Monmouth County spokesperson William ‘Bill’ Heine’s absence in the Board of Chosen Freeholders’ meeting room was palpable Thursday.
During his five-year tenure, the 54-year-old Howell resident regularly sat in the audience with other county department heads during freeholder board meetings, fielding questions before and after such sessions from journalists, residents, and freeholders alike. Heine died from a heart attack on Sunday, Sept. 9.
In the first meeting of the county board following the county spokesperson’s death, Freeholder Director John Curley opened the afternoon workshop session in the Hall of Records Building in Freehold by recalling Heine as a “gentle soul.”
“Our family has gone through a very, very difficult period in the loss of our public information officer Bill Heine. Bill was a gently soul who kept us communicative with the public and we miss him dearly,” Curley said. “He had served each and every freeholder in a most fair fashion. He was a family man. He has a lovely wife left behind, Beth, and a son, Matt. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both Beth and Matt. The vacancy in the audience today is great and we are all suffering a great deal.”
During its evening session, the county board suspended the regular committee reports each member contributes at the meeting’s end so board members could discuss Heine’s contributions to the county.
Freeholder Serena DiMaso recalled Heine’s kindness to her and her family when she joined the board in January 2012, which also fell on the day of her mother-in-law’s funeral.
“There really aren’t many words to describe the loss that we all are feeling as a county, as a family in Monmouth County. I joined this family in January. It was on a very hard day for my family. Bill Heine couldn’t have been any kinder or nicer to me, my husband and my children. It is with a very heavy heart that we go through this meeting tonight without Bill,” DiMaso said. “We’re going to miss Bill tremendously.”
Freeholder Tom Arnone said Heine’s passion for serving the county and his friendships in the county made the loss particularly deep. The nature of his work meant that Heine was called upon at all hours, and he did so eagerly, Arnone noted. More than a dedicated employee, Heine was also a friend to many who worked in county government and could be counted on to support whatever projects an official or employee was passionate about.
“We used to go to different events and obviously Bill would always have his camera there for you. I was fortunate this past week to have Bill come to an event that I was at and he was there as a friend,” Arnone said. “He supported this board and everyone of us up here, and past members too, regardless of whether you were a Democrat or a Republican. He was there because he liked being part of this board.”
Curley said Heine used his skills to support projects that were dear to him. He credited Heine with the success of a county food drive in April, which brought in 21,488 pounds of nonperishable food for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
“A gentleman and a consummate professional. You still walk down the hall and expect to see Bill walking down with a camera on his shoulder,” Curley said. “This room is very, very void of that man sitting there.”