Hughes, the son of former Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard J. Hughes, has lived in Mercer County most of his life, both in Trenton and in Princeton. Prior to becoming County Executive, Hughes served as Deputy Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. In 1997, Hughes was elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders and served two terms, including a term as Freeholder President.
Hughes has focused on restoring fiscal discipline to County government and expanding economic opportunities for all County residents. The county tax rate is significantly lower than it was when County Executive Hughes first took office in 2004. The tax rate at that time was almost 55 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Because of prudent fiscal management and good government practices, the County has actually lowered its tax rate in the past five years through 2008. Today the tax rate stands at 48 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Under his leadership, Mercer County has pursued a stronger relationship with the private sector, opening the government bidding process to more businesses, implementing innovative loan and Co-Op programs, and holding workshops and seminars to assist businesses, contractors, and vendors in doing business with Mercer County.
Since taking office, Hughes has consistently maintained his priorities of sound financial management, job creation, and enhancing and retaining essential County services with minimal impact on taxpayers.
Currently, the County Executive is spearheading the critical effort to construct a new criminal courthouse in downtown Trenton to replace the existing, century-old courthouse. This is the largest, most complex public construction project in the County’s history. Not only does this project bring hundreds of new labor jobs, but it will also restore some of the beauty to downtown Trenton. The new courthouse is being built to environmentally-friendly LEED standards as well, which simply means it will use energy, light, and water very efficiently—saving taxpayer money in the future.
With the struggling economy affecting all residents, Hughes has vowed to help County residents who need it the most. Services for seniors, disadvantaged children and teens, and low-income families have been a high priority, with millions of dollars in funding going directly to these constituencies. Job fairs for youth, veterans, and senior citizens have increased in regularity in the past year. With the recession impacting many of the more than 17,000 independent businesses in Mercer, the Mercer County Loan Fund can offer loans between $25,000 and $125,000 to businesses small and large. No community is complete without a vibrant and diverse economy, and Hughes pledges to continue to attract new economic opportunity to Mercer County.
During his time in office, Hughes has also championed a variety of initiatives to improve health and safety in Mercer County’s constituent communities. In cooperation with the Mercer County Improvement Authority, the County Executive has continued to encourage County residents to keep our environment pristine. Hughes tripled the number of MCIA “Disposal Days,” which give residents the opportunity to properly dispose of hazardous and electronic waste. Hughes also restructured the County Office of Economic Development by adding a sustainability component, which seeks to find new ways to promote green living in the County. Many ongoing shared services projects, created after the County’s Shared Services Conference in 2007 led by Hughes, are seeking ways to cut costs and reduce waste.
With the belief that all people deserve equal opportunity and equal protection, in 2006 Hughes played an instrumental role in making full health, dental, vision, and retirement benefits available to County employees in domestic partnerships.
As County Executive, Hughes has led an ambitious effort to further the County’s open space preservation efforts, including a successful ballot initiative that provides additional funding to the program. To date, the Hughes administration has preserved 2,873 acres of open space and farmland, for a total of 19,567 preserved acreage countywide, ensuring natural resources and local agriculture will always have a place in Mercer County.
In 2004, thanks to Hughes’ efforts, in partnership with the Board of Chosen Freeholders, Mercer County became the first county in New Jersey – and quite possibly in the nation – to ban the practice of pay-to-play by strictly limiting political contributions from individuals or entities seeking to do business with the County. This focus on ethics reform also led Hughes to create the County’s first Office of Inspector General.
Hughes is a graduate of Thomas Edison State College. He lives in Princeton and is married to Pamela Rago Hughes. The couple has a son, Sullivan.