Each of the seven counties that is home to the New Jersey Pinelands has the privilege of choosing a commissioner to manage our pristine South Jersey treasure. (The governor appoints seven additional commissioners, and one is assigned by the U.S. Department of the Interior.)
While the mission of the commission is to preserve the environment, under the Christie administration, a purge of qualified commissioners has occurred that would make the Stalinist purges of Soviet Russia envious. Recently, the commission has reversed its previous stance, allowing a high-pressure natural gas pipeline to despoil the area.
The term of the commissioner assigned by Burlington County, Sean Earlen, expires this month, and the Board of Freeholders must either re-appoint anti-environmentalist Earlen or choose a new commissioner.
The Republican Freeholder majority appointed Earlen three years ago under a cloud of darkness. The minority Democrats on the Freeholder Board were not informed about the choice until the day of the vote and their request to properly vet Earlen was summarily dismissed.
Now, with Earlen’s term up, citizens at Freeholder meetings have been pleading with the all-Republican board to nominate a qualified environmentalist instead of a fossil-fuel advocate.
One person who has thrown her hat in the ring is Randi Rothmel of Mount Holly. Her credentials are impeccable. She heads Mount Holly’s environmental commission, has an undergraduate degree from Penn State and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Rochester, and has done post-graduate work at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She directs an analytical laboratory, supervising scientists working in the area of environmental cleanup.
I spoke with Rothmel at her home recently about her desire to serve the people and preserve the Pinelands. (Off-camera commentary by her ringed-net doves is also included in this interview.)