New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Bill Creates The Title of ‘Commissioner’ Dropping Outdated ‘Freeholder’ Term

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Pennacchio: Through Change New Jersey is More Inclusive of All Residents Participating In Local Government

Legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) allows county governments to adopt the inclusive title of “commissioner,” replacing the pre-revolutionary term of “freeholder” has passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio’s bill would create public awareness of county government positions. (

“County freeholder is not a term known to many New Jerseyans,” said Pennacchio. “Allowing counties to adopt the name of ‘county commissioner’ while replacing ‘freeholder’ will increase public awareness and bring county government into the 21st century.”

In a Star-Ledger report, County Freeholders explained that the term “freeholder” was “anachronistic and offensive.” The term ‘freeholder’ is a pre-revolutionary term which explains that only a land-owning male, who was free of debt, could hold public office.

“New Jersey stands alone while other states have changed the position of freeholder to a commissioner, modernizes the position,” said Pennacchio. “When you have a title, which refers to men ‘free and clear,’ you ultimately discourage individuals from participating in critical local government positions.”

A recent census by Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics shows that even though women represent half of New Jersey’s population only 29 percent of freeholders are women.

Senator Pennacchio’s legislation, S-402, will allow New Jersey’s 21 counties to adopt the title of “county commissioner” and “board of county commissioners,” replacing the pre-revolutionary term of “freeholder” and encouraging all residents to participate in their local governments.

The legislation heads to the Senate floor.  A copy of Senator Pennacchio’s legislation can be found here.

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