There is a three-way race for one seat on the Sussex County Board of County Commissioners in the Republican primary Tuesday, June 6.
Incumbent Herbert Yardley, who lives in Stillwater, is seeking a third three-year term. He was elected to the board in 2017 and re-elected in 2020.
Nick D’Agostino, who lives in Wantage, is president of the Sussex-Wantage Regional Board of Education.
Jack DeGroot is a farmer and graduate student who lives in Wantage.
Here are the candidates’ statements:
Why are you running for this office?
For all 33 years of my life, I have called Sussex County home. Born, raised and still residing in Wantage Township, I have cherished and lived by our values.
I love the hard-working people of our community and chances are that you and I have crossed paths at some point.
Overwhelmingly, the people of our county love their families; they love the peace and quiet; they love their principles; and they love the Lord. I am proud to say that I fit into that category. I am proudly Christian, pro-life, pro-2A, pro-parental rights and pro-free speech.
Recently, radical leftists have made themselves known here. They yell and protest; they infiltrate local school board meetings; and they flood social media with hate and lies - all to push their sick and evil agenda on our residents, both young and old.
For generations, Sussex County has been the bedrock of conservatism in New Jersey, and I am running to make sure it stays that way.
What are the top three things you aim to accomplish if elected?
1. Protect Sussex County’s Conservative values.
2. Preserve our open space and farmland.
3. Improve employee wages and morale.
What makes you the best candidate for this position?
Unlike the incumbent, who rarely speaks up about controversial issues, I haven’t been in office for four decades. Unlike my other opponent, who is currently away at college and just registered as a Republican in January, I have experience.
I’m young enough to bring millennials and Gen-Z to our party and old enough to appreciate and be a voice for the generations before me. I’m a fighter who has overcome adversity my entire life.
Background and qualifications
Nick D’Agostino, 33, is an outspoken patriot who was recently named one of the top 100 millennials in New Jersey politics and is running for Sussex County Commissioner (Republican).
Born and raised here, his rise as a conservative firebrand has garnered him the attention of big names, such as Dr. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Madison Cawthorn, Jeff Van Drew, Ed Durr, Jenna Ellis, Harmeet Dhillon and more. He serves as the GOP’s state committeeman for Sussex County, representing our values on the state level. He is the chair of the Sussex County Young Republicans, ushering in a new generation of leaders.
He is the president of his local Board of Education, has been serving for the past seven years on the board and the past five as board president. He was the driving force behind video recording his bboard’s meetings, having a policy passed to do so in his first months as president.
He has a vast amount of experience in various areas of the district: budgets, policies, curriculum, buildings and grounds, negotiations, etc. He prides himself on showing up, not missing a single public meeting in his tenure on the board, attending 100+ consecutive meetings.
In his first year on the board and Budget Committee, the board made the largest tax cut on record in the district. During his tenure as president of the board, the board successfully combined the positions of superintendent and principal, as well as the positions of director of curriculum and vice principal, saving the district approximately $300,000 per year. His district then went on to share their superintendent with a neighboring school district and continues to seek opportunities to share and save money.
He assisted in brokering one of the most successful negotiations in the history of the district, saving the taxpayers a projected $4.5 million over the life of a three-year contract. His leadership and bold, conservative voice has helped flip the board from a 5-4 liberal majority to a 9-0 conservative majority while adding seven other young conservatives into the fray.
His board is widely recognized as the most conservative and youngest in the state. With a principled and energized board in place, he orchestrated an anti-mask mandate resolution, which was passed by his board and sent to the Governor’s Office, imploring him to end the mandatory masking of children.
The board unanimously passed a resolution against requiring students to be vaccinated to participate in extracurricular activities and unanimously voted to rescind the state’s transgender policy (the first known district to do so statewide), which codifies a law that prevents schools from notifying parents if their child identifies as transgender.
In addition, he serves on the Sussex County Educational Services Commission and the Sussex County Voter Accessibility Advisory Committee and was previously appointed by the Board of Chosen Freeholders, now the Board of County Commissioners, to serve on the Sussex County Transparency Committee. He also serves on the boards of multiple nonprofit organizations.
Sussex County holds a special place in my heart, as it is not only my home but the home of so many others.
I am running for county commissioner because I am deeply passionate about serving my community and making a positive impact on the lives of the people in Sussex County.
Throughout the past three years, I have had the privilege of meeting with residents from all corners of Sussex County at my produce stand in Wantage. These conversations have given me a deep understanding of the concerns that matter most to our community, including fiscal responsibility and transparency, economic growth and development, and a disconnect between community and government.
I am committed to addressing these issues head-on with a responsible and limited government approach that prioritizes people, promotes responsible development, and supports local businesses and farms.
Additionally, I understand the importance of preserving our unique heritage and cultural identity that make Sussex County such a special place to live, work and visit.
As your next Sussex County commissioner, I have three primary objectives that I will prioritize. My first priority is to enhance financial responsibility and transparency. This involves developing and adhering to a long-term financial plan that prioritizes responsible resource allocation, debt management and risk mitigation. In addition, I will provide regular and clear updates on county projects, initiatives and budget allocations to ensure that taxpayers are fully informed of county activities. I believe that transparency and simplicity are essential to building public trust.
My second priority is to foster collaboration with local officials. By organizing joint meetings between county and local officials, we can discuss and address key issues affecting the community. This approach leads to new ideas that, when properly developed and acted upon, can create innovation. I firmly believe that collaboration and innovation will ultimately lead to an easier life for the taxpayers.
Finally, my third priority is to promote responsible development and support for local businesses and farms. This includes encouraging sustainable development that prioritizes the community’s long-term interests while preserving Sussex County’s unique heritage and cultural identity.
Growing up on my family’s dairy farm has provided me with a distinct appreciation for the cultural identity and heritage of Sussex County. Academically, I attended High Point Regional High School where I was the first player in a decade to score 1,000 points for the boy’s basketball team.
After graduating in 2017, my basketball career continued for four more years in Scranton at Marywood University, where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and finance. Currently, I am finishing a master’s degree in statistics from the University of New Hampshire. There, I served as a teaching assistant for two years and was also given the opportunity to teach an upper-level undergraduate course in Statistics for Engineers and Scientists.
My teaching experience instilled in me a deep appreciation for the role that educators play in our society. In addition to my academic pursuits, I also have practical government experience as an intern for the office of New Hampshire Gov. Christopher T. Sununu. During my tenure, I conducted policy research on pressing issues, such as drones, homelessness and mental illness; analyzed pending legislation; and learned budgeting strategies from one of the nation’s most fiscally responsible governors.
With my unique blend of academic qualifications and practical experience, I believe that I possess a valuable skill set to fulfill the role of county commissioner.
Sussex County has always been my home. My time away during my pursuit of higher education has only strengthened my love for the area’s natural beauty, unique heritage and, most importantly, the hard-working families and individuals who call it home. The families and individuals that no matter what economic conditions they face they always know how to make ends meet.
As a county commissioner, I aim to represent these amazing residents of Sussex County and provide them with a voice. I am here to serve you, the taxpayer. I believe in utilizing the strong work ethic that I developed from a lifetime of working on the farm. With this commitment to hard work, I intend to bring an exceptional amount of energy and effort to harvest a brighter future for Sussex County.
My first priority was to fulfill my promise to pass “no new bonding (debt) without voter approval.” I accomplished that.
My second was to improve the retention of experienced county workers by providing them with competitive compensation, which is an incentive to stay. We have just provided county workers with their best contract in decades.
My third priority was to find savings and pass those along to taxpayers in the form of property tax cuts. We’ve just passed the most frugal budget in 15 years.
1. Continue finding savings in the budget - with particular attention to wasteful vendors’ contracts.
2. Continue to hold the line on debt.
3. Less spending and stable debt will enable the county to begin to roll back property taxes. It has been a difficult fight and a long process, but we are almost there. I want to see it through.
As a former county employee myself, as well as a longtime resident and taxpayer of Sussex County, I am in a unique position to balance the needs of county workers with the concerns of county taxpayers.
I was grieved when I learned that some county employees must access food stamps and other anti-poverty programs in order to feed their families. I’m concerned that county taxpayers will not get the services they’ve paid for if we cannot retain trained and experienced workers. Our workers deserve a livable wage.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I used my skills as the former county health officer to help the board and the administration to better understand and cope with the emergency. I also volunteered with all county emergency operations and offered additional assistance as needed. I led the board in demanding information and transparency from the governor’s office and in advocating for more COVID-19 funding for Sussex County.
During my year as director, I worked with Sheriff Mike Strada and led the board in putting a public question on the ballot to support law enforcement and address Governor Murphy’s illegal sanctuary state program. That ballot question received the voters’ overwhelming support.
We had to dig ourselves out from under the debt that was the legacy of the solar scandal. I am working to cut administrative costs and consolidate operations to ease the burden on property taxpayers. Residents are currently dealing with high inflation, which is hitting retirees, like myself, hard. I will continue to advocate for county residents and in particular our seniors and veterans.
This June, my beloved wife, Patricia, and I will mark 50 years of marriage! We are proud parents to two children as well as proud grandparents to three grandkids.
In addition, I am a retired administrator/health officer of the Department of Environmental and Public Health, with a master’s degree in environmental studies from Montclair State.
I have a bioterrorism and emergency preparedness certificate from Cooks College and formerly served as the mayor of Stillwater. I am also a member of Sussex County Crime Stoppers.