By Tim Kelly
As a former career military man who literally rose through the ranks from enlisted man to brigadier general, Jeffrey Pierson is looking forward to new challenges. As Cape May County’s newest member of the Freeholders Board, the challenges are sure to come.
“I am overwhelmed and humbled the Republican Committee selected me and I appreciate their support,” he said in a one-on-one interview Thursday with OCNJDaily and Sea Isle News. “I’m looking forward to doing whatever I can to keep (the Freeholders’ agenda) on course.”
On Wednesday, Pierson, a resident of Upper Township and a current member of the Township Committee there, bested challengers Barbara Tomalino, Edward Beck and Gary Playford to win the seat for the unexpired term of Kristine Gabor. The term runs through December 31 of 2017. Gabor resigned her post to relocate out of New Jersey.
“I loved what I was doing (on Upper’s Committee) and I will miss working closely with the residents of my town to resolve problems. Kristine was doing a great job, but when she indicated she would be stepping down, I gave it a thought. At first I wanted to support someone else, but when that person (decided not to seek election) I threw my hat in the ring.
Pierson said his immediate priority was “to keep our tax rate the lowest in the state of New Jersey and to continue on that track and to do everything in my abilities to care for our military veterans, seniors, and mentally and physically disabled.”
Pierson said he would seek re-election to a full three-year term, running with Freeholder Will Morey, at the conclusion of his unexpired term.
“I am single, (his wife Sally passed away three years ago) and as long as my health holds out and I (do a good job) and the people see fit to re-elect me, I am committed to the job.”
Pierson grew up in Wildwood Crest, attended Wildwood High (Class of 1961) and was a self-described “Legion brat” who accompanied his late father, Frank, a World War II veteran, to many American Legion functions and parades.
“I credit my parents (the late Gladys was his mother) for giving me my drive, and those times with my father made me gravitate toward a career in the military.”
As a recruit in the National Guard, he rose through the ranks, was accepted into officer Training School and over the course of 42 years, made it all the way to the rank of general.
He credits Sally: “When I learned I would be relocating to Fort Sheridan, Illinois for three years, she sucked it up and went along. I couldn’t have done it without her support.”
Children Christine Threet, Jennifer Del Grande and Jeffrey Pierson, Jr., and 13 grandchildren have also been there for him every step of the way, he said.
At Wednesday’s election, termed a special convention, 87 percent of 210 committee members voted, including 57 mail-in ballots, according to County Clerk Rita Fulginiti. Pierson received 99 votes, Tomalino 70, Beck nine and Playford five, according to published reports.
Remarks were made by Cape GOP Chairman Marcus Karavan, and each candidate made a statement. Following the vote, Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton, Freeholder Marie Hayes and Committee Second Vice Chair Timothy Donohue all spoke, followed by dinner and social time at the Bellevue Tavern.
Pierson said he would be stepping down from his Upper Township Committee post, as well as his part-time job with the County, to concentrate on his duties as Freeholder.
Concerning the current state of the party nationally, he said he would be voting for Donald Trump and that he also supported Congressman Frank LoBiondo, despite LoBiondo’s announcement he would not vote for Trump.
“I still support (Trump) and (LoBiondo),” he said. “I don’t see that as a conflict. Different types of pressures exist for each person in this situation. Frank has been a great public servant and I think the country is ready for an outsider to take a fresh look at our problems.
“I don’t condone what Trump said, but as a military person I frequently heard what I call ‘barracks talk’ and I believe on balance some of the things his opponent has done are much more egregious,” Pierson added.