Craig Allen: New Jersey Governors I have met, plus stories
With Phil Murphy taking the oath of office for the second time, I got to thinking about the Governors that I have met since the mid-1980s.
Fair warning: If you are hoping that I am going to get political and bash any of them, you are going to be disappointed. I started my radio career as a news reporter, and I am going to maintain my objectivity here.
In the late '80s, I was working at the first station do to "Ask The Governor." The State Police would lock down the building about an hour before broadcast time. Staff wore station I-D badges, and it was pretty tense. Then, Governor Kean would breeze in.
Tom Kean: During the show, he was all business. Beforehand, he was easy to engage in conversation. Once, I was rather surprised at how casual it could be. While setting up the studio, I asked: "What did you do today, Governor?" Kean smiled, and said that some old friends had stopped by the statehouse for the afternoon, and "we were just ****in' around." I maintained a poker face, while mentally asking: Did the governor just drop an f-bomb?
Jim Florio: He was all business, on and off the show. Once, when I received my renewal driver's license, I was shocked to find that my birth date was "00" rather than "25." Should I notify the DMV? I decided to ask the governor. Florio looked at my license, and said: "I wouldn't worry about it." And, I didn't. But, I always felt that I had extra incentive to avoid any "police activity."
Christie Whitman: While I was living and working in Philadelphia during her tenure, we did meet. As a new radio reporter in 1985, I interviewed her when she was a Somerset County Freeholder. Once, I remember seeing her at a Freeholder meeting in a checkered skirt and sporting pigtails. Very different from the Christie Whitman we saw on national TV in November 2000, counting hanging chads in Florida. Remember?
When Governor Whitman took a job with the Bush administration, Donald DiFrancesco became Acting Governor. I was still out of state and never met him.
Jim McGreevy: Again, it's back to the future in 1985. On my first night covering the Woodbridge Township Council, the print reporters helped me get up to speed: "See the young guy? That's Jim McGreevy. He's ambitious. It wouldn't surprise me if he ran for governor one day." And, it came to pass. Flash forward to 2003. I'm a New Jersey 101.5 personality. Rushing out the studio door, Governor McGreevy spies me. He asks my name, and shakes my hand, saying: "Very nice to meet you!" With that, he's gone. And, we know what happened shortly thereafter.
About 5 or 6 years ago, I was engineering one of our New Jersey 101.5 Town Hall shows, dealing with the drug epidemic. One of the guest experts was...Jim McGreevy. After the show, I walked up to the former governor, and said: "Governor, I have a story for you." He laughed when I shared this story with him.
Dick Codey: I was standing inches from the Acting Governor, as he and a former afternoon host almost came to blows. It was surreal.
Jon Corzine: Then-Senator Corzine was seated directly across from me, as I engineered the 2005 New Jersey Radio Network Gubernatorial Debate. When his opponent made a remark that Corzine took exception to, he'd look up from his legal pad, make eye contact with me, and shake his head. Governor Corzine was seldom seen at New Jersey 101.5.
Chris Christie: First, he signed a pledge (on a paper plate) that if elected, he would do "Ask The Governor" every month for 4 years. He even came in for an "Ask The Governor-Elect Show." After that show, as I was still running the news and commercial breaks, Christie came around behind the board to shake my hand, and thank me for helping.
Like Tom Kean, Chris Christie was a governor who was easy to engage in conversation.
After the August 2011 show...
...I pulled the governor aside and asked if I could get a quick picture. "Absolutely!"
One more Chris Christie story: A few summers ago, I'm on vacation in Ocean City, and the governor is holding a Town Hall meeting. I attend...and, afterward, as he is leaving, shaking hands along the rope line, he shakes my hand. I don't know what possessed me to reach out, as Christie is surrounded by State Troopers, but I put my hand on the governor's shoulder to get his attention, and I say: "I'm the OTHER guy who engineers the ATG Show." He pauses, looks, and his eyes get as big as saucers. He says: "Of course...I didn't recognize you...different context! See you soon!"
Phil Murphy: So far, it's been 4 years without meeting the current Governor.
Now, there's still time. We'll see.
Whether as a news reporter or as a radio programmer, it's been a privilege to meet so many New Jersey Governors.