I’m not gonna lie, this is a tough day for me. An emotional day.
But here it is: After a half-century in the Legislature, it’s time for me to say goodbye. My service to the state of New Jersey and its great people will end when this legislative session concludes at the end of the year.
Now, listen, before you get any ideas, no, I am not dying … but if you or someone you know is, please call Codey Funeral Home in Caldwell or Codey & Mackey in Boonton. (What, you thought I was gonna stop telling jokes on this of all days?)
Seriously, it has been an incredible run and I’m lucky and grateful to have my health. I won my first race in November of 1973 and was sworn in the following January, making it a perfect 50-year circle we’re closing.
I’ve been your Assemblyman, your Senator and your Governor.
Now, it’s time to trade all those trips to Trenton for more time as a husband, father and grandpa. I’ll still be running my businesses — an insurance agency and those funeral homes — but I’m ready for something different.
Because it’s time.
Time to step aside and watch the next generation do their thing.
I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to have served the people of this state, especially those of you in the City of Orange and my neighbors in Essex and Morris counties. I’m grateful for the friendships I have made with my colleagues. And I’m grateful for the love, support and patience of my family, especially my wife, Mary Jo, and my sons, Kevin and Christopher.
The people have always been the best part of every job I’ve had. I was born and raised in a funeral home, and that life taught me lessons that served me well as I served you.
How to listen. How to be compassionate. How to help.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done in the Legislature — as New Jersey’s longest-serving legislator — and during my time as New Jersey’s 53rd governor.
I’ve fought to pass laws that matter to all New Jerseyans, especially people who don’t always have a voice or the ability to be heard. From mental health and addiction services to bans on indoor smoking and championing our toughest-in-the-nation gun laws. I’ve fought for who and what I believe in, even when it wasn’t easy. I’ve made lifelong friends and lifelong enemies — and I’m proud of both lists!
As I prepare to step away, please know you all gave me a lifetime of rewards big and small. I loved speaking with people and helping people, even when a staffer or a State Trooper was pushing me out a door toward another commitment.
That’s the thing about funeral directors and legislators. They’re always on the job, and you can’t allow yourself to be pushed out a door when people are hurting or need someone to hear them. I have always loved listening to you.
Some of my best memories — my dearest memories — are wandering into a diner late at night after a legislative session or a basketball game. So often I’d meet someone who recognized me and wanted to know if I could help. I’d order a piece of lemon meringue pie and pick at it while I listened. You can’t believe the connections and friendships I forged over lemon meringue pie. Those connections are why I will stay deeply engaged in the community.
Fifty years is a long time. I have seen a lot of changes in the Legislature and the governor’s office. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of public service. Public service is about making a difference in the lives of people. It’s about working together to create a better future for everyone.
I’ll miss that — the hope and promise of doing something great for people every day.
And I’ll miss you — the people who voted for me and the people who didn’t. You made me better as a legislator and as a person.
So after 50 years, let me say this: There can be no greater privilege than representing people who trust you as you have trusted me.
God Bless you all.