Former Senate President President John F. Russo of Ocean County died Saturday night after a short illness.
He was 84.
Born in Asbury Park and a resident of Toms River, Mr. Russo became a state senator in 1973. He served as senate president from 1986 to 1990. In total, Mr. Russo served five terms in the state Senate prior to stepping down in 1991. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1985.
“My heart goes out to the entire Russo family on the passing of former Senate President John Russo,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3). “Senator Russo was an accomplished legislator and a strong leader for the New Jersey Senate whose priority was always to move the state forward.
“He displayed a commitment to public service, to the needs of the people of New Jersey and to the effective work of the New Jersey Legislature. He was always inclusive and always willing to work in bipartisan cooperation with members of both parties to make real progress. Senate President Russo may have left public office, but he remained engaged in public policies and continued to share his experience and expertise with me during my time as Senate President. New Jersey is a better state because of John Russo.”
“On behalf of the Senate Republicans, I would like to offer our condolences to Bob, Caryl, and their entire family on the passing of Senate President Russo,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21). “He was a dedicated public servant, a loving father, and a leader committed to improving New Jersey for all its residents.”
Senator Bob Singer (R-30), the state Senate Republican Conference Leader, is married to the former Caryl Lynn Russo, daughter of the late Senate President.
“He was my guy,” said veteran state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28). “He was the first person who embraced me in the senate. He had more of a Codey style than anybody else. He embraced me and had a lot of respect for me and started me off in leadership. This is a great loss to the state. Those were the good old days. We did real good government. George Norcross didn’t run over John Russo, that’s for sure.”
A former First Assistant Prosecutor in Ocean County for ten years, Mr. Russo graduated cum laude from Notre Dame University in 1955 and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1958. He was an active pilot, skier, tennis player and golfer.
He worked as a partner and team member of Princeton Public Affairs since 1992.
“He showed no pretense of being a former legislative leader, former Acting Governor or gubernatorial candidate but a friend and mentor to his less experienced co-workers at a fledgling public affairs firm,” said Princeton Public Affairs Chief Dale Florio. “John was competitive. He did not like to lose. We watched him as a legislator and were amazed at his ability to bring competing sides together in order to get a bill to a Governor’s desk. Lobbying, skiing or playing golf, John was always focused on the goal line as well as his beloved Giants.”
For more on former Senate President John Russo, please go here.