Commissioner Garretson Celebrates the End of the Freeholder Era

Union County Freeholder Angela Garretson

Union County Commissioner Angela Garretson said those county organizations that came together to make a symbolic name change must demonstrate the same level of conscientiousness to safely deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to New Jersey’s communities.

“The nagging worries today have to be the vaccine,” Garretson, a former mayor of Hillside, told InsiderNJ in a Sunday evening interview. “We all did a phenomenal job getting COVID tests into our communities, but the vaccinations are a little bit different. We need to reach more residents so we can break this down. We know that vaccines have been very troubling and challenging in the black community.  You take the freeholder concept – we took it to 21 counties, including some counties that didn’t agree but we worked across party lines so it was a bipartisan effort. We need to do the same thing with vaccines. We have to make sure there are coalitions of individuals.”

Garretson in 2020 sparked a personal conversation with Governor Phil Murphy that led him to join forces with the New Jersey Legislature to expunge the term “freeholder,” an order that took effect on January 1st of this year.

From the Ledger: “The name stems from a 15th century English legal term referring to a person who owned land free of debts, mortgage, or lien. …Proponents of dropping the name note that only landowners could hold office at the time, and because Black people and most women could not own property then, it helped ensure white men were in power. Plus, owning property during that period could have included owning slaves.”

In a Zoom interview, InsiderNJ talked with Commissioner Garretson about the implications of the title and the change to “commissioner” in the new year.

“We are moving in the right direction,” Garretson said. “We are diversifying but mostly we are allowing our voices to be heard so that we can be better represented. It was one of those topics that was not fully vetted by all the members. I started to realize it was more than just me that had concerns with why this term was so offensive.”

For more and for the entire interview, please see the video below:


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