the Paterson Board of Education to “help make a difference in the lives of our young people.” He became the youngest Commissioner and then President ever elected to the Board. As an advocate for young people, Freeholder Best has worked as Program Director of The Great Falls Youth Development Center and Advisor for The Paterson Youth Council. After serving for a full term on the Board of Ed., Freeholder Best returned to Paterson Public Schools as District-wide Anti-Bullying Coordinator; where he is currently employed.

A true community servant, Freeholder Best has been an active board member of the Great Falls National Historic Park Federal Advisory Commission, NJ Association of Counties, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, Passaic County Board of Social Services, Passaic County Open Space and Farmland Preservation Advisory Committee, Passaic County History and Tourism Board, Passaic County Youth Services Commission, Passaic County Planning Board and many others positions within the City of Paterson.

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TERRY DUFFY

Freeholder

Freeholder Terry Duffy was elected to the Board in 2004. He is a life-long Passaic County resident, who with his wife Tara and their four children: Sean, Ryan, Terrence and Erin, along with his grandson Robert, live in the b eautiful up-county community of West Milford. Freeholder Duffy attended Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey and Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he majored in both business and history. He is a successful small businessman. He owns and operates Duffy’s Tavern in the Riverside section of Paterson. Terry has served in numerous leadership positions with affiliated business and trade associations at the local, county, and state level. Freeholder Duffy also served as the Regional Director of the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association. Freeholder Duffy is an active supporter of Passaic County’s law and public safety communities.

In 1996, he was honored by the Paterson Policeman’s Benevolent Association, Local 1 as their Silver Card Holder Award winner. The Silver Card Holder Award is the highest award that can be given to a civilian by the Policeman’s Benevolent Association. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus, 2nd degree, as well as, charter member of the Paterson Chapter of the Blue Knights Organization.


Freeholder Duffy’s commitment to his community is most evident in his work on behalf of Passaic County’s children. Freeholder Terry Duffy has served as the volunteer athletic director and as basketball coach at Our Lady Queen of Peace in West Milford, and was honored for his work as the C.Y.O. Coach of the Year.

He is an annual sponsor of little league teams in both Paterson and West Milford. As a successful businessman, Freeholder Duffy knows the importance of keeping our county’s economic base strong and vital. Two of his goals are to continue the county’s current economic development programs and increase opportunities for businesses and families to flourish within our county. His four children all contribute to Passaic County as well. His son Sean is a Paterson fireman, Ryan and Terrence are both Paterson policemen, and his daughter Erin is studying to get her Masters in Occupational Therapy.

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PAT LEPORE

Freeholder

Freeholder Pasquale "Pat" Lepore was first elected to the Board in 2004 and subsequently reelected in 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. His past service includes four terms as the Mayor of Woodland Park and a term on the Borough Council. He and his wife Linda are proud to call the Borough of Woodland Park/West Paterson their home for the past 44 years. They live there along with their son Robert, his wife Rebecca, and two grandchildren. Robert is a veteran of United States Marine Corps and continues his service to his community and country as a Police Officer in Woodland Park. As Freeholder Lepore very proudly commented at his swearing-in ceremony: “My son’s public service far exceeds my own.”

Upon election to the Freeholder Board, he retired as a Sales Representative for the Entenmann’s Division of George Weston Bakeries. He remains a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 802 located in Long Island City, New York. Freeholder Lepore’s commitment to Passaic County has been recognized by many public, private and civic organizations. This includes service on the Alfred H. Baumann Library Board, the Office of Emergency Management, the West Paterson Boys & Girls Club, Passaic County Board of Social Services, and Camp Hope Commission. Throughout his tenure on the Board of Chosen Freeholders, Freeholder Lepore has been elected Director of the Board twice and has also served on every standing Passaic County committee including the Passaic County Technical Institute and the Passaic County Community College Board of School Estimates.

Freeholder Lepore helped spearhead fiscal initiatives and has served as budget chair for the past 7 years resulting in nine credit upgrades to Passaic County’s bond ratings from Moody’s Financial Services, an independent credit rating agency which has given the county its highest bond rating in its history. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings on interest payments and debt service for Passaic County taxpayers. Freeholder Lepore’s fiscal stewardship has allowed our county government to rein in costs, increase efficiencies, and more effectively share services.

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CASSANDRA "SANDI" LAZZARA

Deputy Director

Cassandra "Sandi" Lazzara, Freeholder Deputy Director, was elected to the Freeholder Board in 2016. A Paterson native and life-long Passaic County resident, her commitment and desire to serve the residents of Passaic County runs deep. She was raised to embody the spirit of a public servant and to serve others with integrity, competency and loyalty.

In her first year as a Freeholder, she served as Chair of the Passaic County Human Services Committee, a committee that provides services to this county’s most vulnerable. Additionally, she served as co-chair of the Planning and Economic Committee, which includes the county’s Economic Development Division, Public Housing Agency, and County Historian. Assignments also included liaison to the Passaic County Open Space and Farmland Preservation Advisory Committee, the Board of School Estimate and the Passaic County Planning Board.

As a working mother of two grown sons – Anthony and Joseph - she is aware of how hard it is to make ends meet today. She works closely with the entire Board of Chosen Freeholders, County Administrator and Passaic County staff to examine every expenditure and ensure that the taxpayers of Passaic County get the most value out of their hard-earned money.

Freeholder Lazzara has spent over twenty-five years in education promoting the welfare of children, schools, and the community. She holds a B.A. in Human Ecology from Montclair University and an M.Ed in Administration & Supervision from William Paterson University. Freeholder Lazzara worked for the Woodland Park Board of Education in multiple capacities, including teaching. Involved with educational issues on the local, county, state and national levels, Freeholder Lazzara has proven to be a strong advocate for public education. Freeholder Lazzara knows the value of good government.