Sussex freeholder director endorses Richard Vohden to succeed Wirths

Sussex County Freeholder Director Jeffrey Parrott last night endorsed Green Township farmer Richard Vohden to be his running mate, giving Vohden the inside edge to fill a spot that is expected to be left vacant by when Freeholder Hal Wirths is confirmed as labor commissioner. 

Parrott made the announcement at a Republican county committee meeting last night in Sparta.

“He’s extremely versed in politics. He has the energy, desire and certainly the integrity,” Parrott told in a phone interview this morning.

But while Parrott’s endorsement makes Vohden the favorite to win the party’s upcoming convention to fill Wirths’ unexpired term, he is going to face at least one challenger in the June primary.  Four candidates are running for an open sheriff’s seat, leaving plenty of opportunities for candidates to form alliances and bracket together. 

Wirths will remain on the freeholder board until the state senate confirms him for the cabinet post – a process that is not expected to hit any major bumps but could easily take over a months (Wirths, who is currently acting labor commissioner, stopped taking his freeholder salary yesterday).

Once Wirths resigns his freeholder seat, the Sussex County Republican Committee will have 30 days to choose an interim replacement.  County Republican Chair Alice Hambell has tentatively scheduled the convention for late March, but she said she might bump it back to mid-April, depending on how fast Wirths is confirmed. 

Vohden, 72, spent 35 years in the construction industry before retiring in 1993.  Since then, he’s run his own farm full-time and has served on several open space and land use committees at a municipal and county level.  He is also the Sussex County Republican Committee’s first vice chair. 

“They asked me to write up as resume. While I was working on the resume, I realized that over the years, unintentionally, I’ve been preparing myself for the job by being involved,” he said. 

But former Wantage Mayor Parker Space, 41, also has his eye on Wirth’s seat, and said he’s already collected the requisite 100 signatures to run in the primary.  He is trying to decide whether to skip the party’s convention.

“I know how to go line-by-line and crunch numbers,” said Space, who runs a 425 acre farm and zoo that has been in his family for three generations.  “To be honest with you, I think Hal’s done an awesome job…I feel like Id be an asset being on the board of freeholders.  The ones who sit there now, I’ve worked with them on different issues in the past”

Space is also the county’s state Republican committeeman. 

A third potential freeholder candidate, Hamburg Councilman Christopher Kelly, said that he’s “80% to 90%” sure he’s going to run.

“But I’m no 100% sure. I want to make sure that my family is on board,” said Kelly, who works as a custodian supervisor at Sparta Middle School.  “I want to make sure that my family is on board. It’s a big commitment, and when I do make the commitment I want to make sure I’m in it wholeheartedly.” Sussex freeholder director endorses Richard Vohden to succeed Wirths