MAYS LANDING — Gov. Phil Murphy was supposed to swear in re-elected Democrat Freeholder Ernest Coursey on Tuesday but got stuck dealing with storm preparation, said first lady Tammy Murphy in explaining why she was there in his place at the county Criminal Courts complex.

“For even the most cynical person, when someone you know takes the oath of office, it’s a moving experience,” Tammy Murphy said, especially when it’s a lifetime Atlantic City resident like Coursey, “with a record of donating time and service to improving the community.”

As expected, Atlantic County’s first female freeholder chairwoman, Amy Gatto, a Republican from Hamilton Township, nominated Freeholder Frank Formica to take the chairmanship this year. Gatto said she stepped down because of increased work responsibilities as a lead manager for AXA, a financial services company.

“It’s amazing to think we are still having firsts,” said Superior Court Judge Susan F. Maven, who swore Gatto in to a new term on the board. Gatto was re-elected last year. “Let it not be the last.”

Gatto said it had been an honor to serve for a year as chairwoman, during which she inaugurated the Chairwoman’s Luncheon for high school girls to meet women leaders, network and ask questions.

She also moved the freeholder meetings around the county more, she said, and tried to raise people’s awareness of and participation in county government.

“I do believe I would have had the support of my colleagues to continue in the role this year,” Gatto said. “My work schedule and responsibilities are greater in 2020 and won’t afford me the flexibility and time ... but I do hope to return to the position again when the timing is right.”

Formica was elected 8-1, with only Democrat Caren Fitzpatrick voting against him.

Fitzpatrick said she had concerns about $2 million in state economic development loans to his businesses for which Formica declared bankruptcy last year. Formica declined comment, other than to say he cannot talk about details yet at the insistence of his attorney, as details are still being settled.

Republican Freeholder Maureen Kern was re-elected unanimously as deputy chairwoman.

County Executive Dennis Levinson, a Republican who has led the county since 2000, was sworn in for another term by Superior Court Judge Mark H. Sandson; and Freeholder Richard Dase was sworn in by Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove, R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, after the incumbent Republican also won re-election last year.

After swearing in Coursey, Tammy Murphy got the governor on her cellphone on speaker and held it up for about 100 people in the audience to hear.

“I love Ernie Coursey, wish I could be standing beside him right now,” said the governor. “And all the elected officials there tonight, bless you all. Thank you for everything you do, on both sides of the aisle.”

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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