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The County Executive of Mercer County, New Jersey, United States is the chief officer of the county's executive branch. The executive oversees the administration of county government and works in conjunction with Board of Chosen Freeholders, which acts in a legislative role. The New Jersey Superior Court had subsumed and replaced county courts in 1983. The office of the County Executive is in the county seat and state capital, Trenton.

County Executive of Mercer County
Flag of Mercer County, New Jersey.gif
Brian M. Hughes

since 2004
Term lengthFour years; renewable
Inaugural holderBill Mathesius

The County Executive is elected directly by the voters to a term of four years, which begins on January 1. At the 2010 United States Census, the county's population was 365,513.[1] As of Election Day 2017 there were 233,860 registered voters in Mercer.[2]

There have been three county executives since the establishment of the office. The incumbent, Brian M. Hughes, took office in 2004 and has been re-elected to three subsequent terms, the latest of which ends December 31, 2019.


In 1972, the State of New Jersey passed the Optional County Charter Law, which provides for four different manners in which a county could be governed: by an executive, an administrator, a board president or a county supervisor.[3]

A court case between Mercer County's Executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders in which the New Jersey Superior Court Law Division clarified interpretation as to the rights and responsibilities of the two branches of government was decided in 2001.[4]

Mercer is one of the five of 21 counties of New Jersey with a popularly-elected county executive, the others being Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, and Hudson.[5]

There have been three county executives since the establishment of the office.

County executivesEdit


Republican Wilbur H. "Bill" Mathesius, from Hopewell Township, was the inaugural office holder and served three terms.[6] He was referred as "Wild Bill" during a political career, including Assistant United States Attorney and county prosecutor. [6][7]

Mathesius was appointed to the New Jersey Superior Court in 2002[8][9] and was briefly suspended in 2006 for comments regarding the death penalty.[10][11][12] In 2008, Governor Jon Corzine decline to reappoint him .[13] He last presided over a murder trial in which there were irregularities.[14]


Republican Robert “Bob” Prunetti, served as executive from 1992 to 2004.

During his tenure Prunetti sued the Board of Chosen Freeholders in a case which led to an court interpretation as to the rights and responsibilities of the two branches of government.[4]

As county chief, he collaborated with City of Trenton to develop what became known as the Sun National Bank Center.[15]

Prunetti was appointed by then-Governor Chris Christie to the Trenton's Capital City Redevelopment Corporation[16] He later become Chief of the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce.[15]


Brian M. Hughes was first elected in November 2003, becoming the first Democrat to hold the post. He was re-elected in 2007, 2011, and 2015.[17]

Hughes is a graduate of Thomas Edison State College and a resident of Princeton. He is a member of the notable Hughes-Murphy political family. His father was two-term New Jersey Governor and New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard J. Hughes.[18] His brother, John Hughes, is a serving federal magistrate. His half-brother, Michael Murphy, is an influential lobbyist, former county prosecutor and candidate for governor. His sister-in-law is a Superior Court judge.

Hughes previously served as Deputy Executive Director of the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. In 1992 he made an unsuccessful bid to represent New Jersey's 4th congressional district in Congress.[19] In 1997, was elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders and served two terms, including one as Freeholder President.[20]

in 2014, he was elected the first Vice President of the County Executives of America (CEA).[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ DP1 - Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data for Hudson County, New Jersey, United States Census Bureau. Accessed January 21, 2013.
  2. ^ "Statewide Voter Registration Summary" (PDF). New Jersey Department of State. November 7, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  3. ^ Miller, William (1974), Model County Administrative Codes Under the Optional County Charter Law of New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, retrieved March 21, 2018
  4. ^ a b Robert D. PRUNETTI, County Executive of Mercer County, Plaintiff, v. MERCER COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS, Defendant (Superior Court of New Jersey,Law Division November 13, 2001) ("In 1972, the Legislature adopted the Optional County Charter Law, providing a county the opportunity to reorganize its form of government into one of four alternative forms: (i) the County Executive Plan; (ii) the County Manager Plan; (iii) the Board President Plan; or (iv) the County Supervisor Plan. See N.J.S.A. 40:41A-1 et seq. Six counties have elected to reorganize their governmental structure pursuant to the Optional Charter Act. They are respectively: Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Mercer and Union Counties. Five of these counties...have opted for the County Executive Plan."). Text
  5. ^ Rinde, Meir. "Explainer: What’s a Freeholder? NJ’s Unusual County Government System", NJ Spotlight, October 27, 2015. Accessed March 21, 2018. "Five counties -- Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Mercer -- opted for popularly elected county executives in addition to freeholder boards."
  6. ^ a b "Thoughts on Mercer's political parties - Stoolmacher". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Judge Mathesius denied reassignment". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ IN RE: Wilbur H. MATHESIUS, a Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey. (Supreme Court of New Jersey November 30, 2006). Text
  11. ^ "Voluble Mercer Co. Judge Mathesius Won't Be Renominated, Governor Says - New Jersey Law Journal". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Judge's Words Cost Him a Suspension of 30 Days". The New York Times. December 1, 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Judge Mathesius: 'Politics will have its way'". The Trentonan. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  14. ^ Glatt, John (2007), Never Leave Me: A True Story of Marriage, Deception, and Brutal Murder, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781429904704
  15. ^ a b "Bob Prunetti suddenly loses job as MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce chief". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  16. ^ "Prunetti appointed to Trenton's Capital City Redevelopment Corporation". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Mercer County election results 2015". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  18. ^ Sullivan, Joseph F. "Richard J. Hughes, Governor and Judge, Dies at 83". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Mercer County Executive Hughes voted in as VP of nation organization". Retrieved 23 March 2018.