Melissa L. DeCastro, Esq., Director
Chairperson – Community Services
Melissa DeCastro was born and raised in Salem County. She is the Freeholder Director and covers the Administrative Committee. Director DeCastro is also a liaison to the Health/ Human Services and Education Committee.
Director DeCastro attended Villanova University, The Catholic University, Columbus School of Law and New York University for Foundations and Grants. Director DeCastro is a board member of the New Jersey Association of Counties as well as Treasurer for the Southern New Jersey Freeholder Association. Director DeCastro is a member of the New Jersey State Bar, District of Columbia Bar, Women’s Bar of the District of Columbia, American Bar Association. She is also a member of Rotary International, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, NAACP, Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey and the New Jersey Federation of Democratic Women.
Director DeCastro has written numerous articles for HuffPost including, “The Importance of First Responders”, “Persuasion of Paris”, “Dear London: I Love All of You”, “Philippines: Modern, Historic and Beautiful”, “Snow Zen”, “Sprinkle Joy: “Thankful Moments”, “New York Museum Zen”, “Selfless Acts In Healthcare”, “Mile Markers”, “Corregidor”, “Everything As We Remember It”, “The Die Is Cast”, “Does Soccer Make the Man?”, “Cowboy Country in New Jersey,” “Redefining Success,” “We Are Given This Day,” “A Woman in Politics,” “We Remember September 11th,” “The Simplicity of a County Fair”, “Bipartisan Understanding of Women’s Healthcare” and “Chosen Calmness,” among other various articles. Director DeCastro is also a writer for Thrive Global.
Melissa is married to her husband Nicholas and they have a one year old son Charles. Melissa is the daughter of Dr. Amante and Lynn DeCastro and she has a brother Amante and sister-in-law Keri and nephew Amante III.
Contact Freeholder DeCastro.
Charles V. Hassler, Deputy Director
Chair of the Economic Development and Public Works Committee
Mr. Hassler lives in Salem City where he previously served on the Salem City Council. He currently is serving as the Chairman of the Public Works Committee and also Chairs the Economic Developement Committee. Mr. Hassler also serves on the Administration Committee, Board of Social Services, Planning Board, Pollution Control,Salem County Improvement Authority, South Jersey Economic Developement District and South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization.
Mr Hassler graduated from Saint James High School then attended Salem Community College where he earned his Associates Degree in Business Administration. He retired from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 94 after 37 years of service at the Salem/Hope Creek GemNuclear Generating Stations. The last 13 of those years were spent as the Business Agent representing the employees of IBEW Local Union 94.
He is a Trustee for Saint Gabriel the Archangel Parish, where he also serves as a lecture, he serves as a Board Member for Resources for Independent Living, and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity. Mr Hassler is the proud father of Aidan Hassler Wilson.
Contact Charles. V Hassler
Benjamin H. Laury
Chairperson – Human Services
Freeholder Ben Laury is a lifelong resident of the Borough of Elmer. He has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and is licensed as a Professional Engineer and Master Plumber in the State of New Jersey.
Freeholder Laury has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. Before being elected as a Salem County Freeholder in 2009, he began his public community service by serving on the planning board, serving 10 years on the school board (5 years as president), and serving 7 years on the borough council (2 years as president).
Freeholder Laury’s commitment to community service is highlighted by his dedication to the Boys Scouts of America. He currently is serving on the Southern New Jersey District Board and personally holds the rank of Eagle Scout and recently received the Boy Scout Silver Beaver award. He is committed to his faith and his church and is actively involved in the Elmer Methodist Church. He has been an active Rotary member for over 30 years and is a Paul Harris Fellow.
Freeholder Laury is currently the freeholder liaison to Salem County Community College, Salem County Vocational-Technical School, and South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO).
Freeholder Laury has been married to his wife Kathy Laury for 40 years. They are blessed with two children Brittany (married to Stan Orzechowski) and TJ (married to Sarah) . They have four grandchildren: Mason ,Carter, and twins Colton and Ryder.
Contact Deputy Director Laury.
Lee R. Ware
Chairperson – Transportation, Agriculture and Cultural Affairs
Freeholder Ware is a resident of Elsinboro Township, serving his 18th year as Freeholder, with six of those years as Director. Freeholder Ware serves as Chairman of the Transportation, Agriculture Committee and serves as a member on the Public Works and Community Services Committees.
Freeholder Ware graduated from Salem High School, a graduate of Glassboro State College (Rowan) where he earned a degree in junior high education, as well as, played baseball and went to the College World Series three out of the four years he played. He was a teacher in the Woodstown School system for 38 years. Freeholder Ware has been recognized for his coaching achievements being named All South Jersey Coach of the Year twice, and was inducted into the Salem County Sports Hall of Fame, New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame, Rowan University Sports Hall of Fame, Bridgeton Sports Hall of Fame, and the South Jersey Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. He is in his 45th year of coaching the “Woodies” and holds a record in South Jersey of 643 wins to 390 losses, second highest in state records. Freeholder Ware was selected as the 2016 Leadership Recognition Award Recipient for his achievements as a Coach, Salem County Freeholder, and Retired Educator. Lee is the son of the late Preston and Minnie Ware. Lee has three children and seven grandchildren.
Contact Freeholder Ware.
R. Scott Griscom
Chair of Public Safety Committee
Liaison of Economic Development, Public Works Committee
Scott Griscom is a lifelong resident of Mannington Township and is serving his first year on the Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He is a graduate of West Chester University and spent 32 years at Pennsville Memorial High School as the Physical Education Teacher and in coaching Pennsville Sports before retiring.
For the past ten years Scott has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and for the past eight years has been a volunteer as assistant wrestling coach for Woodstown School District.
Contact Freeholder Griscom
Fifth Street Complex: 110 Fifth Street, Suite 400, Salem, NJ 08079 | Phone: 856-935-7510 | Fax 856-935-9102
Clerk of the Board: 856-935-7510 x8203
New Jersey originated the name ‘Chosen Freeholder’
New Jersey alone of all the United States has the distinction of retaining the title of “FREEHOLDER” to denote the elected members of the county governing bodies. This descriptive name, which commemorates the origin of home rule, is used by only 21 of the nation’s 3,047 counties. In other states, these county officials are known as commissioners, supervisors, probate judges, police jurors, councilors and a variety of other names.
An old English term, a “freeholder” originally denoted a person who owned an estate of land over which he had complete control. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 A.D., British kings found it necessary under pressure to call together an assemblage of higher clergy, earls and barons of the nobility and later Knights of the Realm, to sit as advisors and to grant taxes for defense of the kingdom. By the 13th century, through battles against abuses by royal power and the growing influence of Burghesses and Freeman, the British Parliament was enlarged to include these Freeman who owned their land free and clear, who were called “Freeholders.”
English history from this time onward is a story of the increasing power of the subject and his participation in the government. The Franklyn in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is described as being born a Freeman and “Freeholder.” He sat with the lord and knights of his shire (county) in the Parliament of that day.
The name “Freeholder” was well known by the 17th century, and the holder of the title had a definite place in society. Thus, when the first settlers came to the New World and settled what was to become “New Jersey” under the original proprietors, it is not to be wondered that we find the “Freeholder” prominently mentioned. In the first archives of East Jersey, signed and dated, we discover the origin of the name “Chosen Freeholder.” By crossing the sea, these stout-hearted men had already added a popular or democratic refinement to the traditional English name for a Freeman, although they still lived under the British Crown.
Uniquely, our original “Chosen Freeholders” were members of the state’s General Assembly, its first legislature, even before they became the elected representatives of the County Board’s of Chosen Freeholders. No other state in the federal union has so carefully preserved the ancient freedom of its representative government, in the historic title it still confers on its county governing officials.
By: Colonel John J. M. Dudley
To enhance Salem County residents’ quality of life by ensuring the safety, prosperity and wellness of our communities through responsive, innovation and fiscally responsible actions.
To provide the citizens of Salem County the highest quality of life by promoting: Public Safety; Fiscal Responsibility; Economic Development; Culture and Diversity; Health and Education; and Preservation of Natural Resources. We the freeholders will achieve these goals by embracing our core values.
We will ensure public trust through honesty, fairness, consistency, follow-through and our continued commitment to the County’s culture and diversity.
We will prudently manage County financial resources.
We will adhere to a plan that ensures safe communities now and for future generations resulting in a higher quality of life for Salem County residents.
We will provide accessible healthcare and promote wellness for all county residents.
We will deliver innovative actions designed to grow a vibrant local and regional economy while preserving our natural resources.