A Growing Effort to Drop the “Freeholder” Title in New Jersey
Among the many changes being pushed by a movement toward racial and social justice that's sweeping across the nation is one to drop the title of county freeholder in the Garden State.
A joint statement from Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, published by The Daily Journal, said,
As our nation tears down symbols of injustice, we must also tear down words we use in New Jersey that were born from racism. It’s past time for New Jersey to phase out the term ‘freeholder’ from our public discourse — a term coined when only white male landowners could hold public office.
The title of "freeholder" pre-dates the American Revolution and describes a person who owns land free of debt. Many feel the name implies prejudice because, at that time, Black people and women could not own property which then indirectly barred them from holding an elected office, thus keeping white men in power, per The Daily Journal.
The term "freeholder" is only used in New Jersey and has its roots in the state's constitution, dating back well over 200 years.
Many are suggesting "freeholder" be changed to "county executive," which is widely used across the county, as a way of updating the title in the Garden State.
As for what exactly a freehol-- er, county executive does, if you were to ask a bunch of random people you would probably get a bunch of random answers (hint: they control things like the county budget, they're in charge of infrastructure, etc.). In fact, to solve the mystery, NJ.com published an article a number of years ago called, "What does a freeholder do? 9 things you might not know about N.J. county officials" -- it's worth a read to find out exactly where your tax dollars go and how they are spent.