Former Linden Mayor and State Senator John T. Gregorio has died.
The Union County Democratic Party politician served in the General Assembly from 1976 to 1978 and as a state senator from 1978 to 1983, and later as mayor of his hometown until 2006.
Mr. Gregorio was the main political figure in Linden for many years.
“He was my mentor and he was the Mayor of Linden; he was Mr. Linden, it was his full-time job and full-time passion,” said state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20). “His father once told him, ‘If you love your job, you’ll never have to work another day in your life and he loved being mayor of Linden. He would do anything for a resident of Linden.”
Mr. Gregorio chose Lesniak to run with him for the Assembly in what was then the 21st District.
Mr. Gregorio was challenging Elizabeth Mayor/Senator Tom Dunn, and he and Lesniak won.
Forced to resign from the state Senate after failing to disclose his interest in a pair of go go bars, Mr. Gregorio received a governor’s pardon from Tom Kean, Sr.
“People told me, ‘Don’t do that, he’s so popular he will turn around and run against you in the Senate,’” Lesniak recalled. “I said that will never happen in a million years, and it didn’t, though he could have beaten me. He was popular.”
He became mayor of Linden during the second installment of his career, losing by a percentage point to independent candidate (and sitting Mayor) Richard Gerbounka.
Mr. Gregorio was 87 years old and he died of leukemia.
He is survived by his wife Marie.
Union County Freeholder Chris Hudak, a resident of Linden, issued a statement on the news of the death of Mayor Gregorio.
“The Board of Chosen Freeholders is saddened by the news of former Linden Mayor John Gregorio’s passing,” Hudak said. “Former Mayor Gregorio, who also served in the Senate and Assembly, was a giant of New Jersey politics. He was Linden’s greatest cheerleader and a pioneer in building the nexus between government and business for the benefit of the taxpayer.
“Mayor Gregorio went to work every day to fight for Linden’s working families,” the freeholder added. “Under his leadership, Linden became known as a city with the best services, great schools and a strong sense of community. His passing truly marks the end of an era for Linden and Union County. The Board extends our deepest sympathies to Mayor Gregorio’s family, relatives and friends.”
“Mayor Gregorio was a larger than life figure who had an unwavering passion for community service,” said Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley. “He stands as a role model for younger mayors; his understanding of every facet of Linden, his ability to undertake many improvement projects at one time and his belief in consistently improving the quality of life of his constituents are the pillars of local leadership. I, along with many, mourn Mayor Gregorio’s passing. There was no one else quite like him.”