Bills, pens — and the mouth that roared: Egenton jokes about his 30 years in Trenton

When you’ve spent 30 years in Trenton, serving as the top lobbyist for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce through 15 legislative sessions and eight governors, it’s hard to pick out a highlight.

So, Mike Egenton went the comedy route.

Yes, there were the pens he received from Govs. Christie Whitman, Jon Corzine and Chris Christie after the signing of important bills involving Brownfields, licensed site remediation professionals and the Transportation Trust Fund. And he still has copies of the measures framed in his office.

But, nothing beats the first time you get yelled at by a legislator.

Egenton, who celebrates 30 years Friday, was holding back the laughs as he told the story about an encounter with former legislator (and now longtime friend) Bill Gormley from Atlantic City.

Egenton, new on the job, was in the State House when he was approached by Gormley, who he only knew by reputation.

“Back in the day, he was known to have a temper,” Egenton joked.

So much so, that the news outlet Politicker once made buttons that said: “I got yelled at by Bill Gormley.”

Egenton kind of remembers it was about a bill involving a solid waste issue. He definitely remembers the moment.

“I walked into the State House and saw him — and his eyes lit up,” Egenton recalled. “He started coming over to me and all I could hear in my head was the theme from ‘Jaws’ as he approached.

“Then, he just let it go.”

A few of the regulars in the Rotunda, including Jim Benton of the Petroleum Counsel, came over after and offered condolences — and a few wisecracks — about the big moment.

Egenton wondered what he had gotten himself into — “I was kind of in shock,” he said — and he wondered when he would have to see Gormley again.

The moment came quickly.

A week later, the chamber had its annual open house. Egenton calls it the “funny end game” of the story.

The event, then held behind the chamber’s office, brought all the legislators. And, wouldn’t you know it, as Egenton is standing there networking — here comes Gormley.

And the “Jaws” theme.

Except, this time, it was a different movie. And, like “Jaws II,” the sequel was silly rather than scary.

“He comes over to me, puts his arm around me, and says: ‘Hey, we’re good, buddy boy, right? We’re friends, right?’” Egenton said.

“I said, ‘Yeah.’

“He said: ‘OK, good, I’ll see you at the State House. Great party.’”

It was a lesson in Trenton.

“One week they love you, the next week they’re mad at you,” Egenton said. “And Bill and I have been great friends ever since.”