During the past two years, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. has spearheaded a comprehensive program to address the COVID-19 pandemic and provide easily accessible vaccination and testing opportunities, and assistance to residents affected by the pandemic. Mass vaccination and testing sites were set up in central locations within the county and mobile clinics were scheduled in schools, community centers, houses of worship and retail centers. In addition, the County Executive has offered two programs that helped small businesses pay for expenses, payroll and leases, a rental and utility assistance program for individuals and families, and a mortgage assistance program for homeowners.
First elected in 2002, DiVincenzo has changed the face of Essex County both fiscally and physically in the past 20 years.
Running Essex in the most efficient manner, he has turned the County into a model for good government. He raised the bond ratings from junk level to Aaa (the first time in history that Essex received the highest rating from Moody’s Investors Service), eliminated unnecessary contracts, cut expenses, reduced the size of the County’s workforce and increased revenue. The Hospital Center, Correctional Facility and Juvenile Detention Facility have been widely recognized, providing recurring revenue streams through shared services agreements with Federal, State and other county governments.
DiVincenzo developed the Essex County South Mountain Recreational Complex by building the Treetop Adventure Course, McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant, miniGOLF Safari, Park-N-Ride, Regatta Playground, Clipper Pavilion and paddle boats on the Reservoir, modernizing the Codey Ice Arena and vastly improving Turtle Back Zoo. It has become a premiere family destination, welcoming visitors from throughout the tri-state area.
DiVincenzo guided the restoration of the Historic Courthouse, and completely overhauled the Government Complex, including the creation of Veterans Memorial Park, the construction of a 1,000-car parking garage and the installation of landscaped plazas and statues of people important in Essex County history. Totally new jury quarters plus the LeRoy Smith Public Safety Building, converted from an old jail into a revenue-producing office building, complete the government complex. A Correctional Facility in Newark, a new psychiatric Hospital Center in Cedar Grove and a state-of-the-art Public Works Garage in Cedar Grove also have been completed.
The Essex County Parks System has been improved for the public’s benefit. Rubberized playground surfaces, upgraded basketball and tennis courts, and synthetic grass surfaces and rubberized running tracks were installed. A current initiative includes the expansion and modernization of community center buildings to provide park visitors with up-to-date accommodations that meet the growing usage of the parks. Six new parks were added to the historic Parks System, and more than 5,000 new cherry blossom trees were planted to replenish the glorious orchards in Essex County Branch Brook Park.
According to Joe D, (as everyone calls him) he and the 3,500 County employees are part of a team that continues Putting Essex County First.
In May 1990, DiVincenzo was sworn in to serve an interim term as an at-large member of the Board of Chosen Freeholders (now known as the Board of County Commissioners). In November 1990, he was elected to a full three-year term, and was re-elected to successive terms in 1993, 1996 and 1999. He served a record-breaking eight consecutive one-year terms as President of the Board of Freeholders, beginning in 1995. He is the longest serving County Executive, having been elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.
DiVincenzo is the founder of the Project Pride Newark “Small Fry” basketball program, the Rick Cerone Little League, the Coca-Cola Free Throw Contest, and the McDonald’s Run, Punt, Pass and Kick Contest. He also initiated exchange programs in baseball, softball and basketball with teams from Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Florida and Chicago.
DiVincenzo graduated from Newark’s Barringer High School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Education from Jersey City State College. He began his career as the Assistant Varsity Football Coach at Marist High School in Bayonne, N.J., and taught at Hawkins Elementary School in Newark, N.J. He later coordinated recreational activities between community agencies as the Community Liaison for the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and served as Recreation Director for the Newark Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs. He also served as Coordinator of Athletics for the Newark Public Schools.
DiVincenzo was an outstanding young athlete, selected as the Number One Passer in the Nation, Junior College Division. He was drafted by the World Football League’s Detroit Wheels in 1974 and had tryouts with several NFL teams. He has been inducted into the Jersey City State Hall of Fame and the City of Newark’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Among the numerous awards DiVincenzo has received are the Key to the City of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and the Sierra Club’s Outstanding Public Servant Award. DiVincenzo is also the recipient of the Coca-Cola Community Service Award for Youth Development and the Congress of Hispanic Sports Community Service Award.
DiVincenzo is married to Donna, and they have two children, Kimberly and Joseph, and three grandchildren.