Brian M. Hughes is the fourth person to serve as Mercer County Executive. He was elected in November 2003 and was re-elected to a fourth term in November 2015.
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.
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.
With the struggling economy affecting all residents, Hughes 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 several years. And the recession economy caused a boom at the Mercer County One-Stop Career Center, which helps the unemployed and those seeking to enhance their job skills, where more than 85,000 visits are made each year.
The County Executive spearheaded the critical effort to construct a new criminal courthouse in downtown Trenton to replace the century-old courthouse. Completed in January 2013, this was the largest, most complex public construction project in the County's history. Not only did this project bring hundreds of new labor jobs, but it has also restored some of the beauty to downtown Trenton. The new courthouse was 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.
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.
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. And when it came to solving the family homelessness problem in Mercer County, instead of sticking with the status quo, Hughes took a risk on a new model, and as a result reduced family homelessness by 78 percent, putting Mercer in the national spotlight for its success. In the summer of 2014, Hughes was invited to Washington to tout the program's success, and later in the year he was invited to the Harvard Kennedy School's Inaugural County Executive Forum to discuss a broad range of issues facing county leaders nationwide.
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. Since the beginning of the Hughes administration, 2,268 acres of County-owned open space and farmland have been preserved. The County assisted other preservation partners in preserving an additional 2,831 acres, resulting in 5,099 acres preserved since 2004. Twenty percent of the County land area is now preserved, 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.
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.