Former New Jersey governor and current Senate President Richard Codey highlighted accomplishments of his administration and fielded questions from the audience during a visit to the College on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Codey stepped in as acting governor in 2004 when Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned.
During his year as governor, Codey focused on mental illness reform, “to show the N.J. people where my heart is.”
“In society, people with mental illness today are looked upon differently than people, say, with heart disease,” he said.
In his own life, Codey struggled while watching his wife, Mary Jo, fight postpartum depression. “I had good health insurance so (my wife) could get the care that she needed,” Codey said. “Everyone in those homes should be able to get the care that they need.”
Codey was eager to answer the audience’s questions, many of which focused on illegal immigration.
“We’ve got to do everything we can, whatever it is, wireless fences or patrolling, to stop illegal immigration because it’s wrong,” Codey said. “My take on this is that if you’re here now, you’re allowed to stay. In the future it’s wrong.”
He discussed the illegal immigration situation from the perspective of the financial crisis.
“Illegal immigration is down for a variety of reasons, particularly the economic crisis,” he said. “If my grandparents were here, they’d say it was even worse than the depression. It’s that bad.”
But despite the economic crisis, Codey said the state isn’t cutting the College’s funding anytime soon.
“We didn’t eliminate scholarships, but we did not increase the pool of money (to the College),” he said. “I would like to see the New Jersey Stars Program continue because I created it . (but) we are going to make changes that I think are going to be fair.”
Stuart Koch, associate professor of political science at the College, introduced Codey, who he said “has a long record of experience and leadership.”
Codey graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University and began serving on the State Legislature in 1974. His political career continued when he was elected to the Senate in 1980 and became Senate President.
Codey emphasized that America today is an ideal place for college students.
“There’s a chance that the first biracial male will become the president of the United States. This is how far we made it as a country,” he said. “It’s up to you because almost all the hurdles in life are gone, so its up to you to succeed.”