UNION COUNTY — Its official now. Late last week Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced that Westfield resident Grace Park will be the new acting Union County prosecutor.
Park is replacing longtime prosecutor Theodore Romankow, whose term was over in late January.
“I am confident that Grace Park will do an outstanding job of leading the effort to bring criminals to justice and protect the residents of Union County,” said Chiesa. “Having worked with her at the U.S. Attorney’s office, I know that she is an intelligent, energetic and capable lawyer and will be extremely dedicated to the mission.”
Park is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard Law School. She was employed by the New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore as an associate from 2000 to 2003 and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark from 2003 to 2010.
During her tenure with the U.S. Attorney’s office she prosecuted cases involving health care and government fraud, terrorism and violent crime. Most recently she served as Senior Corporate Counsel with the pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer, Inc. Park commented briefly on being appointed as acting prosecutor, but did not go into any details about how she will tackle this new position.
“I am honored to take on the responsibility of serving as acting prosecutor,” said Park. “I look forward to the job of combating crime, helping to make neighborhoods safer and working with our law enforcement partners at every level — as well as other stakeholders — to serve the citizens of my home county.”
Although Romankow, who served two 5-year terms, expected to be reappointed, as the months went by that failed to materialize. The prosecutor was appointed by Democrat Gov. James McGreevey in 2002 and reappointed by Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine for another five years.
The appointment of Park as the chief law enforcement officer of the county came without fanfare, and in fact was done quietly behind the scenes. Even Romankow admitted that his conversation on the evening of May 15 with Chiesa was very amicable.
The prosecutor, who will stay at the helm until June 17 when Park takes over, said he understood why things turned out as they did.
“Christie is a good man, and he has appointees he wants put in,” said the prosecutor who has come under fire in recent years from a local activist group.
Chiesa had nothing but praise for Romankow, commenting on his long service in a statement.
“I commend and thank Prosecutor Romankow for his leadership, his innovation and his dedication to the crime-fighting mission,” said the attorney general, adding that “the people of Union County have been well-served throughout his more than a decade as Union County prosecutor.”
Chiesa said Romankow established an excellent track record of investigating and prosecuting gang and drug cases, including many mid-to-high level drug dealers. He also credited Romankow for leading the the creation of a countywide “mental health court” in Union county designed to connect low-level offenders with necessary medical treatment and social services.
Romankow did not know exactly what avenues he would be pursuing after leaving the prosecutor’s position, but he said he was open to new possibilities.
Although prosecutors are not allowed to be involved in politics, the political influence they wield can be enormous.
“I’m ready to move on,” the prosecutor said right after hearing he would be replaced, adding that he was always aware that he could be replaced.