Parsippany resident and Montville Township Public Library Board Attorney Ann Grossi has had a number of titles: lawyer, councilwoman, Morris County freeholder. Now, she is giving up her freeholder seat to run for another position: Morris County Clerk.
With Joan Bramhall's Friday announcement that she will not run for a fourth term, three area Republicans have indicated interest: Morristown Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, county Freeholder Douglas R. Cabana, of Boonton, and Grossi.
"It's a different focus than being an elected official in a legislative or policymaking capacity," Grossi said of the shift between freeholder and clerk. "I have the administrative experience to run the office efficiently. I could do a good job during elections when legal issues come up such as that with Hank Lyon, which can save the county money. My legal background would be a benefit."
While the freeholder talked of running for re-election as recently as Nov. 6, she said she has viewed the clerk's position as an ideal use of her skills for "quite some time."
"I didn't think that the the clerk was going to retire so soon," Grossi told Patch. "A few months ago, when she was asked, she was still running, so it was shocking to me that she changed her mind. It was a surprise.
"I thought maybe within the next five years she might step down and that would have been an opportunity," she continued. If I don't do it now it won't happen again for another 10 to 15 years. I'm not 20, I don't have another 10 to 15 years to wait. At different times in your life you make different decisions."
She added that a number of people—she would not name them—have supported her idea to run for the clerk's job.
"They have told me I'd be great in the job, which helped me define where I'm going this year," she said.
Grossi said that serving as county clerk would allow her to work for the people, make a contribution and still be involved.
"I'm not vanishing," she said. "I still intend to be involved with the Republican committee and attend events in the town and the county."
She has high praise for the outgoing clerk.
"I think Joan has done a wonderful job at what she does," Grossi said. "A lot of what's done is automated now, and that's a credit to her."
Bramhall is more than a potential predecessor, she said.
"She broke the barrier for women in a lot of areas in Morris County," Grossi explained. "Joan had a great influence in the county and has paved the way for women in politics."
Grossi said that should she win, she will look at the mechanics of the clerk's office to determine whether any change is necessary.
"I'm not one of these people who makes change because I can make change," she said. "If something is working well, I would not change it."
Grossi said the clerk's office may be the next logical step in her work as a public servant.
"It's the county in a different way: I would not have to come to a consensus with six other people if i wanted to get things done," she said. "I would make the decisions in the best interests of the people in the course I set out on my own.
"That seems very appealing to me."
But she said she will miss serving with her colleagues on the fifth floor of the county administrative building in Morristown.
"I really like being a freeholder, the things i was doing," Grossi said. "I like the administrative part of it, working on the insurance commission (workers compensation and tort cases). I found it very fulfilling when I could use my legal background to the benefit of the county government and the people of Morris County. I like that it's a nice congenial atmosphere. Everybody treats everyone with respect."
Still, she said she is approaching the future with excitement.
"I'm a people person, and in elections, with being responsible for every document that needs to be filed in the county, that's an awesome responsibility," Grossi said. "All the archives, the historical documents... I know I would just love being there working with everybody.
"I'm taking a risk, but I would have to run for re-election as freeholder this year anyway," she said. "There's never a guarantee, though I'm pretty confident that i would be re-elected. People know me, and I think I could easily segue that into the clerk's position."