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 Freeholder 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 include:
Maintenance of 248 miles of County roads and 358 bridges
County Parks with over 4,044 acres of recreation and open space
The Passaic County Sheriff ’s Office, with responsibility for county-wide public safety, 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
The Passaic County Technical Institute, a vocational/technical high school serving 3,200 students
Social Service Programs for the elderly, poor, and people with disabilities
Other services to County residents, such as mental health and anti-addiction services, veterans’ programs, heating assistance and more.
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.