New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Legislation Changing Outdated Term of ‘Freeholder’ to ‘Commissioner’ Passes Senate

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Says It’s Time to Bring County Government to the 21st Century

The New Jersey Senate passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) that would increase transparency and participation in county government by replacing the outdated title of “freeholder” with “commissioner.”

Senator Pennacchio’s bill increases transparency and participation in local government.  (

“New Jersey stands alone while other states have dropped the archaic term ‘freeholder,’ which gives little indication of the function of this extremely important position in county government,” Pennacchio said. “The adoption of ‘commissioner,’ a modern title, will improve transparency in the process and encourage more residents to participate in their local government.”

One out of twenty Morris County residents understood the term “freeholder,” when they were asked by the Daily Record. New Jersey is currently the only state to use the term “freeholder.”

Pennacchio’s legislation, S-402, would require New Jersey’s twenty-one counties to adopt the title of “county commissioner” and “board of county commissioners” within one year.

He said the effort would highlight the important work of county government, without resulting in surprising additional costs to taxpayers since items like stationary must be replaced each January after elections.

“Our counties would not be required to immediately change their signage,” Pennacchio added. “The changes would be made only when signage needs to be replaced or reordered in the ordinary course of business. The cost is small but the benefit would far exceed any cost involved.”

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