I can be called one of those “double dippers”. Since “hiding” things about my public life is not comfortable for me, here goes:
After spending approximately 35 years in full time public service as an Assistant Bergen County Administrator, Legislative Director and then an Assemblywoman and now a Senator, (paying my portion into the pension during that entire period) I decided to finally apply for my public pension. Of course, I could have done that some 5 to 10 years earlier, but since I had enjoyed the fruits of a family business built with my husband, and had some good investments (or so I thought), I never looked into that “pension thing”.
After a major financial setback resulting from my so-called “Financial Advisor” investing all my money (including my IRA) with a man I never heard of (read: Bernie Madoff) a colleague suggested that I would most likely qualify for my pension. Based on age, number of years in the “system”, and the years I spent as a full time Bergen County employee etc. I was informed I could formally retire, finally collect my pension and still continue as a State Legislator. So at age 75, I decided it was time and financially necessary.
I am now paid $49,000 for being a State Senator and about $36,000 annually in my state pension. Though I never went in to public service to make money, I am grateful for this income at this time of my life, because of the situation Bernie Madoff created for me. I never thought about hiding any of this, but the news about the Essex County Executive and the Cape May Surrogate has made me feel awkward. The circumstances might be very different, but the result is essentially the same.
So there you have it. I am not apologizing for any decisions I made. And it is legal! My public life, along with my personal disclosure forms, have been appropriately transparent. But I’ll probably be more than usually interested in the comments section of today’s column.
Now on to another subject! The Democratic map was accepted. Some districts will be a bit more competitive, but I feel confident that we will maintain majorities in both houses of the legislature. “Assemblyman” Jeff Gardner also does have a nice ring to it!
As the Senator from District 37, I know I’m sorry to lose Bergenfield from our district. This town was finally coming together with Mayor Timothy Driscoll and the incumbent council and turning its back on the old leadership who were so responsible for the issues around my selection as a State Senator. We’re also losing Ridgefield Park which is home to a great group of citizens and the wonderful Mayor Fosdick, along with a terrific 4th of July parade. Maywood is another town we will miss.
But it’s going to be fun and interesting to welcome back Ft. Lee which was part of the district 10 years ago along with the new communities of Northvale, Cresskill, Alpine and Rockleigh.
So here we go into another election season, facing tough budget problems, new towns, protecting collective bargaining, and speaking up for those who need government the most. I am glad Drumthwacket is being bathed in blue lights to call attention to autism awareness month, but restoring money for early intervention services for autistic children is infinitely more important.
Keep your voices heard!