One month into his term as Gloucester County Republican Chairman, Bill Fey is rebuilding the party almost from scratch – both literally and figuratively.
He and other party activists are repainting the walls in the party’s Woodbury headquarters, cleaning it and working with the landlord to get some basic repairs done. They’re installing a new phone system and adding six new computers.
Fey has also commissioned an audit to make sure “the books are straight and ready to roll,” expanding the party’s leadership to include three executive directors, and scheduled the party’s first fundraiser since the leadership transition. Currently, the party has “a couple thousand” dollars on hand.
Fey took over the party last month after a drawn out fight with two-term former Chairwoman Loran Oglesby, which started after the 2008 freeholder candidates complained about a lack of assistance from the county party. His task now is to bring it back to relevance after a 12 year spell of failing to win a county-wide office.
Aside from his own county-wide candidates, Fey has met with the state’s Republican leadership and some fellow South Jersey Republican chairmen, two of whom are also new to the job: Michael Facemyer in Salem County and Bob Greco in Cumberland County.
“We’re learning, talking and communicating with each other more than has ever done before,” said Fey.
But there’s one issue Fey said he hasn’t had to deal with: reuniting a party after a leadership spat that lasted half a year.
When Fey took the helm of the party, calls for unity were overshadowed by Oglesby’s scathing statement that criticized the new chairman not supporting her post-defeat bid for vice-chair – a gesture she said demonstrated that Fey had “demonstrated no interest in generating party unity.”
But Fey said that one of the few issue he has not had to deal with is a divided party.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with the amount of enthusiasm,” said Fey. “I thought there would be more work involved in getting everyone on board, on line and ready to go. But I have to tell you, that’s not the case.”
The problems with the party Fey inherited did not begin during Oglesby’s time at the helm. It has not won a county-wide election in 12 years, and has increasingly lost ground to Democrats on an even more local level. Fey, the former Republican chairman of Franklin Township – one of the county’s six Republican-controlled towns – said that his priority will be working with municipal candidates.
“This year the freeholder candidates and the sheriff candidate are going to – I don’t want to say run an independent campaign, that’s not the case – but they want to raise their own money and basically do the advertising themselves. We’re going to support them logistically, with ID support, guidance and counsel,” said Fey. “We’re going to focus on local towns — if we’re invited in.”
Freeholder candidate Ron Brittin, who along with his running mate Matthew Burns and sheriff candidate Chris Marrero won the primary after running on a slate that was not aligned with Fey or Oglesby, said that he’s happy with the way the fledgling leadership has run the organization so far.
“The communication has been open… I think it’s important county-wide that the help is there for the municipalities,” he said. [Fey has] a tremendous job in front of him to try to make something out of nothing, and that’s what it amounts to at this point.”