Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tedesco Was Tested in His First 100 Days

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tedesco Was Tested in His First 100 Days

Article excerpt

For James Tedesco, the Democrat elected to replace Republican Kathleen Donovan, his first 100 days as Bergen County executive went by "so fast that 100 days seems like 100 hours."

He has dealt with matters large and small, from the contentious consolidation of county law enforcement and a fire at an Edgewater apartment complex that left 500 people homeless, to the issuing of new security badges to freeholders and their staff members -- giving them unfettered access to executive offices.

A plan to charge school districts for use of county athletic fields sparked an outcry. The prospect of additional funds being needed to complete construction of the new Justice Center looms as a challenge.

And perhaps the biggest challenge of all, charting the future of the county-owned Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, is likely to take up the remainder of Tedesco's four-year term.

Tedesco talked to The Record recently about his first 100 days. Here are some of his observations, as well as the viewpoints of others, about how he has done so far:

* Law enforcement consolidation: After years of debate, the move to meld the Bergen County Police into the Sheriff's Office has been accomplished without much of a ruckus. Threats of lawsuits, poison- pill labor contract provisions and civil-service objections have failed to materialize. A final hearing on the plan drew just one public comment.

"There's been no revolt," Tedesco said. He credited the professionalism of the officers from both agencies for making the consolidation work.

Tedesco said he talks with Sheriff Michael Saudino, who oversees the newly consolidated force, three or four times a week. Saudino rarely spoke with Donovan, a fellow Republican with whom he feuded for most of her four years as county executive.

"We've been working extremely well in a bipartisan effort," Saudino said. "I enjoy the open lines of communication."

Saudino briefly endorsed Tedesco during the fall campaign but later withdrew his remarks.

* Edgewater fire: Michael McPartland had been mayor of Edgewater barely three weeks when he saw the Avalon at Edgewater going up in flames across from his own home.

When Tedesco showed up that evening, McPartland, who had never met the county executive, figured it would be a brief appearance.

"He didn't leave my side for three days," McPartland recalled. "He really helped me get through that time."

McPartland, a fellow Democrat, said Tedesco's experience as a former Paramus mayor, a former fire chief and a retired supervisor at Public Service Electric and Gas proved invaluable to the rookie mayor and his borough.

When Edgewater officials honored the first-responders who helped with the blaze, McPartland said, he gave a certificate to the county executive that read, "Jim 'Boots on the Ground' Tedesco."

* Rewriting administrative code: The county administrative code has been the rule book for county government since 1985, when voters approved the charter change that created a county executive form of government.

That document served the county well, Tedesco said. But it was badly in need of an update, he said.

He proposed a 21-page revamp. The revisions created several new divisions, including one that consolidated the 15 mechanics scattered throughout various departments into one division. The post of inspector general in the County Counsel's Office was created to serve as a watchdog for conflicts of interest and violations of the county law on campaign contributions.

Those changes sailed through the freeholder board with unanimous approval. But the two Republican freeholders balked at a change that created the position of deputy county administrator. …

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