MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – Long-time Morris County Administrator John Bonanni was hailed for his years of leadership tonight at his final meeting of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners, who thanked him for 33 years of service and a steady management style that steered Morris County government through good and bad times over the years.
“Morris County government really does run like a top, as our Governor once said, and the reason is people like John Bonanni. The hard work and sound advice he brought to the office every day for the past 33 years is immeasurable, and the entire county is a better place because of him and the people he surrounded himself with. I will deeply miss John’s day-to-day guidance, but I know he will pick up the phone if I call to ask his advice. That is who John is,” said Commissioner Director Tayfun Selen.
The Commissioners and administrative staff presented Bonanni with an etching of the Morris County Courthouse, a traditional gift given to retiring, long-time employees. The etching bears a placard that simply reads: “Thank You, John G. Bonanni For 33 Years of Distinguished Service To the People of Morris County.”
“There truly are no words that could describe my deep appreciation to Morris County. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work for this amazing county for over three decades. I am so proud of what we have together accomplished,” Bonanni said.
“John’s impact is as much about the future as past accomplishments. His pride in Morris County and his drive to provide a high level of caring and service for our residents is embedded in how the county operates and will have a significant positive effect for years to come,” said Deputy Director John Krickus.
Many honors and awards have been bestowed upon Bonanni over the years. Among them was the New Jersey Association of Counties first-ever County Administrator Lifetime Achievement Award in December 2020. That honor was later put on the Congressional Record in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) in February 2021.
Bonanni’s tireless work during the COVID-19 pandemic also earned him The Arc of New Jersey Heroes of 2020 award for helping to rescue and support people with disabilities who were stricken by the virus and suffered staffing shortages at group homes.
“John has been a true friend, mentor and partner. He’s a humble guy who — and let’s be honest about it — has always made the board look good. He has guided all of us to be the best representatives we can be for Morris County,” said Commissioner Deborah Smith.
“I’ve known John my entire life, so I’m not going to even try to encapsulate everything about him in just a few words. But we grew up together in Boonton. I knew his sister first and his father, and I remember John back when he first began working in a bank. We’ve known each other through so many different relationships over the years that, on a personal level, I’m sure we will continue to stay in touch somehow. On a professional level; however, I’ll miss his insight and his ability to get things done effectively. He has been a great asset to Morris County and it’s difficult to envision Morris County without him. So, I just want to wish my old friend the best life has to offer in this new phase of his life and to say thank you for your friendship,” said Commissioner Douglas Cabana.
Bonanni, who is noted for shunning the spotlight and deflecting praise for his achievements over the years, was heralded – and roasted somewhat – during a recent retirement party attended by hundreds of family, friends, colleagues and elected local, county, state and federal officials. He officially retires on Jan. 1, and Assistant Administrator Deena Leary, who was appointed by the board earlier in the year to assume the helm, will officially become the new administrator in the New Year.
“The people in Morris County have benefited from John’s wisdom and knowledge. His legacy will be felt for many years to come. I also enjoyed his sense of humor,” said Commissioner Kathryn DeFillippo.
“Morris County is a better place because of John Bonanni’s 33 years of service. John’s motivation is simple, he has a deep rooted desire to help others. This motivation coupled with uncompromising ethical and work standards has served Morris County and the Commissioner Board well. John prefers to work tirelessly behind the scenes and has also developed a phenomenal support staff that is enabling the commissioners to make a seamless transition at the Administrator and Deputy Administrator positions. It has been an honor and great learning experience to work with John since I have been on the board,” said Commissioner Stephen Shaw.
A lifelong resident of Morris County, Bonanni began his employment with Morris County in January of 1990 as Assistant Director of Operations within the Department of Human Services. In 1992, he was promoted to Director of the Department of Human Services, which is the largest department in county government, charged with providing a wide array of services directed at enabling residents an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives.
“As the second longest serving freeholder-Commissioner on the board, I have seen John Bonanni in action through economic downturns and through events such as Irene, Sandy, blizzards and a pandemic, exemplifying what good government should be,” said Commissioner Thomas Mastrangelo. “Most importantly, he guided me during my two terms as Director of the board, helping me to insure that any decisions made were not influenced by politics, but instead were decision of good government for all the people of Morris County as we delivered zero percent tax increases, introduced a $60 million debt reduction plan and remained one of the best financially run counties in the country. His example of leadership will be missed.”
Bonanni was promoted in 2004 to the position of Morris County Administrator and has served the county in the position for the past 18 years.
As County Administrator, he was directly responsible for operations and management of the six major county departments, as well as the development and management of the county’s annual $331.1 million budget. Bonanni also oversaw the Departments of Public Works, Human Services, Law and Public Safety, Finance, Employee Resources, and Information Technology.
Looking back over his tenure, Bonanni said he is proud of the advancements that have been made in the areas of Human Services, Public Safety and shared services.
Having been Administrator during Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Ida, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, Bonanni has experienced firsthand the emergent and ongoing needs of the county’s residents. He says he was extremely fortunate to have been able to partner with the many local community based nonprofits, local municipal governments, local first responders and faith based groups to address those needs.
Bonanni was issued the 2016 Patriots Path Council, Boy Scouts of America Morris County Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2016 Mental Health Association of Morris County Community Leadership Award for his years of advocacy on behalf of the Morris County human services community.
In 2018 he was presented with the Morris County Chamber of Commerce Alex DeCroce Public Leadership Award.
Bonanni has served as a Commissioner on the N.J. Public Employees Relations Commission, as a member of the Morris County Insurance Commission, and as chairperson of the Morris County Improvement Authority. In 2010 he chaired Governor Chris Christie’s Departments of Human Services and Children and Family Transition Teams.
He is a 40 year member of the Boonton Fire Department, serves as a Board member on the Morris County Economic Development Corporation and on the New Jersey Association of Counties.
Bonanni also has regularly served as a presenter and instructor for Rutgers University’s Center for Government Services, sharing his extensive knowledge of county government.
Bonanni, however, takes greatest pride and delight being with his three daughters and two grandsons.