On a day when Trenton usually celebrates its newly sworn-in members, the Statehouse was instead mourning the death of Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Whippany), who died Monday night.
In comments made at a subdued reorganization session this afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie called DeCroce “a source of all that is good in politics and public service,” adding that he had no closer friend in Trenton.
Christie said DeCroce worked to improve Morris County through his real estate business, DeCroce & Gallo, as a county freeholder and as a legislator.
“For me, Alex was a close family friend and a mentor for almost 20 years,” said Christie, a Mendham Township resident, who credited DeCroce with helping him get his start in elected office as a freeholder.
Christie’s remarks to the Legislature were delivered in lieu of his annual State of the State address, which will be delivered at a later date.
Christie noted DeCroce’s leadership role in advancing transportation policy, including sponsoring the reauthorization of the transportation trust fund.
The governor read some of the remarks DeCroce had prepared for the day, highlighting the importance of working across the partisan aisle, as “we owe our constituents nothing less.”
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), the Republican caucus leader, said before the reorganization ceremony that the caucus was in deep mourning.
“When you spend hours with another person, and you see his honesty and loyalty and friendship and measured response to things, you take it for granted,” Bramnick said.
Bramnick said DeCroce had a deep understanding of business issues from operating his real estate company.
“More importantly, he was a kind and decent person, and he was also a businessman — and when you put those two things together, it just doesn’t get any better than that,” Bramnick said.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-East Orange) said there will be a memorial to DeCroce in the future.
“We will all deal with his loss and we will have a fitting tribute,” Oliver said at the beginning of the reorganization.
Assembly Minority Whip David Rible (R-Wall Township) said Bramnick, DeCroce and he worked extraordinarily closely together.
“Jon and Alex and I were a tight team, which was unusual,” Rible said. “We’ll continue to move on, but without Alex, it will be tough.”
In the business world, it may be DeCroce’s impact as the former chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee where he had the largest legacy.
“He gave tremendous time and energy to try to understand the industry, and it paid off for New Jersey,” said Robert Briant Jr., CEO of the New Jersey Utility Transportation Contractors Association. “Alex was just such a leader, someone we depended on, and (he was) honest.”
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Thomas A. Bracken recalled a trip to Washington, D.C., he made with DeCroce that resulted in the state receiving more federal transportation aid than they planned to ask for due in part to DeCroce’s efforts.
“Alex DeCroce was, in my estimation, one of the best legislators the state of New Jersey ever had,” Bracken said.
New Jersey Business & Industry Association President Philip Kirschner said DeCroce would be sorely missed as a champion of business issues.
“Alex was one of the most decent people in the Legislature that I have ever met in my entire career,” Kirschner said. DeCroce was “knowledgeable about the issues and really cared about the economy of this state, and making sure that we really created as many jobs as possible.”