Garganio again to head Burlco Freeholder Board

Bruce Garganio was director until a failed reelection bid.
Bruce Garganio was director until a failed reelection bid.
Posted: March 29, 2014

MOUNT HOLLY The new director of the Burlington County Freeholder Board is Bruce Garganio, a Republican who led the five-member board for three years before he was defeated in his bid for reelection in November 2011.

After his upset at the polls, he was briefly considered as a candidate for the seat of Rep. Jon Runyan, a Republican, who announced he would not seek another term this year.

Two weeks ago, the county Republican Committee tapped Garganio to fill the one-year vacancy that was created after Leah Arter resigned as freeholder director. At the March 12 meeting, Arter, a Republican, announced she was leaving immediately to take on a $90,000 administrative position with Burlington County College, a body the board oversees.

On Wednesday, the board voted, 3-2 along party lines, to name Garganio to replace her as director, a post that pays $11,000.

Afterward, Garganio, a union carpenter from Florence Township, said: "I look forward to working across the aisle to extend our long-held tradition of cutting government spending, and holding the line on taxes, all while maintaining and expanding the first-rate services that we strive to provide to our residents."

Garganio served on the board for three years until November 2011, when he and his running mate, Freeholder Mary Ann O'Brien, were beaten by Democrats Aimee Belgard and Joanne Schwartz. The Democrats' victory came as a surprise, as Republicans had a much larger war chest and had controlled the board for nearly 40 years, many of them exclusively.

The race was marked by the Republicans' personal negative ads on TV and a vigorous campaign waged by both sides.

On Wednesday, the two Democrats who were elected that year voted against Garganio's nomination as director and cast their support to Freeholder Joseph Donnelly, a Republican and a former director. Donnelly, however, voted for Garganio, along with Joseph Howarth, another Republican on the board, and Garganio.

Schwartz said that she voted for Donnelly because he has worked well with her when he was director and because "Bruce was not elected to this position. . . . The voters of Burlington County voted him out."

Garganio and Howarth, a former Evesham councilman, will run on the same slate for two available seats on the board in November, when control of the board will be up for grabs. The Democratic Committee is endorsing Edgewater Park Mayor Tom Pullion and former Evesham Township Councilman Mike Schmidt for the three-year seats.

As freeholder, Garganio will oversee the departments of county administration, economic development, and human services. He also will serve as liaison to BCC, Burlington County Institute of Technology and the Burlington County Special Services School. He said that he expects the board to pass a budget that will reduce taxes this year, a theme he previously campaigned on. "We will pass it soon," he said, echoing Arter's promise to adopt a spending plan sooner than usual.

Belgard has been endorsed by the Democrats to run for the seat being vacated by Runyan, who represents parts of Burlington and Ocean Counties in the Third District. If she wins, the county Democratic Committee would appoint her replacement on the freeholder board.

The Burlington and Ocean County GOP Committees are endorsing former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur in the GOP primary for Runyan's seat. Steve Lonegan, a former gubernatorial and senatorial candidate, has announced he also will run in the GOP primary.

jhefler@phillynews.com856-779-3224 @JanHefler

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