TOMS RIVER – If you weren’t there before 3 p.m., you weren’t getting a seat. The meeting room in the Ocean County administration building was beyond packed for the county freeholder’s reorganization Jan. 2, and recognized by most as a bittersweet time.

While the guests—which included senior Congressman Chris Smith and former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, among others—celebrated the reelection of Gerry P. Little, welcomed newcomer Gary Quinn, and erupted in applause as Virginia Haines was named first woman freeholder director in 40 years, a somberness settled in when remembering that for the first time in four decades, the longest serving freeholder in the state’s history, John C. Bartlett Jr., was not there.

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