Gov. Chris Christie presented the first Alex DeCroce Leadership Award to former Morris County Freeholder John Murphy Wednesday afternoon in Whippany. The presentation was made before the Morris County Chamber of Commerce at Birchwood Manor in Whippany.
Murphy is the first recipient of the award created to honor veteran 26th District Assemblyman and Republican Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, who died suddenly in January. DeCroce, a Parsippany resident, was succeeded by his widow, current Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce.
Ironically, Murphy is an old political rival of the governor's.
In 1997, then-Freeholder Christie was challenged for his seat by Murphy, who pulled off the upset. Christie ended up filing a defamation of character lawsuit against Murphy. That case ultimately was settled out of court.
Murphy ended up serving on the freeholder board for 15 years. He decided not to run for re-election last year.
The bitter acrimony of the Christie-Murphy feud melted away over the years, the governor said at the award ceremony. In large part, he said that was because they have children attending the same private school and would see each other at school functions.
The Alex DeCroce Leadership Award was established to pay tribute to the late legislator and to honor outstanding public servants.
In his remarks, Christie paid tribute to Murphy's leadership, saying that his work has been "beneficial for the state, not just Morris County."
Morris County Republican Committee Chairman John Sette agreed.
“John Murphy is very deserving of this award," he said.