COURT HOUSE – The CapeGOP selected Ocean City Councilman Robert “Bobby” Barr, Aug. 2, to fill the unexpired seat of Marie Hayes, who stepped down from the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners to become the county surrogate.
Barr, a former Ocean City Council president, was elected by a vote of 108-22, outpacing Upper Township’s Michael Palombo. The vote came at a special convention of the CapeGOP, which was held in the Cape May County Technical High School multipurpose room. A paper ballot system was used. Barr was sworn in by U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd).
Barr will now appear on the Nov. 7 general election ballot to fill Hayes’ unexpired term. He will be joined on the ballot by Melanie Collette, who is seeking election for her first term on the Board of County Commissioners, Hayes, and Robert Nolan, who is running for sheriff.
Barr immediately resigned his seat on the Ocean City Council, a position he has served in for multiple terms. CapeGOP Chairman Mike Donohue described Barr as “an inspiration to so many people.”
“He is one of the hardest-working, smartest, and good-hearted people I have had the pleasure to know,” Donohue said.
Barr was quoted as saying he was “beyond grateful” for his selection as a candidate for county commissioner. Barr also reportedly took the side of the current Board of County Commissioners in opposing the proposed wind farm projects off the coast of Cape May County. Barr, who uses a wheelchair, also referred to his physical condition when he made comments that included the term diversity.
“They say we are not the party of diversity,” Barr said. “But wait until they take a look at this ticket we have. We have the most talented and diverse group of candidates ever. And we’re going to win!”
His running mate, Collette, would be the first African American on the Board of County Commissioners if elected in November. Hayes would be only the second woman to be elected surrogate in Cape May County.
Donohue said he believes the CapeGOP has a winning slate for the fall. He said getting over 150 people to come out for the special convention on short notice was a sign of the “dedication and enthusiasm of Cape May County Republicans in the 2023 election.”
“Now it is time to do what we do: Run full speed through Election Day in November and bring home victories for all of our candidates,” Donohue said.
Currently, the Cape May County Democratic organization has endorsed Patricia O’Connor for county commissioner and Beverly McCall for surrogate. Eddie Bonner and Damita White-Morris, both of Cumberland County, will challenge Assemblymen Erik Simonsen and Antwan McClellan (both R-1st) for their seats this fall.
Barr was born and raised in Ocean City, where he still lives with his mother and brother. He graduated from Ocean City High School in 1999 and was engaged in career counseling when he was accepted to do an internship with then-Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew. He said the experience piqued his interest in politics, and he eventually was elected to Ocean City Council, where he was in his second term until being selected to fill the county commission seat vacated by Hayes. He served as council president for two years.
Outside of politics, Barr sold timeshares for a while before obtaining a real estate license, which he still holds. Barr has also been involved with various volunteer boards and commissions.
“I enjoy giving back to the community,” Barr said.
Barr became chairman of the Ocean City Housing Authority and was a member of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission for six years. He is also on the Regional Family Support Planning Council (RFSPC), which helps the families of people with disabilities. He said as someone with cerebral palsy, this is an issue that is very near and dear to his heart. Barr said he is a state liaison to the First District legislators’ office for the RFSPC.
“Cape May County often gets the short end of the stick – and it’s really bad for people with disabilities,” Barr said.
Barr is also a member of the Exchange Club in Ocean City.
When asked about his decision to put his name in for consideration to be appointed to fill Hayes’ seat on the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners, he said for him, the matter came up three weeks ago when Gov. Phil Murphy appointed Hayes to fill the surrogate’s seat. Barr said Ocean City was interested in keeping a local representative on the county commission to advocate for Ocean City – as Hayes did.
“I reached out to the chairman and asked about the process to be selected,” Barr said.
He was told to submit a letter of intent and the process began, leading up to his being elected by the Cape May County Republican Committee.
Barr was appointed to fill Hayes’ unexpired term and, if successful in November, will serve a full three-year term.
“I can’t wait to dig in, roll my sleeves up, and get to work,” he said.
For at least the rest of this term, he will take over the department Hayes oversaw as commissioner. He said if he is successfully reelected, he might get some new departments.
“If I’m lucky enough to be there,” he said.
Barr said he is still getting used to the idea of becoming a member of the county governing body, but he is already intent on working at stopping the Ocean Wind project.
“My town is front and center in this fight,” he said.
Barr is also very intent on doing more for people with disabilities in Cape May County. He believes the county does a good job but can always do better, especially when it comes to getting more from the state.
“We are forgotten sometimes by the State of New Jersey,” he said. “We have to make our own way.”
He said he wants to bring the office of county commissioner to the people, saying that a lot of people don’t even know what they do. He would like to get into the community and educate the public about their county government and the services it provides.