Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford is down to her last few days in her office in Toms River, and they've been spent showing incoming prosecutor Joseph Coronato the ropes.
Both Ford and Coronato received high praise from the county's freeholder board at its meeting Wednesday.
"I'm conflicted here, because I'm going to really miss you as a prosecutor, working with you and seeing what you've done," said Freeholder James Lacey, to Ford. "But I'm glad you found a home back on the bench."
Ford, a Democrat, has been nominated as a Superior Court judge by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. She previously served a stint as a Superior Court judge before being named prosecutor.
"Years ago … I admired you from afar, your legislative work," said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, to Ford, who previously represented northern Ocean County in the state General Assembly. "It was always done in the best interests of the people of Ocean County. I always admired your work in the court system and wish you all the best. You represented the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office with great destinction."
"You have set an example for your successor," added Freeholder John Bartlett.
Praise was also given to Coronato, who currently operates a law firm in Toms River and will soon take over the prosecutor's office.
"You're now going to come from the private sector and go right to the public sector, and it's going to be a great challenge for you," said Freeholder Director Jack Kelly. "But I've worked with you for a lot of years, and I know you're going to be successful."
"The governor could not have made a better selection," said Little. "We know you're going to do a tremendous job."
"It's interesting, you come in as a lay person and run and evaluate a law enforcement agency for five, 10 years," said Ford. "You put your mark on it in any way you can, then you leave. I'm happy someone of Joe's caliber is taking over."
Freeholder Joseph Vicari said the addition of a new prosecutor as well as a new sheriff could mean re-evaluating the role of each in Ocean County.
"We have a new prosecutor, we're going to have a new sheriff, so we can go and take a look at new things," said Vicari.
Coronato called Ford a "fantastic prosecutor" and said he would work hard to balance the need to serve the people of Ocean County with budgetary limitations.
"Being in the private sector, I realize money doesn't grow on trees," said Coronato. "Since I've been on both sides of the fence, I really believe I can balance it out."