Webber Looks Ahead to Convention and Change
26th District legislator says transitioning after the loss of DeCroce is 'difficult and unpleasant.'
The Morris County Republican Committee meets Wednesday for a special convention to fill the seat left vacant by the sudden Jan. 9 death of 26th District Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, of Parsippany.
One of the GOP leaders awaiting the event being held at the Zeris Inn in Mountain Lakes is the late lawmaker's colleague, district office mate and friend—a man in mourning yet moving forward—Assemblyman Jay Webber.
In addition to dealing with the personal loss of DeCroce, Webber also faces a move to new district offices. Because of redistricting, Whippany is no longer part of the 26th District, which means the DeCroce/Webber suite of offices on Route 10 will have to move. He said Parsippany sites are among those being considered.
Right now, Webber said, it's about taking things one at a time.
"The transition that we have to make with the loss of Assemblyman DeCroce is difficult and unpleasant, and still very much in flux," Webber said. "Now we're moving past the point where we've laid him to rest, and we're helping his staff and his family deal with it.
"Our transition in the office is now on hold until we see what happens with the assemblyman's vacancy, depending on who wins the county convention on Wednesday evening. That might affect where the office is placed and what kind of accommodations we seek."
Three candidates have announced an interest in filling the vacant seat. One of the hopefuls is Betty Lou DeCroce, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs and the wife of the man who held the chair for more than two decades.
"I count myself as one of the leading endorsers of Betty Lou DeCroce," Webber said. "I've known Betty Lou for a long time and she is a smart, capable woman who I think is more qualified today to serve in the assembly than Alex DeCroce was 23 years ago, and Alex was a great member of the assembly and very qualified when he started."
Among the leaders who support keeping a DeCroce in the seat are Parsippany Mayor James Barberio and Township Councilman Michael dePierro.
Asked why he and so many regional Republicans are endorsing the widow, Webber cited DeCroce's experience as a Parsippany realtor and businesswoman, plus her government resume, which includes work on the local and state levels.
"Her public sector work is varied and vast, and there are contributions she can make immediately on the local government issues that we face," he said. "Plus... she has tremendous private sector experience. She has a great mix of skills and experience. She's obviously very tough. And she's passionate about what she does, about [continuing] what Alex did for the state."
Two other candidates have announced an interest in vying for the unexpired term: Montville attorney and former Kinnelon Councilman Larry Casha and Rockaway Township Mayor Louis Sceusi. There is history between Casha and Webber: In 2007, the two faced off in the race for the 26th District assembly seat, won by Webber.
The assemblyman said he will work side-by-side with whichever candidate wins DeCroce's seat at the convention.
"We would have to work collaboratively for the good of the constituents, and we actually would," Webber said. "At the end of the day, you put politics aside and serve the public, and that's what we would do."
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