CONVERSATION WITH FREEHOLDER CANDIDATE JOE GRILLO: THREE+ THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW
Joe Grillo wants to talk with you about Monmouth County.
Grillo is running for Monmouth County Freeholder and if you give him three minutes he will tell you about his fresh vision for this overlooked however very influential position in county government. Freeholders here oversee an almost $500 million budget in a part-time position that pays around $30,000.
Speak with him and he will also ask what you consider a priority (a question most politicians avoid) and give you his cell phone to talk more. Those two points alone make Grillo not an elitist robo-politician, which hopefully will be his ticket to a seat on the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders in November.
Combined with his innovative ideas, a passion to help and knack for balancing budgets, this 37 year old’s decision to run for office has infused a buzz into a campaign that has been thought of as a lock for Republicans.
A life-long Monmouth County resident he is the only candidate from our area. And he doesn’t want to forget Asbury Park. I spoke with Grillo last week at Toast.
TBP: Let’s start with, “What the hell is a freeholder?”
Grillo: The Board of Chosen Freeholders is five elected people. Freeholders do not create laws; they are in charge of where our county tax dollars are allocated. For Monmouth, that is almost a half-billion dollar budget. Freeholders vote for the allocation of funding for things like open space, farmland, libraries, county roads and bridges and veterans affairs. Essentially, anything that has to do with the county.
Through my family’s small business, I have gotten to know every Monmouth County municipality and feel freeholder is the best fit for me to make the most impact. It is time for fresh ideas and ethical leadership – not more of the same.
TBP: Why would a nice, genuine guy like you want to get into New Jersey politics? Candidates have to be publicly flogged to get into office and once they are elected, it becomes a thankless job. I am concerned for you!
Grillo: I don’t think it’s thankless. I love Monmouth County and want to give back to the people here. As freeholder, I can advocate for the best interests of everyone – not just the horse farms in Colts Neck.
The same political machine has held a grasp on the county since 2009. Under Lillian Burry’s direction, the freeholder board rubber-stamped a shady land deal and under her oversight, Brookdale Community College’s former President was found guilty of embezzling public funds. All of this comes at the expense of Monmouth County taxpayers.
And in the past, the Wednesday after the election, the constituents never hear from most freeholders. If I am elected in November serving Monmouth County will be my primary focus. I will be feet-on-the ground every day. I want to be a full-time public servant in a position that is essentially part-time.
Most of the incumbents I am running against are not performing above the minimal baseline.
TBP: Let’s get scandal out of the way now. What is something I never would have guessed about the next Monmouth County freeholder?
Grillo: I have an enormous comic book collection that I started when I was 8 years old and my wife is not thrilled with. I can be seen walking around Cookman Avenue wearing a small cape playing with my superhero daughter. Also, I am pretty sure I would be the only freeholder at a midnight showing of The Avengers. I take all this as a source of pride – I am not a stuffed shirt.
TBP: Yup, scandalous. Speaking of your daughter, where do you see Monmouth County in 20 years when Leonora is beginning her adult life?
Grillo: I hope the legacy I leave as a freeholder is that I was a small part of making Monmouth County a forward-thinking economic engine.
I want to see the area affordable so she is not forced to move away to start her life and career. Monmouth County can be a high tech hub with less of an environmental footprint.
I expect the county to be fostering talent, innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit much sooner than two decades from now.
If Leonora or her friends want to open a small business here, I expect there will not be an over-burden of taxes. And I want some day for my grandchildren to play in our preserved parks and open spaces and enjoy all the maintained and supported historic county landmarks.
Politically, I hope she and her friends don’t give a (bleep) about what letter comes after a candidate’s name. I hope they look at the person, not the party, and who the candidate is; accomplishments and what he or she want to do for the community.