Camden County Surrogate
The Surrogate’s Court is a department of county government, as well as a branch of the Superior Court of New Jersey in the Chancery Division. The Surrogate serves as Deputy Clerk of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part, and Chancery Division, Family Part for adoptions, as well as Judge of the Surrogate’s Court. The Surrogate is a constitutional officer who is elected to the position by county voters every five years. The County Surrogate has the authority to qualify executors and trustees named in wills, to appoint administrators for those who die without wills, and to appoint guardians for minors and legally incapacitated persons. The Surrogate’s office is also responsible for overseeing the procedure in contested estate matters, in the declaration of incapacitation, in appointment of guardians, and in the granting of adoptions in the Superior Court of New Jersey.
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Why are you the best candidate to handle the responsibilities of the position?
How can the office be run more efficiently in order to save taxpayers money? What changes would you make to reduce costs (without undermining services)?
In your view, what are the biggest issues facing the office at this time?
I am the best candidate to handle the responsibilities of the position of Surrogate of the County of Camden because I have served in this position for the past 5 years. I have spoken to many senior groups regarding the necessity to be prepared with your legal documents and to have the conversations with your family members so they know your wishes. I have been on several panels with the Camden County Bar Association and have spoken to the members of the Bar of Camden County on the services provided by the Surrogate’s Court. I have trained our staff on how to best serve the public at their time of need and to be supportive to the public as they begin to manage the estate of their now deceased loved ones.
The office is being run more efficiently to save taxpayer money because I have implemented digitization of all of our records, so those records are accessible via computer searches done within my office by the public, rather that the staff having to search each file, pull the physical file, make copies, etc. I have continued to reduce costs to the taxpayers by employing student interns part time through Camden County College at a reduced rate, rather than bringing in full time staff members. We are working smarter and leaner with less staff, using technology to work for us to keep costs low.
In my view, Covid-19 is the biggest issue facing the Camden County Surrogate’s Court at this time. We are working full time at a safe distance from each other, mindful of our personal protection equipment and striving to keep each other safe. With the restrictions of Covid-19 we are unable to personally assist our clients, so we have installed a dropbox which is a secure box accessible by the public and members of the Bar 24 hours per day. We are using email and scanning more than ever as we try to maintain the personal service we are known for.
The Surrogate of our county presides as judge of the Surrogate’s court. Every other judge in New Jersey is appointed by the governor after completion of a rigorous educational course of study, passage of the New Jersey Bar Examination, at least ten years of legal training and completion of comprehensive vetting process. These requirements ensure that the individuals who make decisions that affect people’s lives have the requisite legal training, experience and demeanor to make competent decisions on matters before him or her. The matters with which the Surrogate is concerned are of critical importance. Of the candidates running for this office, I am the only one who has the requisite legal training to properly serve as Surrogate.
The Surrogate’s Office and Court should be accessible to all residents. It should be user friendly. It should be streamlined and modernized. Records on microfiche are not acceptable. This office should be secure, computerized, electronic in every way possible. This office is out of date, filled with partisan bodies who do little to assist residents with their needs in an efficient manner. Visit this office and you will wait hours, maybe days for an answer or a document. This office, much like the rest of our county offices, is abundant with waste and inefficiency. That must be changed from top to bottom.
Complacency. Residents come to the Surrogate with matters of critical importance. They are often distraught, in need of guidance, and immediate assistance. Like most County offices, employees fail to recognize that it is they who work for the taxpayers. It is the staff who must be responsive to residents, sympathetic to residents, knowledgeable when providing guidance to residents. Our County system is so entrenched with bureaucratic cronyism, we are crippled. No one has needed to do better because few demand better. I seek to educate voters on their rights and to encourage them to demand more from their effected officials and employees. Residents are the customers and Camden County’s customer service needs an overhaul.
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