Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. has announced he will end his campaign for a 14th term due to his deteriorating health. Bartlett, 71, was treated for colorectal cancer three years ago, but the disease has recently metastasized. He will leave office when his current term expires on Dec. 31.
Bartlett is the longest-serving freeholder in New Jersey, as well as a former mayor and councilman in Pine Beach, where he and his wife, Peggy, reside.
The Republican legislator was born in Lakewood, and moved to Pine Beach in 1947. He was in the very first graduating class at Ocean County College, where he later taught political science classes following his tenure as a history teacher at Toms River High School North.
In a video from the most recent caucus session of the board, posted on app.com, an emotional Bartlett states his intention not to run for reelection, as he’s unsure he can carry out the duties of the office.
As he remarked, “I’m a very lucky person. This has been an excellent governing body and board to work with because you get things done. I’ve been a freeholder, at this end of the term, it will be 39 years … so, at the end of December, I will have spent 45 years continuously in public office. Nothing lasts forever.”
“He is the epitome of what a freeholder should be, and what a person should be,” Freeholder Virginia Haines, who has known Bartlett since 1979, said through tears. “I’m just going to miss him. I’m going to miss his guidance. I’m going to miss his talks.”
Haines added she realizes, however, that his health, and his family, must come first.
“We know that it’s important for John to focus on his healthcare treatment,” Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, Bartlett’s running mate, said on speaker phone, as he is on a cross-country trip.
“John is much more than the longest-serving freeholder,” he continued. “He’s also one of our longest-serving friends. It’s very emotional for all of us.
“John, we all love you.”
Since Bartlett will not seek reelection, the Ocean County Republican Committee must hold a special convention prior to Sept. 13 to choose a running mate for Little.