For a New Jersey guy who loves politics, few jobs are as attractive as chief of staff to the governor, the most powerful non-elected position in the state’s government.
Rutgers alumnus Pete Cammarano may be the only person in recent memory to serve as chief of staff to two New Jersey governors – first Richard J. Codey and now Phil Murphy.
Cammarano’s experience in public life runs deep. He served as then-state Sen. Codey’s chief of staff for a decade before Codey became governor in 2004 and established the lobbying firm CLB Partnsers after Codey’s term ended. He served as public affairs director for the state Department of Insurance under Gov. Jim Florio and as deputy director of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s 1994 reelection campaign. He has served as mayor of his native Metuchen.
Rutgers Today asked Cammarano (Political Science ’87) how his Rutgers education contributed to his success.
You have called government a “noble profession.” What do you admire about public service and policy work?
It is the ability to improve the lives of others. Every day presents a new opportunity to help individuals and families across our great state. It’s what you do when that opportunity presents itself that matters. Then, after the process is complete and all the hard work is done, you get to see the results of your work and that’s a terrific feeling.
How did your Rutgers education prepare you for such various roles (executive, legislative, lobbyist, at the State House and as mayor of Metuchen)?
Rutgers contributed to my success in many ways. It is where I learned about government, the role of government and, ultimately, how to drive real change and make a lasting impact on the lives of individuals who need help the most. The lessons I learned in 1987 are as valuable today as they were back then.
There must be something special about New Jersey that keeps you energized. What makes it better to be involved in politics here than anywhere else?
I’m a Jersey guy, born and raised. I grew up here, attended the schools here and now I have an opportunity to give back. New Jersey also holds elections every year, which allows for this constant energy and passion to brew throughout the state. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
It’s unusual to serve as chief of staff to two governors. What’s it like to be back in this high-profile role? What do you like best about the job? Least?
In 2006, I never dreamed it was even possible to serve as chief of staff once. But I am very fortunate and privileged to serve in this capacity twice. Dealing with different issues and finding solutions to those same problems, day in and day out, never gets old. It’s time that stands in the way. There is so much detail and substance entwined in issues and the operations of government, I only wish there was more time in a day to devote to it all.
How is leading Gov. Murphy’s administration different from leading Gov. Codey’s?
I had the pleasure of knowing Gov. Codey for 10 years before he became governor. When he took office, we inherited staff, a cabinet and an entire administration. Everything was pretty much in place, which allowed us to work at an accelerated pace. With Gov. Murphy, we are starting from scratch. We are building from the ground up. I am excited to see the transformation we’ll make to the state and the personal relationship we’ll grow.
While you were at Rutgers, where were your favorite places to hang out? What did you usually do when you weren’t studying?
I really enjoyed spending time at Old Queens, Patty’s and Passion Puddle and of course, I attended Rutgers basketball and football games. I always spent a fair amount of time in Mabel Smith Douglass Library, too.
If you’re ever tapped to serve as our commencement speaker, what advice would you give to Rutgers students?
The education you are finishing here today has prepared you for almost anything in the world, and you should never forget the experience you had at Rutgers.