• Joseph F. Berenato

Residents named to county boards


Michael Macrie Jr., who grew up in a farming family, brings a decade of full-time experience gained at Macrie Brothers Blueberry Farm. (THG/Kristin Guglietti. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—At their January 19 meeting, held virtually at 4 p.m. via Webex teleconferencing software, the Atlantic County Board of County Commissioners voted to appoint Hammonton resident Michael Macrie Jr. to the Atlantic County Agriculture Development Board, for a term to expire on December 1, 2025.

Macrie, who grew up in a farming family, brings a decade of full-time experience gained at Macrie Brothers Blueberry Farm.


For the past year, Macrie has also served on the Atlantic County Board of Agriculture. Macrie said that, previously, his father and two uncles have also served on that board.


“Now that me and my cousins are older, myself and my cousin Nick [Macrie] felt it was time for us to get on a board and start getting more information, and make sure we’re getting personable with other people in agriculture, just to see the ins of everything and knowing who is in charge of what, and just to keep our minds open and aware of everything that’s going on in our county,” Macrie said.


Macrie said that his interest in the agriculture development board—which, according to Macrie, handles, among other matters, farmland preservation and right-to-farm acts—grew from his participation with the board of agriculture.


“There was talk of it in one of our meetings a couple of months ago. I noted that I was interested, so I sent an email out about how could I apply, and what I could do to be on the board. I thought it was another thing where I’d be able to learn and meet people in Atlantic County who are working in this side of agriculture; to learn, and help out any way I can,” Macrie said.


Macrie noted that farmers are preferred members of such boards, and he is able to bring his experience to both.


“The board of ag[riculture] covers all types of agriculture. My expertise comes from the blueberry side, so it’s to make sure whenever there’s any kind of information about blueberries, blueberry farming or any kind of employee relations with the seasonal workers, it allows them to get a perspective from blueberry farmers, because there’s also vegetable farmers on the board and cranberry farmers; there’s all different farmers on the board, so it’s nice to have a blueberry perspective, especially since blueberries are such a big part of the town of Hammonton. We try to keep ourselves in the board of agriculture,” Macrie said.


Atlantic County Fifth District County Commissioner James Bertino said that such positions are open to all qualified applicants, and described the appointment process.


“Normally, they’d send their resume or request into the county executive, saying they’re interested in a particular committee. If there’s an opening that opens up, then the county executive and the administration review the applications, then submit the app of the best qualified to the board of commissioners for approval,” Bertino said.


Bertino noted that all such appointed positions are unpaid, and that several come from this area.


“It’s all volunteer; they all volunteer their time, and we are happy to take advantage of their experience and expertise in helping us run Atlantic County ... There’s quite a few Hammontonians that are serving in different areas of Atlantic County government,” Bertino said.


One such Hammonton resident is John Lyons, a commissioner with the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA), first appointed in 2015.


Lyons brought with him years of experience, having served on the Hammonton Board of Education since 2003, and also serving on the New Jersey Attorney Ethics Committee.


“I serve on a lot of different boards and commissions. I was chairman of the zoning board, and a member of the zoning board for a long time. I appreciate the value that the volunteers that serve on these different boards and commissions bring to the table. It’s important, and you’ve got to have smart, level-headed people making these choices and decisions. I felt like I can really contribute to the board, so I worked with the freeholders and submitted my paperwork to be considered, and it worked out ... Certainly, the ACUA is something that intrigued me in terms of the work that the authority does, county-wide, and how pivotal of a role it plays. It’s something I wanted to be a part of,” Lyons said.


Lyons said that he appreciates having the opportunity to serve, and believes such positions are “equally as important—or sometimes even more important—than the role elected officials play.”


“As a commissioner on the ACUA, I serve with a number of other people from across the county. We meet to approve spending, work with the administration to identify the vision and some of the decisions that get made as far as initiatives that we’re going to embark on, and how they matter to the county ... The interesting thing about the work that we do at ACUA is, it’s very forward-looking. Some of the decisions we make have implications in dealing with the environment, and a lot of economic implications. A lot of what we do lays groundwork and is a multi-year project,” Lyons said.


Lyons also noted that a number of Hammonton residents serve on county boards, and attributes to the belief that people from Hammonton “aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and volunteer and get involved.”


“Hammonton people are can-do people. I think that we’re not the kind of people that shrink from responsibility. If you look at the town overall, almost everybody you talk to serves in some kind of volunteer capacity, whether it’s in the town, the county or the state, whether it’s the agriculture boards and infrastructure boards that goes on at the various levels. People are on all kinds of boards and commissions. Part of being a Hammontonian is stepping up to serve,” Lyons said.


Macrie concurred with Lyons.


“I think Hammontonians really do care about our town ... We have pride in our town, and we have pride in our business. We do want to make sure that we do the best that we can for our town, and what’s best for our county,” Macrie said.


Lyons also posited the notion that the amount of residents serving in politically appointed positions is because “Hammonton has a profound amount of political weight and clout.”


“Hammonton is very important if you’re running in Atlantic County. It’s extremely important if you’re running in the 8th Legislative District. It’s important up and down the ticket, and I think that matters, because we get the attention of elected officials who build relationships in this community, and, as a part of that, they identify people who can serve on these boards,” Lyons said.


Lyons noted that Hammonton has had “a lot of people who get appointed to a lot of positions.”


“We’ve had folks from Hammonton on the Pinelands Commission on and off over a number of years, and people who served on gubernatorial transition teams, judges, you name it ... I think a lot of times people underestimate the political significance of Hammonton, whether that’s in a state legislative race or a county commissioner race, or even a statewide gubernatorial race. All roads lead to Hammonton,” Lyons said.