The Burlington County Board of Commissioners celebrated the start of the new year at their 2022 Reorganization Meeting on Wednesday where they selected a new director and deputy director and resolved to continue to find new ways to help residents and businesses during the ongoing pandemic.
Commissioner Dan O’Connell was selected to serve as the board’s director for 2022 and Tom Pullion was selected to serve as deputy director. O’Connell and Commissioner Felicia Hopson were also sworn in for new three-year terms on the five-member Board, and Brian Carlin took the oath as the new Burlington County Surrogate.
“2021 was a year of perseverance, transition and recovery. We had hoped to see the last of the COVID-19, but unfortunately, we are faced with another resurgence of the virus,” said O’Connell. “We’ve worked hard during the last two years to provide assistance to businesses and residents -- from basic necessities that no one should be without to assuring our local small businesses remain the foundation of our communities. In 2022, we will continue this mission and also seek new and innovative ways to help our residents and businesses recover.”
O’Connell takes over leadership of the Board from Hopson, who served as director in both 2020 and 2021. The longtime Delran resident and former Delran councilman first joined the Board in 2019 by filling an unexpired term and was elected to the full term in November 2019. In 2021, he served as the Board’s deputy in 2021 and as its liaison to the Health Department, Public Safety and Library System.
“I thank my colleagues on this Board for their service to our county, particularly Commissioner Hopson who led this body through two incredibly challenging years. Our entire county has benefited from her extraordinary leadership and it’s my honor to continue to serve alongside her,” said O’Connell, who was sworn-in to his new term by State Assemblywoman Carol Murphy as director by State Senator Troy Singleton.
“I would also like to thank many of the partners who have worked with our County and aided our COVID-19 response, including Virtua Health, the New Jersey National Guard, our Governor and our county’s representatives in Congress and the New Jersey Legislature, including Assembly members Herb Conaway and Carol Murphy and Senator Troy Singleton. All three have demonstrated a deep commitment to our county and their ability to lead by example has inspired us all to do more,” he added.
O’Connell is a graduate of Holy Cross High School in Delran and a retired locomotive fireman and engineer for Penn Central, CONRAIL and NJ Transit. He is also a past New Jersey State Legislative Director for the United Transportation Union.
Carlin assumes the post of County Surrogate after serving more than a decade as Burlington Township’s mayor. As Surrogate, he will lead the office responsible for probating wills and estates, as well as some adoption and guardianship issues.
Pullion has dedicated the better part of the last three decades serving in local and county government, including the Edgewater Park School Board and Edgewater Park Township Committee. He was elected to the Burlington County Board of Commissioners in 2017 and served as the Board’s director in 2019 and deputy director in 2020. In addition to his leadership post as deputy director, he will continue to serve as the Board’s liaison to the Departments of Solid Waste and Recycling and Public Works.
2021 accomplishments and 2022 plans
During his reorganization address, O’Connell highlighted many of the County’s accomplishments from last year and several of its 2022 initiatives, including the County’s continuing COVID-19 response.
Since the start of the pandemic, the County has distributed millions of items of protective equipment to long-term care facilities and first responders and helped vaccinate and test hundreds of thousands of residents. More than $13 million in rental assistance has also been awarded to more than 1,700 county households, along with $295,000 in zero-interest loans to small businesses.
“None of this happens without the dedication and hard work of our county employees, department heads, volunteers and many partners. We owe them all a tremendous debt of gratitude for all that they have done,” O’Connell said. “Lives have been saved because of all these collective efforts and sacrifices. If this virus has taught us anything, it is that we are stronger when we work together. We must remember that for as long as this crisis continues and beyond.”
O’Connell also highlighted the Board’s successful management of County finances without adding to homeowners and businesses’ tax burdens.
“Affordability remains one of our main goals. According to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Burlington County had the lowest average county tax for two years running. And when the 2021 property tax data is released next later this month, we expect we’ll once again be the lowest for the third consecutive year,” he said.
Economic development and affordability will continue to be focal points in 2022. The Commissioners’ plans include organizing another Restaurant Week in August and hosting additional business roundtables to connect existing and would-be business owners with information and resources. O’Connell also announced plans for the County to host a Made in Burlington County Day for local artists, chefs and other small business owners to market and sell their products.
“We all know that Burlington County is a special place that we want to continue to improve. We have incredible resources such as our county college and library system, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the Pinelands Reserve to name just a few,” O’Connell said. “But our most important resource continues to be our people. We have an incredible community with neighbors who have shown just how strong Burlington County can be by stepping up when we have needed them the most. I’m proud to be a Burlington County resident and hope you are too. Thank you for allowing us the privilege to represent you and the honor to serve you all. Let’s make 2022 a year we can all celebrate and look back on fondly.”