Colleagues thank Commissioner Little at his last meeting

Gerry Little, outgoing Deputy Director of Ocean County, served Ocean County for 18 years. (Photo courtesy of Ocean County)

OCEAN COUNTY – The news that Ocean County Commissioner Gerry Little’s last meeting would be held on December 1 took even his colleagues by surprise.

“We only learned that Gerry was not coming back on the day of the meeting,” said Gary Quinn, director of the Ocean County Commissioners Council. “We had planned to do something special for him at our last meeting of the year.”

Little announced his decision to forgo re-election earlier this year. His replacement, Bobbi Jo Crea, takes office in January. Both are Republicans from southern Ocean County.

As the Ocean County Department of Health liaison, Little has provided regular updates on COVID-19 since the disease became a problem both locally and nationally. Immediately after submitting her report in early December, Little made her announcement.

“This will be the last meeting I will attend as your commissioner,” said Little. “It has been a pleasure working with all of you in the audience. I appreciate your support and friendship.

“We’ll start traveling next week,” Little continued. “We only have one more meeting this month and we will be visiting with our son and his wife.”

Rumor has it that Little’s decision to leave a reunion until the last one reflected his aversion to the marching band. The reputation of the outgoing commissioner appears to be based on his strong faith, sense of family and humility. His years of public service speak of a man dedicated to the greater good – who neither expected nor benefited from recognition.

Little’s appointment to the then board of directors came in December 2003 when county officials selected him to replace the late Freeholder James J. Mancini. Little subsequently received voter approval and ultimately served six terms.

A full-time resident of Surf City, Little began his political career in the small community of Long Beach Island. He served as a city councilor for eight years when the late State Senator Leonard T. Connors Jr. served as the dual mayor of Surf City.

From 1994 until he joined the Freeholder Board, Little worked with Connors in another capacity. He traveled to Trenton to serve as Chief of Staff for the 9th Legislative District, then represented by State Senator Leonard T. Connors Jr., Assembly Member Christopher J. Connors and former Assembly member Jeffrey Moran.

The voice of Ocean County’s COVID-19 response team, Little showed up at public meetings with a mask – even after warrants were lifted. He has taken a compassionate, non-partisan approach to his reports; starting the year with hope and prayers that newly elected President Joe Biden can speed up vaccine distribution.

Outgoing Freeholder director Gerry Little at the color fair.  (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)
Gerry Little (Photo by Micromedia)

“I’ve known Gerry for not only the past six years that we’ve served together as landowners and now commissioners,” Commissioner Virginia “Ginny” Haines said. “I knew him many years ago when we were both in Trenton. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve with him and see his dedication to the people of Ocean County.

Commissioner Joseph “Joe” Vicari praised Little’s work, saying his service shines especially when the county goes through “tough” times.

“It’s not just COVID-19, but like his job is a constant liaison with the health department,” Vicari said. “His expertise and experience during the super storm (Sandy) was something that could not be replaced.”

As the entire five-person board thanked Little, some personal details emerged. For example, the outgoing commissioner recently adopted a six-pound puppy that has already grown to a whopping 75 pounds. And, as Little and his wife, Mary Lee, set off to visit their son, they take him on a road trip in an RV.

“You’ve done an amazing job the entire time you’re here,” Commissioner Jack Kelly told Little, who then joked with his outgoing colleague. “I know you’ve upgraded your RV, but we still use the same pool to see how far you go before you break down.”

Ocean County Commissioners at a day service from Veterans L to R- Virginia Haines, Jack Kelly, Gerry Little and Joseph Vicari. Director Gary Quinn is missing from the picture. (Photo courtesy of Ocean County)

Everyone laughed softly as they remembered another time Little had embarked on a road trip and encountered mechanical difficulties while still in Ocean County.

Quinn said he would always think of Little as a commissioner, even if he moved on to the next chapter in his life. He easily understood the decision of the outgoing commissioner to forgo the last meeting to arrive in time to spend the holidays with his son.

“I know how important your family is,” Quinn told Little. “You have always been there as a former landowner, commissioner and friend. You did a tremendous amount of work not only for the people of Ocean County but also for the state during your tenure with Lenny Connors at the time.

Little’s life of service began as a member of the United States Marine Corps. In addition to acting as a liaison with the Ocean County health department, the retired commissioner advocated for veterans programs as a liaison with the office of veterans services from Ocean County.

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