Cape May County’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, steered largely by the efforts of Freeholders Will Morey and Jeff Pierson, led to the lowest cases of COVID-19 of any County in the State of New Jersey and the safe reopening to the local economy. Now, both Morey and Pierson seek re-election to the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
In addition to their competent response to the pandemic, Freeholders Morey and Pierson continue to show fiscal responsibility through their fiduciary duties of diversifying the economy, rebuilding infrastructure, and keeping taxes as low as possible leading into the Nov. 3 election.
“To drive the change we seek, good fundamentals are essential,” said Morey. “Cape May County’s strong financial position of low debt, high cash reserves and the lowest tax rate in the State have provided a launch pad for the County’s active investments in infrastructure, community redevelopment partnerships, and the new job opportunities it is creating in a growing technology sector.”
Alluding to the steps they have taken to protect county residents and visitors from COVID-19, Pierson said he and Morey are, “The right leaders for challenging times.”
“The message is, we’ve gone through a tough period with COVID and kept our focus,” said Pierson, who served with the U.S. Army and New Jersey Army National Guard for 42 years, retiring as a Brigadier General.
As the COVID-19 outbreak became more serious earlier in the year, Pierson, leading the Cape May County Health Department, quickly shut down the Cape May County Crest Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to outside visitors, protecting residents and staff from the spread of the virus.
“We kept the place spotless. We kept it safe. We had no deaths” said Pierson.
Pierson noted that only one resident of Crest Haven was diagnosed with COVID-19, although the county felt it was a false positive because she did not have any symptoms. Nine Crest Haven employees tested positive, but according to Pierson were infected outside of the facility.
Under the leadership of Freeholder Pierson, another well-received coronavirus-related safety program launched by Cape May County included sending health “ambassadors” out to boardwalks and other popular tourist destinations to stress the importance of social distancing for visitors and local residents. The successful ambassador program was the subject of national publicity.
Morey has served as co-chair with fellow Freeholder Leonard Desiderio on the Cape May County Business Recovery Task Force that collaborated with health professionals, the business community, local municipalities and government officials on a plan to safely reopen the County’s economy amid the pandemic.
According to Morey, the County Task Force is one example of how he considers himself to be a “fierce collaborator” who has learned that success “lies in cultivating a shared vision and stirring a diverse group of people to contribute their very best.”
“My interest in the position of Freeholder is directly related to my goal of making Cape May County a great place to live, work, and visit,” he said. “In my view, county government is the ideal platform from which to engage communities, the private sector, and the state to drive real change and improvement.”
As Cape May County continues its recovery from the pandemic, Morey and Pierson are looking to diversify the economy by creating new jobs in industries such as agri-tourism, as well attracting new types of industry such as the recent development of the Cape May County Tech Center.
Other initiatives of Morey and Pierson include creating a job fair for local high school seniors and juniors who may be interested in pursuing a career in trade industries including but not limited plumbing, electric, and carpentry. The job fair would involve local businesses and trade unions to give students a day of hands-on exploration, said Pierson.
An agricultural initiative that Pierson is also pursuing is a “farm-to-table” program that would make it easier for county restaurants to get fresh produce from local farms, with another component of the program establishing a county employment platform to assist the county’s homeless population secure jobs working on local farms.
Meanwhile, Morey is emphasizing the Cape May County airport’s role as a hub for new technology companies that will broaden the economy, beyond the county’s traditional tourism industry.
The county also is literally rebuilding parts of its economy with a comprehensive 15-year, $800 million program to replace and rehabilitate aging bridges. Morey said the county has already placed enough money in reserve to roughly leverage $150 million in funding for bridge projects without any need to raise the tax rate.
“Fiscal management is critical. With strong fiscal management, you can do the capital projects,” said Morey.
Morey also is excited about the county’s Municipal Redevelopment Initiative, a program that provides tax incentives to help local towns improve distressed areas and infrastructure. The pilot project for the initiative is the redevelopment of the Pacific Avenue corridor into Wildwood, which will bolster the beach town’s downtown business district.
“The new gateway into Wildwood is already turning heads. There’s no question, in my mind, that downtown Wildwood is an up-and-comer,” said Morey, who is the owner of the Morey’s Piers amusement sites on the Wildwood Boardwalk.
Cape May County is governed by a five-member Board of Chosen Freeholders. Morey and Pierson are the two members up for re-election this year. Morey, 63, was first elected to the board in 2011. Pierson, 77, was appointed to the board in 2016 to fill a vacant seat and won his first term in 2017.
Background: Lifelong resident of Cape May County.
Education: Graduate of Auburn University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance.
Occupation: Morey is President and CEO of Morey’s Piers, a family-owned business founded in Wildwood in 1969 and recognized as a premier regional entertainment destination. He is also a licensed pilot and certified flight instructor and has been a volunteer pilot with the Angel Flight Network since 2007.
Family: He resides in Wildwood Crest with his wife, Janice. They have two sons, Will and Kyle.
Jeffrey L. Pierson:
Background: Lifelong resident of Cape May County.
Education: Graduate of Roger Williams University with a bachelor’s degree in public administration, master’s degree and certificate in administrative science, as well as a Doctorate in Humane Letters from Fairleigh Dickenson University. Pierson also attended the Army Command & General Staff College and the Army War College.
Occupation: Pierson served in the U.S. Army and New Jersey Army National Guard for 42 years, retiring as a Brigadier General. He formerly worked for six years as Undersheriff Correctional Division, Cape May County Sheriff’s Office. He also held several positions in state government with the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Family: He resides in Upper Township and has three children, Christine, Jennifer and Jeff Jr., and 13 grandchildren.