By John Celock
New Jersey’s longest serving state Assembly member has passed away.
Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Plainfield) passed away Wednesday at the age of 79 following a long illness. Green’s death brings to a close a state legislative career that began with his 1991 election to the Assembly, making him the longest serving current member of the Assembly.
“Jerry Green was a giant of the Assembly. He loved public policy, always strove to help the least fortunate among us and took great joy in mentoring new members and staff. He was New Jersey’s leading expert on affordable housing, a problem he never stopped trying to solve,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) said in a statement. “His keen insight and advice was sought by countless of his fellow Assembly members – with good reason. He was sharp when it came to politics and policy, a true leader and a model for all to emulate. His wit and sense of humor often helped lighten a long day, yet he took his job as serious as anyone. He never stopped trying to help others. He was tireless.”
Green, the longtime Democratic leader of Plainfield, had recently stepped down as the Democratic Party chairman in Union County due to his illness. He was reelected to the Assembly for his 14th term last year.
Green, a Plainfield businessman, first entered politics in 1981 with his election as a Union County freeholder. He served two non-consecutive terms as a freeholder and was the freeholder board chairman in 1990.
In the Assembly, Green was known for his focus on housing and urban issues, serving as chairman of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee at the time of his death. He was also serving on the Health and Senior Services Committee and the Joint Committee on Housing Affordability when he died.
Green had served as the Assembly speaker pro tempore since 2008 and was deputy speaker pro tempore for four years prior to that.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D), the Assembly speaker from 2010 to 2014, remembered Green as her “partner and confidant” for the four years she led the Assembly.
“From the very first day I walked into the Assembly in 2004, Jerry Green was there to offer words of encouragement and wisdom honed from his years of service to his district and county, and our entire state,” Oliver said in a statement. “His quiet demeanor and understated humor hid a giant of the Legislature who was unafraid to go to the mat for his constituents and the values of equality, fairness, and opportunity he held deep within himself.”
Green had been the longtime Democratic leader in Plainfield, weathering several challenges to his leadership, including a long running battle with Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp (D), who he later formed an alliance with. Mapp and Freeholder Linda Carter (D), a Green protégé, are considered potential successors.
Green’s successor will be picked in a special election convention of 22nd district Democrats in the coming weeks. Given the Democratic base in Plainfield, Green’s successor will likely come from the city. The convention’s pick will serve until a November special election for the remaining year of Green’s term.