BY REBECCA WILLIAMS
Editor’s Note: This piece is reprinted from Councilwoman Rebecca Williams’ blog here.
Assemblyman Jerry Green made a really big difference in Plainfield for nearly 30 years. That is indisputable. However, he made an even bigger difference in the state, as the longest-serving member of the New Jersey Assembly. The important legislation he sponsored and got passed during his 13 terms as a member of the governing body is a testament to his tireless work and commitment, which has changed the lives of countless New Jerseyans for the better.
Now, it’s certainly no secret among local politics-watchers that Assemblyman Green and I had some battles in the past due to differences in how we saw some issues, and they were fiercely waged on both sides for over 15 years (the campaign literature can attest that); however, I always viewed these clashes as necessary, in terms of moving Plainfield forward. I didn’t back down, but neither did Jerry (in private, he was just “Jerry”). Once, after an epic battle royal, we arrived at a truce, of sorts. Jerry said to me, “You know, we’re more alike than you think.” I looked at him, puzzled. “You’re a fighter–like me. No one ever gave you anything. No one ever gave me anything, either. I know you understand that you gotta fight. At the end of the day, you’ll still be standing.”
In 2010, after I won the local Democratic primary for city council running “off the line,” I sat down with the assemblyman (who, at the time, also served as chairman of the local Plainfield Democratic City Committee–the PDCC) and with my running mate, the late Bill Reid, to discuss the fall campaign. Before we started, though, Jerry smiled at me and asked, “Why are we always fighting? We can do a lot of good, working together.” I glanced at Bill, who chuckled. “Well, Chairman,” I replied, “I never came to the party to fight. I know that a lot of good work can be done, and I am ready to do that work.” By eliding his question and focusing on the future, I was able to collaborate with both Jerry and Bill to move ahead–the outcome of the fall election saw me take my seat on the city council in January of 2011.
Further political battles (as well as collaborations) ensued in the intervening years but, in 2016, when I was nominated by the PDCC as the candidate for the citywide seat, Jerry gave his approval as Union County Democratic Chairman (to which he had been elected in 2013). After I won, I saw him after my affirmation in January of 2017, and he held out his hand to congratulate me. In the months after that, I saw him only perhaps once or twice, and he was always smiling, even though I could see that he was slowing down a bit.
Toward the end of this past October (2017), a friend and I were at JFK Medical Center visiting someone and, as we were leaving, we happened to see Jerry in a room as we walked by. I backtracked, and saw that he was awake. I said hello, and asked him how he was doing. He smiled broadly, and said that he was doing all right. “How are you doing?” he asked. I responded that I was good, and that I hoped he would get well soon. “You take care, now,” he said, still smiling. “You take care, too, Jerry. You get well,” I replied. He smiled and tried to wave, although it was clear that he was feeling a little weak. That was the last time I saw him.
As I left the hospital, I reflected on the conversation that I noted earlier. Jerry was a fighter, and seeing him in that hospital bed showed me that he was a fighter to the end.
My deepest condolences go out to his family, his friends, and his loyal legislative staff.
You take care, Jerry.
Rebecca Williams is a Councilwoman in Plainfield.