Democratic Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick, of Linwood, said Thursday she is seeking re-election to the freeholder board.
Fitzpatrick first ran for freeholder in 2017 and drew attention in 2018 for advocating for changing the name from Board of Chosen Freeholders to County Commissioners, saying the term “freeholder” is racist and misogynist. The term was coined in a time when only white men who owned land — freeholders — could vote.
But Democrats are in a 6-3 minority on the board, and could not get enough support to make the change.
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More recently, Fitzpatrick authored a resolution affirming Atlantic County’s decision not to enter into a 287(g) agreement of cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But she ended up voting against her own resolution, along with Democratic Freeholders Ernest Coursey and Ashley Bennett, after Republican freeholders changed the wording.
The amendment that passed resolved that “the Board of Chosen Freeholders supports the County Administration’s policy of executing services as a non-sanctuary county.”
If reelected, Fitzpatrick said her priorities would include “diversifying the economy while understanding tourism is our main industry.”
“Sometimes I feel some people want to disregard that in some way,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have the infrastructure, it’s here — we’re a destination. We can grow that as well as add new industries.”
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She said she also will continue working on women’s and children’s issues, especially lowering the black infant and maternal mortality rates in Atlantic City. She hopes to work with AtlantiCare to start a prenatal-care van that could go into neighborhoods.
Trained as an accountant, Fitzpatrick said she wants to prioritize social services to receive the small amount of county spending that isn’t already fixed for salaries, roads and bridges, and other required spending.
Fitzpatrick said she also has tried to help traditional high schools stay strong as they face increased competition for students from the Atlantic County Institute of Technology.
“ACIT serves a great purpose in the county — they do a wonderful job. It’s something we need desperately to educate a skilled workforce,” she said of the school that trains students to be prepared to enter jobs in medical, culinary, mechanical and technical fields, as well as for higher education.
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“The other side of the equation is the traditional sending schools are suffering because of tuition they have to pay to the county high school,” she said. “Something has to be done to satisfy both sides of that.”
Fitzpatrick started Fitzpatrick’s Deli in Linwood and then Somers Point with her husband, Brian, and did a variety of jobs, including running a day care center in her home, before getting her accounting degrees. Since then, she has worked as a comptroller for a home infusion company, for Reliance Medical Group and for the Women’s Center of Atlantic County. Currently, she is director of finance and administration at MeetAC, a nonprofit charged with bringing conventions and trade shows to Atlantic City.
“I look forward to a spirited campaign this year,” said Fitzpatrick. “I believe that Atlantic County works best when we all work together, regardless of party affiliation. We are all in this together, and I look forward to meeting as many residents as possible in the coming months.”