2008-01-09 / Front Page

Guadagno sets agenda as Monmouth County sheriff

BY PATRICIA YOCZIS Correspondent

Look out. There's a new county sheriff in town. Kim Guadagno is ready to serve the people of Monmouth County as its first female sheriff.

ERIC SUCAR staff Kim Guadagno takes the oath of office as Monmouth County's new sheriff during the county's reorganization ceremonies on Jan. 3 at the Monmouth County Police Academy, Freehold Township. Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson administered the oath of office. Holding the Bible is Guadagno's son, Kevin, 14. ERIC SUCAR staff Kim Guadagno takes the oath of office as Monmouth County's new sheriff during the county's reorganization ceremonies on Jan. 3 at the Monmouth County Police Academy, Freehold Township. Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson administered the oath of office. Holding the Bible is Guadagno's son, Kevin, 14. "It is with a sense of duty and pride that I begin my term as your sheriff," she said during her remarks at the public swearing-in ceremony that occurred during the reorganization meeting of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Jan. 3 in Freehold Township. "I thank the people of Monmouth County for the opportunity to serve as your 75th sheriff."

The sheriff serves as the chief executive and administrative officer of Monmouth County's largest law enforcement agency with 735 employees who serve in the Law Enforcement Division, the 1,328- bed maximum security correctional institution, the Youth Detention Center, the Civil Division and the Public Safety and 911 Emergency Dispatch Center.

Guadagno, who was sworn in to office by state Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson during ceremonies at the Monmouth County Police Academy, said she sees no special challenges as the county's first female sheriff. In fact, there is a positive aspect.

"First, I am qualified, and second, I am a woman." she said. "As the first female sheriff, I feel the attention to this historic fact will offer more opportunities to promote issues important to the people of Monmouth County."

Guadagno, 48, a former assistant U.S. attorney, was also a former state deputy director of prosecutions and a state assistant attorney general. In recognition of being a top federal prosecutor, she received the U.S. Department of Justice Director's Award and the U.S. Attorney's Office Special Achievement Award.

Two issues are slated to be priorities during her three-year term as sheriff, she said.

"Gang violence and teenage driving are critical issues," said Guadagno. "Communities must recognize that the problem of gang violence exists and not only in isolated areas. The problem is communitywide and to effect change requires working together at the local and county levels."

She said the increasing number of deaths of teenage drivers because of inexperience must be stopped.

"I'll work with legislators on all levels of government to ensure our children drive safely," said Guadagno, the mother of three boys. "We can and must stop the deaths due to the inexperience of young drivers."

Another issue Guadagno expects to tackle is crimes committed by illegal immigrants in Monmouth County.

"Any illegal immigrants who break our laws will be immediately transferred to federal custody and deported when appropriate," she said.

For the next six months, Guadagno said, there will be no personnel changes at the sheriff 's office.

While managing an operating budget of about $60 million, she intends to learn every aspect of the sheriff 's office that includes the county jail, the youth detention center and a 911 emergency dispatch facility that is searching for a new home.

The Monmouth County Sheriff's Office is the first law enforcement agency in the United States to be simultaneously accredited nationally by the National Sheriffs' Association in five areas: law enforcement, correctional facility, correctional health care, 911 emergency dispatch and youth detention center.

"The five-star accreditation is due to the dedication of the officers and employees working under the leadership of my predecessor, Sheriff Joseph W. Oxley," Guadagno said. "With the commitment of public officials, that's what made the office of sheriff what it is today."

Oxley, who was the county sheriff for 12 years, did not seek re-election last fall. Guadagno said Oxley suggested that she run for the position.

"I accepted the challenge to run," she said, "because I think I can make a difference and serve the residents of Monmouth County by providing them the fundamental right to live in safety."

Guadagno, a Republican, defeated Democrat Jack Hill, who is the police chief in Belmar, in the November election for the three-year term as sheriff.

Guadagno will review the existing community programs offered by the sheriff's office and intends to build on them. She had high praise for the partnership between the sheriff 's office and the Monmouth County Office on Aging and said all of the senior citizen programs will continue.

What will not continue is the sole law practice of Guadagno, who is a member of the New Jersey Bar and the New York Bar. She has resigned as a commissioner of the borough of Monmouth Beach and expects to resign as a Republican county committee member.

A 1983 graduate of Washington College of Law at American University, Washington, D.C., Guadagno will continue to teach first-year law students in legal research and writing at Rutgers School of Law, Newark.

"I am really excited to be the new sheriff of Monmouth County," she said. "Also, I am proud to be among the women in county leadership positions, including Surrogate Rosemarie Peters, County Clerk Claire French and the director of the board of freeholders, Lillian Burry."

Guadagno, who was born in Waterloo, Iowa, resides with her husband, state Superior Court Judge Michael A. Guadagno, in Monmouth Beach, They have three sons, Kevin, 14, Michael, 11, and Anderson, 6.

Also sworn in at the Board of Freeholders' annual reorganization meeting were Freeholder Robert C. Clifton, Freeholder John D'Amico Jr. and County Clerk M. Claire French. Lillian Burry was chosen as the new director of the board of freeholders.

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