“Most people don’t know there’s a lieutenant governor,” said Kim Guadagno at a recent meeting of The Present Day Club. She was referring to the newly-created job she has held since 2010.
“There’s no job description; no salary; and no office,” she reported. “Every day I go to work and do something new and different. The rule is that there are no rules.”
At least two aspects of Ms. Guadagno’s job delight her. One is driving into New Jersey and seeing her name at the bottom of the “Welcome to New Jersey” sign. The other is working for Governor Chris Christie.
“I’m lucky,” she said. “This is a really conservative governor who didn’t want to create more government, add more space, or pay another staff member.” As a result, she and Mr. Christie “looked around the State House” and concluded that Ms. Guadagno should also serve as Secretary of State. In that capacity, she acquired an existing office and has responsibilities related to “culture, arts, history, travel, and tourism.”
“The governor is never wrong,” said Ms. Guadagno, “I do anything the governor tells me to do.” Her job as second-in-command is a “reactive office,” she said, except when Mr. Christie is out of state and she becomes acting governor. She made light of the instance last year when both she and Mr. Christie were out of state at the same time and heavy snow fell in New Jersey. “We’re now very careful to check each other’s schedules,” she noted.
Ms. Guadagno said that she had not followed “your traditional trajectory to public office.” After graduating from American University Law School in 1983, she began her public career as a federal prosecutor, working in Brooklyn for the Organized Crime and Racketeering Strike Force. When she and her husband, Mike, moved to New Jersey, she joined the United States Attorney’s office in Newark, and later went on to serve as assistant attorney general and deputy director of the Division of Criminal Justice. In 2007, Ms. Guadagno became the first female sheriff of Monmouth County. She does not rule out a second term as lieutenant governor if Mr. Christie is reelected. Either way, she plans to return to private practice when her stint in office is over.
“It’s about the next generation,” said Ms. Guadagno in her comments about economic development in New Jersey. She prides herself on having spoken with “thousands of business people” and cutting through “red tape” by freely circulating her email address and cell phone number. Responding to a question about why the governor chose not to participate in the tunnel project known as ARC (Access to the Region’s Core), Ms. Guadagno said that as it was planned, this “train to nowhere” stood to benefit only New York City. “If they stepped up to the table to pick up more of the cost we’d have done it,” she added.
The Present Day Club is a private women’s club established in 1898 as “an intellectual and social center of thought and action among the women of Princeton.” Located at 72 Stockton Street, membership in the club, which is by invitation only, includes a Wednesday luncheon and invited speaker; bridge tournaments; theater trips, guided day trips, and a book club. The facilities and food service are available for private parties and business functions.
For more information call (609) 924-1014 or write to THEPRESENTDAY@aol.com.