Effective January 1, 2021, the term Board of Chosen Freeholders will no longer be used due to legislation signed earlier in 2020 by the Governor (S855) formally changing the title of Freeholder to Commissioner. The new title will be Ocean County Board of Commissioners and, Freeholder, effective January 1, 2021, will be referred to as Commissioner.
Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari
Chairman: Senior Services and County Operations
Term Expires: 12/31/2023
Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari, an experienced and staunch advocate for consumers, seniors, education, tourism, and the local business community, is serving his 14th term as an elected official in Ocean County Government. Commissioner Vicari is the longest serving elected County official in New Jersey having served on the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, now the Ocean County Board of Commissioners, since 1981. He was sworn to his new term on Jan. 1, 2021. He served as Board Director in 2020.
A lifelong educator, Commissioner Vicari has given his support to the many programs at the nationally recognized Ocean County Vocational-Technical Schools, in addition to the partnership forged with Kean University providing local students with a four-year degree on the Ocean County College Campus. He is a staunch advocate for the new OCVTS Performing Arts Academy that was open on the college campus in early 2020.
As a supporter of fiscal conservative policies, Commissioner Vicari takes pride in the efforts of the entire Board that has resulted in the County maintaining a AAA bond rating – the highest possible – even during difficult economic times.
Commissioner Vicari promotes doing business locally through his “Buy in Ocean County” program. This ongoing effort has been emulated by several towns and business organizations throughout Ocean County. In 2014, his efforts to work with local businesses expanded with the creation of the Division of Business Development and Tourism.
He continues to work with agencies and organizations that improve opportunities for business and job growth in the county as well as serving as liaison to the county seat's Business Advisory Council. He works closely with Ocean County's Workforce Investment Board to ensure training and education is available to help individuals qualify for employment opportunities. He continues to spearhead economic stimulus programs with partnerships between the County and with the military. A staunch supporter for Joint Base – McGuire, Dix, Lakehurst, Commissioner Vicari promotes the many economic benefits of the base as it relates to Ocean County.
With more than 173,000 older adults calling Ocean County home, Commissioner Vicari serves as Chairman of the Office of Senior Services making certain quality programs and services are delivered to the County's senior residents. He also advocates for the protection of senior benefits including senior tax benefits, Social Security and Medicare.
Commissioner Vicari serves as liaison to the Ocean County Library system – the largest public library system in the state of New Jersey, which has been recognized nationally and statewide.
As liaison to tourism, Commissioner Vicari guides the county's Matching Grants program, which helps fund non-profit organization efforts to benefit from the tourism economy. He has received the Monmouth-Ocean Development Council Silver Gull Award for business achievement, the Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce Award for leadership and service, and has been honored as an Outstanding Leader by the Ocean County Tourism Advisory Council. He is a recipient of the 2004 Governor's Tourism Elected Official Leadership Award and the Southern New Jersey Development Council's Economic Development Award. Commissioner Vicari is also the recipient of the 2017 CASA of Ocean County “I Am For the Child Award.”
Under Commissioner Vicari’s direction, Ocean County was the first county in New Jersey to complete a comprehensive energy master plan. He currently is working with Buildings and Grounds to implement cost-saving energy saving recommendations at many of the 135 buildings maintained by Ocean County.
As liaison to the Ocean County Airport, he has overseen more than $14 million in improvements of which the federal and state governments paid 95 percent of the cost. Included in those improvements is the construction of a Crosswinds Runway, which provides for a safer facility for pilots and public safety agencies using the airport.
He has served as a member of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, now known as the Ocean County Board of Commissioners since 1981. A Dover (Toms River) Township Committeeman from 1980 to 1994, Commissioner Vicari served as mayor of the state's 10th largest community five times.
After graduating St. Peter's College, Jersey City, he earned his M.A. in education, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University. A lifelong educator, he worked as a teacher, elementary school principal and as Superintendent of Schools.
He and his wife Joyce, have two adult children and two grandchildren.