BRANCHVILLE, NJ - Sussex County dignitaries, as well as family and friends of George Graham, gathered on Friday, April 19, at American Legion Post 157 in Branchville, to support Graham, as he runs in the upcoming primary for Sussex County Freeholder.
Graham is the freeholder select, having been chosen during the Republican Convention
only a week earlier, when delegates from all of the municipalities gathered to cast their vote on April 12.
There has been significant movement within the county, beginning with the retirement of Nancy Fitzgibbons from the position of Sussex County Surrogate. Fitzgibbons' retirement from there, prompted the appointment of Assemblyman Gary Chiusano (R-24) to the post. With the vacancy of Chiusano's seat, Parker Space became the next Assemblyman, voted on at a Republican Convention on Feb. 23. From there, the vacancy came about for Space's seat on the freeholder board.
Chiusano, Space, Graham, and also Sussex County Freeholder Richard Vohden, will all be on the ballot for their respective seats for the June 4 primary. If they all move on, they will proceed to the ballot for the General Election in November, serving out their time at their respective posts until Dec. 31. If each wins their seat in November, they will remain on board in their positions for their terms starting Jan. 1, 2014.
Susan Zellman, who retired from the Sussex County Freeholder Board on Dec. 31, 2012, emceed the Italian Night Fundraiser event, which included dinner, and entertainment by the Glenn Lewis Band. Vohden, a veteran of the military, led in the flag salute. Bader Qarmout, a conservative advocate, and very active participant within the Sussex County Republican Party, led the attendees in prayer before the meal.
In addition to Zellman, Vohden, and Qarmout, other dignitaries at the event included: Sussex County Freeholders Phil Crabb and Dennis Mudrick; Sussex County Surrogate Gary Chiusano; Sussex County Republican Chairwoman Ailish Hambel; Hopatcong Borough Mayor Sylvia Petillo; Stanhope Borough Mayor Rosemarie Maio; Vernon Township Mayor Victor Marotta; Stanhope Borough Councilwoman and former Mayor Diana Kuncken; Stanhope Borough Council Members Michael Depew, Doreen Thistleton, and Bill Thornton; Stanhope Borough Administrator Brian McNeilly; Town of Newton Councilman Dan Flynn; Hopatcong Borough Councilman Rich Bunce; Byram Councilwoman Nisha Kash; Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCMUA) Board of Commissioners Chairman Ron Petillo; Leonia Police Chief Jay Ziegler; former Town of Newton Mayor Thea Unhoch; and former Hardyston Township Mayor Wendy Molner.
Event sponsors included: Ann Marano Kievit and Tim Smith (Platinum); Sussex County Freeholders Dennis Mudrick and Gail Phoebus (Gold); and Jay and Tatiana Ziegler, Doug and Sue Zellman, and Sam and Sherry Hoagland (Silver).
Several of the attendees took to the podium, to speak positively about Graham.
"How glad I am, and how important it is, for George Graham to be a part of the Sussex County Freeholders," said Crabb.
Among achievements of the freeholders, Crabb said, "We stabilized a budget, we were looking into a precipice to three years ago."
Crabb emphasized the accomplishments the board has made as a team, "We have to have a board with a backbone, and deliberate beyond the confines of the meeting room. Our board isn't about grandstanding, it's about getting things done."
He added about Graham, "He doesn't have an agenda, he speaks for two people, himself and his constituents."
Crabb noted how Graham is about family, and asks everyone he knows about their families.
"George has a wonderful family," he said, introducing Graham's daughter, Jennifer Bartone, who took the podium next.
"I can obviously tell you what a wonderful father he is," Bartone said.
She talked about how involved Graham was with those who suffered loss during Hurricane Sandy, and how we volunteered his time at the regional shelter, to help others be more comfortable, in the storm's aftermath.
"He didn't do it because he had to, he did it because he wanted to," Bartone said of Graham.
Graham himself next took his turn at the microphone.
"I'm very proud to sit on the freeholder board," he said.
Graham will officially resign his seat on the Stanhope Borough Council this upcoming Tuesday night, and be sworn in as a freeholder at the Wednesday night meeting.
In information Graham sent out to his supporters before the convention, he said about himself, "I am a passionate advocate for reducing the burden of government in our lives."
Graham has said he considers himself an advocate of property rights, and opposer of stringent mandates imposed by the DEP, Highlands Council, and Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).
Graham told his supporters on Friday night, taxes in the county are too high, and have a stronghold on senior citizens with a fixed income, as well as young families. He said it is not a quick fix, but takes time to work on.
"The reality is, you have to chip away, chip away, and chip away, and that's what I'm going to do," Graham said.
Zellman reminded attendees the upcoming primary is only six weeks away, and it will go quickly.
Graham expressed heartfelt sentiments to all of his supporters for their attendance.
Graham has had a presence in Sussex County since his youth, when he began spending plentiful time on his uncle's farm in Wantage. He and his wife, Gail, have been married for 37 years, and have spent 28 of those years as Stanhope residents. They have three grown children, Rob, Jennifer, and George, and one grandson, Seth.
Graham has served three terms as a Stanhope Councilman. While on the council, he has been involved with the land use board, and the following committees: finance and administration, community development, and technology. While on the council, he was a liaison for COAH and the Highlands Council. He has also served as a trustee for the Friends of Waterloo Village, the Secretary for the Sussex County League of Municipalities, and has also been a member of the Stanhope Chamber of Commerce, Musconetcong Foundrymen Historical Society, and the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board.
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