As my 16 years in the U.S. Congress have now ended, completing a total of 25 years in elected office, I have been reflecting on how grateful I am for those years of public service.
In 1982, as a 29-year-old lawyer, wanting very much to help lead my hometown of Englewood in its renaissance, I ran for and was elected twice as Mayor. Those years were truly a labor of love. Working with my neighbors, we were able to fix many things and help set Englewood on its path to renewal.
In 1992, I was asked by the Democratic Party to run for the elected office of Bergen County Surrogate Court Judge. I served in that capacity for three years and helped with the modernization of the Court. Then, in 1996, I was encouraged to seek the open congressional seat for the Ninth Congressional District of New Jersey, which included Englewood. I wanted to be of service to even more people, and to my country. Eight terms in Congress later, on January 3, 2013, my life’s journey into elected public office concluded.
For the past 16 years, I have been privileged to fight for and serve my congressional constituents as well as work for the national good. Locally, saving the last 8,400 acres of the Hackensack Meadowlands from development, keeping Teterboro Airport from becoming another hyper-busy La Guardia-type airport, and bringing home unprecedented billions in federal money for vital local and regional projects, have been of special interest.
In particular, I have brought resources to every one of our area’s local hospitals, help to local businesses small and large, appropriations for our transportation and other aging infrastructure, advocacy for tax and comprehensive immigration reform, funding for school safety and our first responders, and continuous support for reasonable gun control laws. I have also been deeply involved in helping our veterans, protecting our homeland and national security, facilitating Iron Dome and U.S.-Israel missile defense projects, fighting for economic progress and fairness, health care improvements for seniors, the insured and the uninsured, for gender and marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose, clean air and water, smart land and energy use and conservation, medical research, and the humane treatment of animals.
My support of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 2008, serving as his Northeast Co-Chair and campaigning for him around the country—the only Member of Congress from New Jersey to endorse him in the Primary—was something of which I am also very proud. I believe that history will remember Barack Obama not only for his deliberative and smart accomplishments as President, but for the permanent and positive effects the mere fact of his presidency has had on the psyche and character of America.
Aside from these legislative and advocacy achievements, I am so proud of my Constituent Service staff who have helped literally hundreds of thousands of our neighbors. I am also thankful, and was made better and wiser, for having met and spoken with so many at schools, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, cultural centers, supermarkets, factories, senior citizen centers, veterans halls, rallies and at the more than 150 town hall meetings I conducted, as well as with our troops who shared their time and their stories on my visits to war zones and other places abroad and at home.
I end my political career with heartfelt thanks towards every single person who has provided me with opportunities to learn and be of service, as well as to so many of my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle for your support and friendship. I continue to believe that elected public service is noble and important. Our democracy, in fact, depends on it. Such work is certainly challenging, but I leave elected office with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
You see, I have been able, for 25 years, to engage in helping solve my neighbors’ problems and protecting my beloved country. No greater honor or gift can be received by anyone.