TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said state lawmakers will no longer be given the title “freeholder.”
“We are committed to forever ridding from this state, long past overdue, the word ‘freeholder,” said Murphy at his daily briefing Friday. “It is high time this name went into the dustbin of history.”
The name dates back to New Jersey’s original constitution in 1776. It refers to people who owned some form of an estate.
The governor tweeted Thursday the state would phase out the word, which was “coined when only white male landowners could hold office.”
As our nation tears down symbols of injustice, let us tear down words born from racism.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) July 9, 2020
Murphy said the title should be replaced with “Commissioner,” which is more commonly used to refer to top county elected officials around the U.S.
Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone released a statement Friday morning that said, in part:
“The announcement that the State has decided to change the title of county freeholders, in the middle of a pandemic, is mind blowing. This is not the time for grand standing and changing the title of elected officials is not going to help anyone…To change the title of a freeholder, thousands of taxpayer dollars will need to be spent to update and change every sign, structure or material that bears the title. This is something that is going to take an incredible amount of time, effort and money to accomplish.”