Gonzalez, former head of NJBIA, passes at 86

Master of legislative process, he had long career as executive director of Assembly Republican Office before working at NJBIA for two decades

Joseph Gonzalez, a former executive director of the Assembly Republican Office and the influential former head of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, has passed away. He was 86.

Known for his mastery of the legislative process, Gonzalez served as the executive director of the Assembly Republican Office from 1970-83, including a stretch where he was the top staffer of then-Assembly Speaker and future Gov. Tom Kean.

Gonzalez was most influential in the business community when he worked at the NJBIA from 1983-2003, serving first as its top lobbyist and then as its president in 1996-2003.

Under his leadership, NJBIA won many legislative victories, including the passage of a landmark “brownfields” law to encourage the redevelopment of old industrial sites.

Gonzalez also is credited with starting the association’s research arm, the New Jersey Policy Research Organization — and launching the annual “Made in New Jersey Day” at the State House, where manufacturers display their Jersey-made products to the governor and lawmakers.

Current NJBIA CEO Michele Siekerka said Gonzalez had a huge impact and influence on the organization.

“The NJBIA family, both past and present, mourns the passing of Joe Gonzalez,” she said. “Joe was an accomplished and influential executive, who carried the torch of leadership for New Jersey’s business community that we proudly hold up today.

“During his tenure, NJBIA experienced growth in its membership, outreach and depth of research that supported its influential advocacy. To go along with his considerable achievements in Trenton and in business, Joe was also incredibly well-liked and a gentleman.

“I appreciated his support and well-wishes when I arrived at NJBIA, and heard so many positive stories about Joe over the years from those who knew him best and worked with him. He was indeed a class act.”