Today a special task force suggested New Jersey appoint a special official to fortify the state’s military bases to keep them open, unlike Fort Monmouth in 2011. Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno made the announcement and then granted a rare one-on-one interview to NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz.
Cruz: You’ve been acting governor more than lieutenant governor as of late. How do the gears change when you’re acting governor?
Guadagno: Well, there’s two parts to the question. First, I don’t count. And second is you created the office of lieutenant governor to step in for the governor when he’s not here, which is what we’ve been doing since the day we walked in the door, preparing for such an eventuality if it were to happen under any circumstances. So as a result we have the same communications office, the same policy office, the same senior staff. They work together completely all the time. We’re literally down the hall, take a left and a right from each other so I don’t really see that much difference whether he’s running for president or if he’s out of state for any period of time.
Cruz: There’s been some criticism of how the administration, in this case you, reacted to the storm in South Jersey. There was some criticism of that. Do you feel it was fair? Do you guys feel that you were on point?
Guadagno: You know, I feel very sorry for the 635 people who had homes that were damaged by the storm. I’m a Sandy victim myself, both houses on both sides of me today are still out and so I completely empathize and have sympathy for those that are out of their home or have had their homes damaged. We’ve been working very hard to make sure those homes get fixed as quickly as possible. I want to emphasize that while I wasn’t personally in those impacted towns, the next day we were. People from the state of New Jersey were automatically and immediately doing damage assessment, and in fact the last number I got, we had about 4,000 man hours in in terms of just cutting down trees and helping move debris out of the way. And then of course we had the entire cabinet in that area, last Friday I believe it was, talking to the mayors about how we can help them, how we can help them get their damage estimates in so that we can go to the federal government and try to them some more help. So I think we’ve done everything that we can. We were there within 24 hours, and then the cabinet came in to talk to the mayors about getting their damage estimates in so that we’re in a position as the governor’s office to go to Washington to get more resources.
Cruz: Have you felt a little constrained by these tight parameters that have been put around you a little bit?
Guadagno: I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. If I want to talk to you, David, all I have to do is pick up the phone.
Cruz: If you say your cell number…
Guadagno: Right now tens of thousands of people in New Jersey have my phone number and they call it every day. So I don’t feel constrained in any way. If anything you should talk to the governor’s office — they’re probably not happy that tens of thousands of people have access to my cell phone number right now because people use it and I invite them to use that because that’s the way that I think government should work. They should be accessible.
Cruz: Have there been times where you’ve disagreed with the front office at all and how do you handle that?
Guadagno: If there have been times I’m not telling you. In fairness this is how it works. If I have a policy issue that I have a particular interest in I’m completely involved in that discussion. But look, there’s one governor and he was elected governor and he makes that decision and that’s the way the system is and I appreciate that. If there’s a fight, that fight happens behind closed doors where it belongs, but I’m happy to have a seat at the table to be able to voice my concerns in as strong a matter as I feel appropriate for whatever the issue happens to be.
Cruz: So you’ve tried this job on for a little while, is it something you might want to do full time in the future?
Guadagno: I think that’s a decision for the future when the times comes but my job right now is to make sure job creation, jobs stay in New Jersey, people stay in New Jersey, we bring jobs to New Jersey so all of our communities are better off. That’s my focus right now and will be my focus for the next two years.
Cruz: The Democrats are trying to put this bill across that’s called resign-to-run. Is that something you would sign if you happen to be in the governor’s seat at that time?
Guadagno: Let’s just see if it makes it to the governor’s desk, but I appreciate the question. That’s very funny.