By MADDY VITALE
E. Marie Hayes has many accomplishments in her career, from rising to captain in the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office to serving as a Cape May County freeholder.
On Friday, she added another one – president of the New Jersey Association of Counties.
In front of her husband, her children, grandchildren, friends and colleagues in the Senate Chambers in Trenton, Hayes wiped away tears as Republican Sen. Michael Testa Jr. delivered her oath of office.
Testa, representing the First Legislative District covering Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic counties, also presented Hayes with a joint resolution on behalf of his team, including Assemblyman Antwan McClellan and Assemblyman Erik Simonsen.
Hayes hugged her family and dignitaries and addressed the audience during an emotional ceremony.
“I am a freeholder from Cape May County,” she said proudly. “Let me just say, I am a retired law enforcement officer. And I also have a heart, so this is going to be a little tough, so bear with me.”
She gave a heartfelt thanks to her supporters who traveled to Trenton to watch her being sworn in.
Hayes addressed the work of members of the NJAC, saying that it is an organization that works in a nonpartisan way to do what is best for New Jersey residents.
In her speech, she thanked several dignitaries and also spoke of her family, including her husband, Lloyd, of 38 years, who she described as her “rock” and someone she can lean on.
Hayes also introduced her son, Henry Lloyd, daughter, Danielle, and other family members, including Vince Jones, director of Emergency Management for Atlantic County.
She also thanked the staff of Cape May County.
“You don’t stand up here in a vacuum,” she said. “There are people who make you look good. My department directors — I am so proud of each and every one of them.”
Hayes said she knows assuming the role of president is an important one.
“I am aware of the critical role NJAC plays,” she said.
Hayes pledged she will continue to make sure that county government, policies and procedures and the well-being of the state are always at the forefront of her decisions, and that those decisions will be done in a bipartisan way.
She did not shy away from expressing her views about the divided political landscape in the state and the country.
“We have an obligation to advocate strongly for our beliefs, but to do so with dignity. … Let us all pledge today to lead the way and to show those who have elected or appointed us that public policy can be conducted with dignity,” she said.
She noted that she would do her best to continue the good work of the past presidents.
During the ceremony, Hayes received praise and support from her fellow Ocean City resident, Assemblyman Antwan McClellan.
“If she believes in you, she will support you,” McClellan said. …“We love you, Marie, and NJAC you have a jewel from Cape May County, so please protect her.”
NJAC Executive Director John G. Donnadio gave the welcome remarks. Assemblyman Simonsen gave the invocation and benediction. After the proceeding, guests attended a luncheon in Hayes’ honor at the Historic Masonic Temple.
In addition to Hayes’ swearing in as president, the ceremony served as the annual reorganization of the NJAC.
Prior to the ceremony, Hayes noted in an interview with OCNJDaily.com how proud she is of the new honor and responsibility bestowed upon her.
“I am just absolutely humbled by everyone in this organization and this honor,” she said.
She said she is in good company with former NJAC presidents such as Hunterdon County Clerk Mary Melfi, who chatted with her moments before the program began.
Melfi said that Hayes is not only a friend, but someone who will do a terrific job as president of NJAC.