By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Ralph Froelich was believed to be the longest serving sheriff in New Jersey history at 36 years on the job.
He died of cancer at age 83 on July 20.
On Monday, Assemblyman Joe Cryan eulogized him on the Assembly floor.
“He loved people. And the story I want to share with you most of all is that having had the opportunity to work with the sheriff on a number of years was the weirdest thing in the world, is that people he arrested became his friends,” Cryan said.
What Joe Cryan didn’t say in that eulogy but what he is making clear to others is that he’d like to succeed Ralph Froelich as Union County sheriff.
“I feel pretty good about where it is right now but certainly we’ll see when the county leadership decides what’s best for our party,” Cryan said. “I hope to be considered in that vein.”
Cryan is currently one of three undersheriffs.
That’s his day job.
For 12 years in the Assembly he has been a force, usually from the liberal side.
To be sheriff, he’ll have to give up his Assembly seat.
When asked if he is you disillusioned with the Assembly, Cryan said, “There are times when there’s a frustration at certain things. I’d certainly like to see some things be improved, but it’s an honor to be there, it’s an honor every day to be there.”
At one point Cryan was state Democratic chairman and a major player.
Then he plotted a failed coup d’etat against Speaker Sheila Oliver, and after that slipped into a kind of lone wolf status.
When asked if that is part of the reason that he’s not at the top of the heap, Cryan said, “Well, it’s a different profile when you’re not in the room making the decisions that ultimately get made. It brings a different perspective to it. That was an area where I think I earned the right to be in that room. I fought for what I believed in, so I’m no longer there.”
“We thought we would have Sheriff Froelich forever. And God had other plans for him, as he has for all of us,” said Sen. Ray Lesniak.
Lesniak has been Cryan’s Senate running mate in the 20th legislative district.
We sought his opinion on the implications of Cryan’s move.
“If he were elected to be sheriff obviously there would be a vacancy in his Assembly seat. And Jamel Holley, the mayor of Roselle, would be the leading candidate for that. I’m supporting him, and it gives us an opportunity, particularly in the 20th district, which is a majority-minority district, to have more diversity,” Lesniak said.
Jamel Holley told us by phone he is absolutely interested in the seat.
Meanwhile, Ralph Froelich is one of the few state officials to have a building named after him while he was still alive.
Like other deaths in politics, his creates movement below.
“New challenges in life are good for everyone involved,” Cryan said.