MOUNT HOLLY Burlington County Freeholder Director Leah Arter resigned Wednesday to take a $90,000 administrative position with the county college, which the board oversees.
While Arter said it would not have been a conflict of interest for her to remain in her $11,023 post as an elected official, having both jobs, she said, is "not what I'm personally comfortable with" and she would have been concerned with "the appearance."
Arter, a Republican from Moorestown, who owns a T-shirt and handbag printing company in Beverly, has been on the five-member board since January 2012 and was named director this year. Her job as director of development at Burlington County College, based in Pemberton Township, starts Monday.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity," Arter said Thursday after informing the board of her resignation at a meeting Wednesday night. "I will be able to move forward with a jobs-training initiative program, which was a large part of my platform this year as freeholder director." She added that she would be working with employers to set up training at the college that would translate into jobs for students. She has a master's degree in American history from Rutgers University.
Bill Layton, chairman of the county Republican Committee, said he expected the committee to name former Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio as Arter's replacement for the remainder of her term. Arter's three-year term will expire at the end of the year. "I believe what you will see is a recommendation from the screening committee to put up Bruce Garganio" as the nominee, which would be voted on Saturday at a GOP meeting, he said.
Garganio, a union carpenter from Florence, served on the freeholder board from January 2010 to December 2012, when he and his running mate, former Freeholder Mary Ann O'Brien, were defeated in their reelection bid by Democrats Aimee Belgard and Joanne Schwartz. Since that time, the board has had three Republicans and two Democrats, a break from decades of Republican exclusivity on the board.
Months ago, Garganio was mentioned as a potential candidate in the race to replace Republican Congressman Jon Runyan in District 3 after he decided against running again. Recently, the Burlington and Ocean County GOP Committees decided to endorse former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur.
Layton said he was excited about the prospect of Garganio's returning to the board, "because he had a phenomenal record in cutting taxes." Layton also pointed to Garganio's previous "stewardship over the board" and his focus on "getting people back to work."
Once the replacement is named, Layton said, the board will choose its director, possibly at next month's meeting.
Layton said Arter would be missed. It would not have been a conflict of interest for her to continue in her freeholder job, he said, because she could have recused herself from voting on college issues. But the county "has a long-standing policy of not allowing people to collect two taxpayer-funded paychecks," he said.
At the meeting, the other freeholders said that they would miss Arter, and that they wished her the best in her new job. She was emotional when she announced her decision.
When Arter assumed the director's post, she said, her goal was to "continue to cut taxes" and to get the county budget plan adopted early in the year, unlike previous years, when the spending plan was adopted in the summer. "We are on track to have an early introduction of the budget," she said Thursday, adding that the budget should be on next month's agenda. "And the budget will continue to reduce the tax levy as in the past."