The recent November elections influenced more than just the presidential election. The past month’s elections also allowed for constituents to vote on their local and county government representatives. Caren Fitzpatrick, a renewed incumbent and Stockton alumna, was one of nine freeholders elected to serve on the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
What is a freeholder? New Jersey is the only state to currently use the term “freeholder,” whereas most states refer to the position as commissioners or counselors, according to the Atlantic County website. The word originated from the English term, insinuating that only men who owned their land outright could contribute to the government.
Fitzpatrick resented this terminology because of it’s “connotations of misogyny and racism,” as she describes. To fight these implications, Fitzpatrick brought forward a previously written resolution that requested a shift from “freeholder” to “county commissioner.” This resolution was passed this past summer and the name change will begin on January 1, 2020.
As an Atlantic County native, Fitzpatrick first decided to run for the Board of Chosen Freeholders after being disappointed with the behavior of the previous freeholder board. “I thought, ‘somebody needs to step up here and be a voice for people like me,’ because I didn’t feel like I was represented,” she said.
As the top vote-getter in her last freeholder election, she received immense support from her constituents as a woman with working-class experiences.
As a freeholder, Fitzpatrick has made several positive changes for Atlantic County. She recently pushed for later board meeting times so that working-class individuals could attend, and contributed to the addition of two new bus shelters in Egg Harbor Township.
Fitzpatrick also understood the importance of supporting small business owners, especially amid COVID-19-related government shut-downs. She recently proposed a support program which would give small businesses interest-free loans until spring 2021.
According to her website, Fitzpatrick also advocates for climate change reform, mobile OB/GYM care, greater representation of immigrant and marginalized individuals, and equal share of assets and purchasing power across all 23 Atlantic County municipalities. She described her experience as “very fulfilling” and continues to look foundly on her ability to influence the freeholder board, despite being in the board’s political minority.
While working and raising a family, Fitzpatrick decided to pursue her undergraduate and graduate studies by taking weekend and night classes. After 14 years, Fitzpatrick received her Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) at Stockton and graduated in the program’s first graduating class.
She graduated with a Program Distinction, requiring at least a 3.9 GPA and essay application according to Stockton’s MBA Program Handbook, and remains proud of her educational experiences.
It was with her MBA that she was provided the opportunity to work in larger supervisory roles. Fitzpatrick’s background includes working in small businesses, such as her and her husband’s deli, and as a deli waitress in the Atlantic City casino industry. She now serves as the Senior Director of Finance and Administration at Meet AC, an organization with the AC Convention Center that works to hold conventions and large events.
Familiar with being the only woman in business meetings, she is also passionate about advocating for women in business and politics. “We can treat everybody like people. One of the greatest things I learned in Stockton’s MBA Program is that we work with people, not machines.” It is for this reason that Fitzpatrick is a self-proclaimed feminist. Her website reaffirms this.
“I support all people having an equal voice in their lives,” Fitzpatrick says.
For more information on Caren Fitzpatrick and her mission to improve AC, visit https://www.carenfitzpatrick.com.