Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. took office as the fifth Executive in Essex County history on January 1, 2003, after serving as President of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for 8 of his 13 years as a Freeholder Board member. Re-elected in 2006, he has changed the face of Essex County both fiscally and physically.
Joe has turned Essex County into a model for good government, erasing an inherited $64 million deficit and establishing a $36 million surplus by eliminating unnecessary contracts, cutting expenditures and reducing the size of the County workforce. Joe DiVincenzo is a hands-on Executive, with an open door policy, and a strong demand for ethical behavior by members of his administration and companies doing business with the County. His first appointment was to create the position of Inspector General and he established an active Board of Ethics that introduced a strong Code of Ethics for the County.
DiVincenzo opened a state-of-the-art Environmental Center, modernized Codey Arena at South Mountain, and built two new public parking facilities.Â Turtle Back Zoo has blossomed during these eight years, gaining accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (one of only 219 accredited facilities, worldwide) and breaking attendance records each of the past 5 years.Â The Zoo has a new Animal Hospital, Black Bear Exhibit and Essex Farm Petting Zoo, Reptile and Education Center, in and outdoor dining pavilions and plazas, and an animal-themed Carousel.
DiVincenzo guided the restoration of our Historic Courthouse, created a welcoming plaza at the Hall of Records Complex, which was dedicated to the memory and spirit of Rosa Parks, and refurbished the lobby in the Hall of Records building. The new Correctional Facility and a new psychiatric Hospital Center in Cedar Grove were completed in DiVincenzoâ€™s first term, as was a state-of-the-art Crime Scene Investigative headquarters. Recently opened was a totally new Jury Quarters, with Wi-Fi, quiet rooms, and plasma TVs.
Every one of our 20 County Parks and five Reservations has been improved for the benefit of our citizens. Playgrounds are equipped with new apparatus and rubberized safety surfaces, basketball and tennis courts have been refurbished, and synthetic grass surfaces and rubberized running tracks have been installed to maximize their use. With the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, thousands of cherry trees were planted in Essex County Branch Brook Park, giving Essex more than 4,100 Cherry Trees. This is more than the national display in Washington, DC. Three Dog Parks were constructed, and Kipâ€™s Castle Park (11 acres and the building) was added to our park system. He also initiated the preservation of an additional 90 acres of open space on the Cedar Grove Hilltop and developed a 2.7-acre park at the Essex County Government Complex in Newark.