Telling It Like It Is: N.J.’s Governor Christie Can Be Counted On To Speak His Mind
By Ellen Gilbert // Photography Courtesy of the Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s responses to the fire in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park area on September 12 were typically visceral. It’s “heart-wrenching,” he told Princeton Magazine just two days after the devastating conflagration that destroyed entire blocks and swaths of boardwalk still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy last October. Upon first hearing about the fire, Christie told his staff that he felt like “throwing up.”
In an age where most politicians are micro-managed by spin-doctors, the 50-year old governor is candid about being so, well, candid. “My mother used to tell me all the time, ‘Christopher, be yourself, because if you’re not, you are going to have to worry tomorrow about remembering who you pretended to be yesterday.’”
Christie’s bluntness is probably not unrelated to his deeply-felt passion for his home state, and his apparent delight in his current job. “N.J. is an incredible state,” the Newark native says, noting that it’s where he and his wife, Mary Pat, decided many years ago to raise their family.
Leading a state known for a long and distinguished history was he says, a dream come true. “Every day that I walk into the State House in Trenton, I take a minute to appreciate and realize what an honor it is to be governor,” he says.
In addition to his proclivity for saying what he thinks, Christie’s emotional reactions to the plight of N.J. coastline communities are also based on childhood visits to Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant Beach (“my parents used to save up to take us”). These days he and his family spend “a lot of time” at their beach house on Island Beach State Park.
The tenacity of N.J. coastal residents—and of New Jerseyans in general – is definitely a talking point for the governor. He deflects a question about favorite popular culture personalities (he had state flags flown at half-staff after actor James Gandolfini’s death) by returning to the “toughness, grit and resilience” people showed in the aftermath of Sandy. Touring damaged neighborhoods, some “devastated beyond belief” he saw “neighbors helping neighbors and people coming together to help each other and pick up the pieces.” Scenes like this during the days and months after Sandy constitute his “proudest moments,” and the image of New Jersey he would like other Americans to hold onto.
Christie strikes a similar note as he evokes the “famously independent-minded” New Jersey residents who elected him as the state’s first Republican Governor in 12 years. “Everywhere I went, people told me they were concerned about the future of New Jersey,” he recalls. “Their concerns weren’t Republican or Democratic issues – they were things that everyone of every political stripe worries about.” These included “the economy; providing for their families; putting food on the table; sending their kids to college and having enough money to comfortably retire.” While his administration’s success in addressing these challenges is debatable, his re-election in 2014 appears to be assured.
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