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What is a Freeholder?

How was it created?

The term "Freeholder" originated in the early 1700s. The State of New Jersey continues to use this title, which was established in Colonial Times when only men who held their land "free and clear" were eligible to be chosen for membership on the county governing body. Currently, the Freeholder Board is the governing body for the County of Camden, equivalent to county commissioners in other states. It is composed of seven members, including a Director and a Deputy Director of the Board of Freeholders.

How are the Freeholders selected?

Freeholder candidates run at large in the countywide general election each November. This empowers the residents of the county with the ability to select, by voting, the Freeholders who can best represent their interests.

How long is each term?

Each individual Freeholder serves for a three-year term, and there are no term limits. While there is a total of seven Freeholders, they do not all run for election in the same year, as their terms are staggered. In a three year period, the number of Freeholder positions available in each year is as follows: three, two and two.

How many Freeholders serve on the board?

In 1844, the Board consisted of 14 members, two from each of the seven townships constituting the county at that time. The townships included Waterford, Newton, Union, Gloucester, Delaware, Camden and Washington. However, a referendum in 1939 reduced the number of Board members to seven; collectively they represent all 37 municipalities.

What are the Freeholders' duties?

The Freeholders are empowered with a broad scope of authority, some of which is designated to them by the State of New Jersey. The Board has many diverse and important responsibilities, including both legislative and executive functions. A primary duty entails the adoption of the annual fiscal budget for Camden County's 37 municipalities and all of the County agencies and services. Other areas for which the Freeholders have responsibilities include, but are not limited to, law enforcement, welfare, education, roads, and economic development. The Freeholders are involved in community service and participate on local and county committees and boards.

How often do the Freeholders meet?

The Board regularly meets on the third Thursday of the month. In order to encourage and promote public involvement throughout Camden County, the meetings are held in different municipalities on a rotating basis.

Interesting Freeholder facts:

  • The first Director of the Board was John Clement, Esq., the author of First Settlers of Newton Township.
  • The first woman to take a seat was Mary Guthridge in 1930.
  • The first woman Director was Maria Barnaby Greenwald.
  • The first African American to take a seat was Peter Postels in 1881.
  • The person to serve on the Board for the longest period was Sam "Mr. Freeholder" Wood of Haddonfield who served from 1880-1929 for a total of 49 years.

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