The Burlington County Board of Freeholders' last meeting of the year yesterday was also the final one for longtime members William S. Haines and James K. Wujcik, who expect to continue serving the community even after leaving their elected posts.
Haines, 56, owns a cranberry farm and is expanding his operations in Chile. He began as a freeholder 15 years ago.
Wujcik, 52, is senior vice president of Sovereign Bank and has been in office for 12 years.
The pair, Republicans who became close friends while on the board, each cited business reasons for the decision not to seek another three-year term in November.
"They were tireless," Vince Farias, who served as a freeholder from 1992 to 2006, said in a telephone interview. "You see the different lifestyles that they have . . . but the thing they both have in common was their work ethic and integrity."
Haines, a Medford resident, was always a steward of the land, while Wujcik's passion was public safety, Farias said.
Haines' legacy is the transformation of Burlington County through the preservation of thousands of acres of farmland and open space. He fought for a dedicated county tax on property owners - approved by voters in 1996 and 1998 - to pay for it.
The county program had preserved 6,452 acres of farmland and acquired 252 acres of open space around the time Haines joined the board. Since then, an additional 16,313 farm acres have been preserved and an additional 3,243 acres of open space have been acquired.
"It's a staggering figure," Wujcik said at yesterday's meeting, adding that most of the efforts were under Haines' "guidance, direction, and drive."
Haines' efforts also led to the creation of the county parks department in 1999. Yesterday, he accepted a national award from the Victorian Society in America on behalf of the county for its restoration efforts at historic Smithville Park, a former industrial village in Eastampton and the centerpiece of the county parks system.
Wujcik was appointed to fill the spot of a departing freeholder in mid-1997.
Top contributions by Wujcik, a former firefighter, include the creation of a well-regarded emergency-services training center in Westampton and a new emergency-communications system.
Haines said at the meeting that Wujcik's vision to develop those services "has made a difference in this county. Something will happen . . . and we'll be prepared for it."
Wujcik said he wanted to spend more time working with Samaritan Hospice, where he is a board member. The Cinnaminson resident is also vice chair of the Economic League of Greater Philadelphia.
Haines said he was looking to continue land-preservation efforts through a family foundation and also had been asked to serve on the board of directors of the New Jersey Agricultural Land Trust.
"I don't think I'll ever retire from public service, and neither will Bill," Wujcik said.
Also leaving is County Administrator Gus Mosca, for whom a replacement has not yet been found. The freeholders' departure leaves behind a far less experienced board.
Freeholder Director Joseph Donnelly was elected in 2007, and Chris Brown and Mary Anne Reinhart - the board's first Democrats in 25 years - in 2008. Joining them next year will be Republicans Bruce Garganio and Mary Ann O'Brien, elected last month.