“Governor Jim Florio was my friend, colleague and mentor. He provided a path for me and countless others as South Jersey’s biggest advocate over the last 50 years, riding that advocacy directly into the Governor’s mansion in 1990. Jim, or Governor, as we all knew him, was a Navy man, amateur boxer and avid runner who changed the course of politics in New Jersey and led the way in progressive policy for more than 30 years from his home in Camden County. He was a Rutgers-Camden Law School graduate and his first job was just up the street from campus for the Mayor of Camden as an assistant city solicitor in 1968. Governor Florio’s bio is well known; he had the last fiscally responsible budget in modern era, took a tough and popular stance against guns and the National Rifle Association and crafted the greatest environmental public policy from anyone in Congress in the last 50 years. He is one of the biggest reasons Campbell’s Soup still operates their global headquarters in Camden City and one person who never gave up hope for the city.
For me as a young Democrat, many moons ago, with peers like Congressman Donald Norcross, Governor Florio inspired us. He showed us that the policies and execution of good government can have a positive impact on lives of our neighbors. We saw in him the will and the way to improve and enhance our community through city hall, the state legislature, the U.S. Capitol and finally the Governor’s mansion. Those lessons stick with us today and are in my mind whenever I come to City Hall in Camden City on behalf of our residents.
Governor Florio was smart, articulate and driven to help people. He was a man of integrity that believed that everyone deserved a fair shake, whether it was kids going to school in poorly funded school districts throughout the state or residents living next to environmental degradation left by companies that picked up and moved to Mexico. He never forgot that mentality of being a boxer- he was going to fight for South Jersey, he was going to fight for the kids that deserved a better classroom, he was going to fight to cleanup a waterway that had paint products dumped in it for decades to protect residents, he was going to fight for South Jersey. That was the Governor Florio I knew and that our commissioners knew. That was the Governor who continued to come into the office to practice law every day until last night through his 85th year.
That said, even at Governor Florio’s age he was an ongoing fixture in the region and statewide. He was still attending Governor Murphy’s state of the state addresses and was a fixture on television. He was a symbol of what politics was and could be. And for that, we owe him and his family a debt of gratitude for the long sleepless nights of pushing and fighting for the little guy who didn’t have a voice in the halls of power; Governor Florio was that voice.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Governor Florio’s wife Lucinda, his children and all his extended family in this time of loss.