She was elected to the second highest state governmental position with no portfolio, no job description, no salary, and no physical office. On January 19, when #b#Kim Guadagno #/b#was sworn in as New Jersey’s first lieutenant governor, there was not even a chair in all Trenton with her name on it.
Now five months settled into the job, Guadagno handles the daunting challenge of mutually bolstering both her own office and the image of New Jersey as business-friendly. Guadagno discusses how she achieves this in her talk “New Jersey’s Commitment to Economic and Business Development,” at the Princeton Chamber on Thursday, July 8, at 11:30 a.m. at the Princeton Marriott & Conference Center. Cost: $60. Visit www. princetonchamber.org.
From her earliest days, when she was Kimberly Ann McFadden, Guadagno learned how to make her way in new, uncharted areas. “My father managed a series of television stations,” she recalls, “and by the time I graduated from law school, we had lived in 25 states. You just lose count after a while.” Seeking education and residential stability, Guadagno attended Ursinus College, earning her bachelor’s in 1980, and then earned her law degree from the American University in Washington in 1983.
Moving to Brooklyn, Guadagno joined the city’s anti-racketeering squad. While prosecuting criminals, she fell in love with her boss, squad deputy chief Michael Guadagno. In 1991 the couple settled in Monmouth County, where she served as assistant U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey and assistant attorney general.
Serving as deputy director in the Division of Criminal Justice, Guadagno supervised the prosecution of David L. Smith, creator and perpetrator of the “Melissa Computer Virus” which involved $40 million in financial fraud. In 2007, before accepting Chris Christie’s request as running mate, Guadagno was elected as Monmouth County’s first female sheriff.
Although her current office is new, Guadagno says her path has been markedly clear. Much of that came from then-candidate Christie, who, even before selecting a running mate, announced that his lieutenant governor would be in charge of economic development.
#b#Office design#/b#. “The governor and I realized that we could hardly run on a campaign of reduced government, and then come in with another layer of bureaucracy,” says Guadagno. In her first days, the lieutenant governor was also given the duties of the former Secretary of State’s office. Thus, in addition to her economic development charge, she took over purview of the State Council of the Arts, Historical Commission and Cultural Trust; the State Museum; the Veterans Administration board; Americore; the Committee on Aging; and the New Jersey Public Action Committee.
Ensconced “just down the hall” from the governor, Guadagno has adapted well to her two-hat position, lunching with Christie twice a week, and sitting in on many of his endless round of meetings. On her own schedule, she works to put herself and the administration in front of the public at all levels.
“Most of my days are spent making speeches that explain our pro-business policies, talking with people, and calling individual businesses, getting them to come to, or stay in New Jersey.”
A recent, average day, was June 8, when Guadagno journeyed up to Hoboken to attend the opening of Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop — home of the television reality show “Cake Boss,” then tour the city with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, asking residents what they wanted to see happening in their city. The Zimmer Administration just announced an $80,000 grant from the state for improvement of pedestrian and bicycle ways within the city.
#b#Budget culture#/b#. On June 28, when Governor Christie signed his “necessarily painful” budget, almost everyone took issue with some of the cuts. Education and tax rebates each received historically unprecedented slashes in state funding. Guadagno, although expressing no personal preference for any particular state program, noted, “I think I am most proud of our maintaining the funding for the Arts, Historical and Cultural Commission.”
Again this year, the government’s Council on the Arts, Historical Commission and Cultural Trust, provided the full $23 million to art, historic, and cultural venues. The money comes from hotel/motel tax revenues.
Fiscally this should prove a wise choice. Last April Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells testified that the state’s artistic, cultural, and historical assets were greatly responsible for New Jersey’s $38.8 billion tourism industry.
Tourism, New Jersey’s third largest industry, provides 450,000 jobs and accounts for 11 percent of the state’s total employment. Without tourism revenues, Wells said last year, every household in New Jersey would have to pitch in an additional $1,427 to maintain state coffers. Also, the arts and culture are a cash cow in and of themselves, with every dollar appropriated returning roughly two dollars in state tax revenue.
#b#Business boost#/b#. As to her plans for providing the Garden State with a more business friendly image, Guadagno echoes her boss’s sentiments. “The only way to develop business is to create a smaller government, with less taxes on all fronts,” she insists. In keeping with her aim, she has cut 12 slots from the Secretary of State’s office.
Many have argued that New Jersey holds more business attractions than sheer thrift. When asked about the highly educated workforce, the unprecedentedly profitable alternative plans, the roadway networks, and other advantages, Guadagno remarks, “We will always maintain a safety net. Those things will always be available and kept for New Jersey.” She cites that Main Street, which provides renovation funds for small downtowns, and several other business incentives which were saved with full funding.
As she continues to juggle the broad-ranging elements of her secretary of state and lieutenant governor offices, we asked her for advice to any aspirants for her job. “Tell them to get elected in a time when the economy is not so rough,” she laughs.