Cape May County Freeholder Marie Hayes, far right, appears with other members of the Executive Board of the New Jersey Association of Counties at a legislative session in Trenton. (Photo courtesy of Lloyd Hayes)

By Tim Kelly

Cape May County Freeholder Marie Hayes is branching out.

The Ocean City resident, who is marking her sixth year on the Freeholder board, is also serving on and assuming leadership roles on two prestigious bi-partisan legislative groups. 

She is doing so, she says, to help take her advocacy for the county well beyond the Cape.

“It’s humbling to be a freeholder and to have the opportunity to work with my legislative peers on both sides of the aisle,” Hayes said. “There is strength in numbers and having a unified voice.”

At a reorganization meeting in January, Hayes was named first vice president – and moved to the front of the line to become the first president representing Cape May County – of the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC). The statewide, bi-partisan group is comprised of representatives from all 21 New Jersey counties.

She is the first Cape May County legislator, and the first woman from the county, to serve on the NJAC Executive Board in such a leadership capacity for the organization.

The group’s mission, she said, is to advocate for policy and legislation with a single, unified message, which in turn makes all of the county governments operate better.

“In order to be more efficient and effective, it helps sometimes to stand together,” she said. “We might not agree all the time on every aspect of every issue. However, we are talking and reaching across the aisle to understand issues from all sides and in the end, better represent our home counties and the taxpayers.”

Hayes, a Republican, is also the vice president of the Southern New Jersey Freeholders Association (SJFA), another bi-partisan group centered on helping representatives of the counties south of Trenton be heard on South Jersey-centric issues.

“In the minds of some (North Jersey) legislators, South Jersey isn’t forgotten,” Hayes said. “But it often is not the first priority. This group is a strong voice for (South Jersey) considerations, which are many times different from those of the North.” 

Marie Hayes, left, with former New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton at a recent Women in Leadership Conference at Stockton University. (Photo Credit Cape May County Government website)

Hayes has been a Cape May County Freeholder since February 2013, when she filled an unexpired term, and was elected to a full three-year term in November 2014. She is up for re-election this year, and if successful, will head the NJAC group as its president in 2020.

“I want to stress my grateful appreciation to my fellow freeholders for allowing me the time to work with these organizations,” Hayes said. “It wouldn’t be possible without their vision and support.”

In her current role in county government, Hayes is responsible for the Board of Elections, Culture and Heritage, the Library, Museum and Cape May County Park/Zoo, Tax Board, Surrogate’s Office, Tourism and Public Information.

In order for her to better serve those interests and those of the other Cape May County Freeholders, Hayes’ membership and leadership with NJAC and SJFA provides added leverage, she said.

“One thing I want to fight against is all the divisiveness we see today,” Hayes said. “It can get crazy in Washington and in Trenton. These (organizations) create opportunities for us to get things done.  Sometimes all it takes is to listen to the opposing side to realize we have more in common than we thought.”

A graduate of Atlantic Cape Community College and Thomas Edison State University, Hayes earned a degree in human services with a concentration in criminal justice. She also is a 1996 graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

During her time at the FBI Academy, Hayes received special recognition for her work in the FBI’s death investigations course.

Hayes began her career in public service working as an investigator in the County Prosecutor’s Office.  The bulk of her career there was spent in the investigation and prevention of child abuse and sexual assault investigations.

She then made a rapid climb in her career path, becoming first the Sergeant of Detectives, then Lieutenant of Detectives and eventually retiring as Captain of Detectives in 2009. She also served as vice president of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association’s local chapter and as president of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Women in Law Enforcement. 

Marie Hayes, second from right facing camera, is sworn in with fellow Executive Board members as vice president of the Southern New Jersey Freeholders Association. (Photo courtesy of Lloyd Hayes)

Hayes now appears to be well on her way toward achieving more global leadership and representation for the Cape.

“I love Cape May County,” she said. “We have so many advantages here. We can advance and make things even better. That is what I’m grateful to have the opportunity to try to do.”

Marie and her husband, Lloyd, have a son, Henry Lloyd, and two daughters, Megan and Danielle, a son-in-law, Vince, and six grandchildren.