Melissa L. DeCastro, Esq., Director
Chairperson – Community Services
Freeholder Melissa DeCastro was born and raised in Salem County. Freeholder DeCastro is serving her first term as Freeholder. She currently serves as Chair of the Community Services Committee and as a member on the Transportation/ Agriculture and Education/ Employment Committees. She also serves on the Board of the New Jersey Association of Counties, Salem County’s representative on the New Jersey Association of Counties Legislative committee, and Secretary of the South Jersey Freeholders Association.
Freeholder DeCastro is a member of the New Jersey State Bar and the District of Columbia Bar. She is a member of the American Bar Association and the Woman’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. She is a writer/ author including Huffington Post regular contributor including “Cowboy Country in New Jersey” about Salem County. She is also the President of the Carney’s Point Republican Club and the Municipal Leader for Carney’s Point. Melissa is married to her husband Nicholas and has a son, Charles. She is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Amante DeCastro and has one brother Amante and sister-in-law Keri.
Contact Freeholder DeCastro.
Benjamin H. Laury, Deputy Director
Chairperson – Public Works
Deputy Director 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.
Deputy Director 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).
Deputy Director 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. 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.
Deputy Director Laury is currently the chairman of Public Works in Salem County and also serves on the Public Safety Committee. He serves as the freeholder liaison to the Waterways Advisory Board , South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), and the Salem County Planning Board.
Freeholder Laury is married 38 years to his wife Kathy Laury. 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 17th 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 42nd year of coaching the “Woodies” and holds the all-time record for coaches in South Jersey with 623 wins to 364 losses. 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 five grandchildren.
Contact Freeholder Ware.
R. Scott Griscom
Freeholder 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
Charles V. Hassler, Deputy Director
Bio coming soon.
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.