Codey, fixture of state politics for nearly 50 years, announces retirement — with emotion (and humor)

Longtime state senator (who also served as governor) won contested primary election earlier this year

Sen. Richard Codey. (File photo)

Dick Codey, a fixture in New Jersey politics for nearly 50 years — serving as an assemblyman, state senator and governor — announced Monday that he is retiring.

“I’m not gonna lie, this is a tough day for me — an emotional day,” he posted on Facebook.

“But, here it is: After a half-century in the Legislature, it’s time for me to say goodbye. My service to the state of New Jersey and its great people will end when this legislative session concludes at the end of the year.”

What awaits? Life as a private citizen. And Codey (D-Livingston) joked that he’s got plenty of living left to do.

“Now, listen, before you get any ideas, no, I am not dying … but if you or someone you know is, please call Codey Funeral Home in Caldwell or Codey & Mackey in Boonton,” he wrote.

“Seriously, it has been an incredible run and I’m lucky and grateful to have my health. I won my first race in November of 1973 and was sworn in the following January, making it a perfect 50-year circle we’re closing.

“I’ve been your assemblyman, your senator and your governor. Now, it’s time to trade all those trips to Trenton for more time as a husband, father and grandpa. I’ll still be running my businesses — an insurance agency and those funeral homes — but I’m ready for something different.”


“Because it’s time.

“Time to step aside and watch the next generation do their thing.”

Many will question why Codey did not do this earlier. This summer, he defeated state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) in the Essex County district they suddenly shared due to redistricting.

Codey, in his statement, expressed his gratitude for the ability to serve.

“I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to have served the people of this state, especially those of you in the city of Orange and my neighbors in Essex and Morris counties,” he said. “I’m grateful for the friendships I have made with my colleagues. And I’m grateful for the love, support and patience of my family, especially my wife, Mary Jo, and my sons, Kevin and Christopher.

“The people have always been the best part of every job I’ve had. I was born and raised in a funeral home, and that life taught me lessons that served me well as I served you.

“How to listen. How to be compassionate. How to help.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done in the Legislature — as New Jersey’s longest-serving legislator — and during my time as New Jersey’s 53rd governor.”

Codey served as governor for 14 months (from Nov. 16, 2004, to Jan. 17, 2006) following the resignation of Jim McGreevey. He returned the Senate rather than run in the general election, which was won by Jon Corzine.

In making his announcement, Codey said he was proud of all he did in both roles.

“I’ve fought to pass laws that matter to all New Jerseyans, especially people who don’t always have a voice or the ability to be heard,” he said. “From mental health and addiction services to bans on indoor smoking and championing our toughest-in-the-nation gun laws. I’ve fought for who and what I believe in, even when it wasn’t easy. I’ve made lifelong friends and lifelong enemies — and I’m proud of both lists.”

On this day, his friends honored him.

State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sparta), who also is retiring at the end of the term, welcomed Codey to the club.

“Gov. Codey was a man of extraordinary skill as a legislator who served our state with distinction and was New Jersey to the core,” Oroho said. “He loves our state and the people and places that make it up and used his time in government to try to make it better for everyone. No doubt my colleagues and I in the senate will fondly remember his humor, which he often used to diffuse tense moments.

“So, I welcome Gov. Codey in the walk toward retirement from public service as we both begin a new chapter with more family time.”

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Madison), his legislative partner, said Codey’s profound commitment to the betterment of New Jersey stands as a beacon of inspiration for all future public servants.

“His unwavering dedication to our great state, spanning half a century, is a testament to his passion,” he said. “His impactful legislative achievements have significantly improved the lives of countless New Jerseyans and have left an indelible mark on the fabric of New Jersey politics.”

Codey said his time has come.

“Fifty years is a long time,” he wrote. “I have seen a lot of changes in the Legislature and the Governor’s Office. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of public service. Public service is about making a difference in the lives of people. It’s about working together to create a better future for everyone.

“I’ll miss that — the hope and promise of doing something great for people every day.

“And I’ll miss you — the people who voted for me and the people who didn’t. You made me better as a legislator and as a person.

“So, after 50 years, let me say this: There can be no greater privilege than representing people who trust you as you have trusted me.

“God bless you all.”