ROSELLE, NJ — Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley announced Monday he intends to run for the 20th Legislative District seat vacated by former Assemblyman Joe Cryan, who stepped down as of Jan. 1, when he officially assumed the elected position of Union County Sheriff.
While not unexpected, Holley brings to the table a background that is not like many politicians.
“As I embark on this journey, I am committed and focused on establishing an agenda designed to create solutions that will bring maximum benefits to residents of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union,” said Holley, who said his candidacy for assembly is not about him at all.
“It’s about a boy in Elizabeth whose parents came to this country to seek a better life and many of the same services and support I received when I was young. It’s about the young woman in Union who is trying to become the first member of her family to attend college, similar to my path in life. It’s about the family in Hillside who is trying to afford a home where they can raise their children, something my grandmother was fortunate to provide for my brothers and me. It’s about the senior citizen in Roselle who has worked hard their whole life and now deserves respect and support,” said the assembly candidate, adding “it’s about all of us working collectively to improve the communities we love and fight for the opportunities we deserve.”
Holley said he was humbled and grateful for the opportunity to run for the open assembly seat, promising he would “work tirelessly to maximize this chance to continue serving the people.”
The Roselle mayor said he looked forward to partnering with 20th Legislative District Democrat State Sen. Ray Lesniak and running mate Democrat incumbent Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. In turn, political powerhouse Lesniak and other political associates announced their support of the assembly candidate.
“I have known Jamel Holley for many years and he is one of the brightest, most dynamic young leaders in our Democratic party,” said Lesniak in a press release Monday.
Getting the vote out in the district is pivotal to Holley winning the assembly seat, so receiving the mayor of Elizabeth’s endorsement early on, along with Lesniak’s, was a feather in this candidate’s hat.
“When you look at Roselle you see a borough on the rise with a great future and that is directly attributable to Jamel Holley and the policies his administration has put into place,” said Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage in a release, adding that now Holley “is bringing his energy and commitment to progress to the state legislature and I am excited to work with him for the benefit of Elizabeth and our entire area.”
Holley, 35, who served as Roselle’s mayor since 2011, in addition to previously serving two terms as councilman at large, explained why he decided to run for the open assembly seat.
“The communities that make up the 20th Legislative District need continued strong representation in Trenton. I am humbled and excited to begin this journey toward providing them with the voice they need,” said Holley, once the youngest legislative chief of Staff in state history.
It is also expected Holley will be selected to fill Cryan’s unexpired term, which is up at the end of this year. Legally the Union County Democratic Committee has 25 days from when Cryan stepped down to meet and vote on this temporary replacement.
According to information obtained by LocalSource, the committee is expected to address this specifically Jan. 21, with an announcement to follow.
However, while Holley’s name has been floated as a front runner for the spot for months, Monday it became apparent the Roselle mayor was ready to hit the ground running. Democratic powerhouses also wasted no time supporting his candidacy.
Holley, who developed a wealth of experience in both state and local government in a short period of time, saw Roselle flourish under his watch as mayor. After being elected in 2011, Holley immediately launched several programs that helped transform the borough, including a viable economic development plan.
The Roselle First program provided job training and placement for residents, and has continued to grow since first implemented.
Other programs included the award-winning Westbrook flood-control project that provided protection for neighborhoods severely damaged by flooding.
Under Holley’s leadership, property taxes in the borough stabilized, new technologies were integrated in order to make local municipal government more efficient and responsive, while Holley supporters praised the mayor for the new sense of optimism and energy that took hold within the community since he was elected.
Holley also brought about change by heading up the Jamel C. Holley Civic Association, a 501c3 non-profit organization. The primary purpose of this organization is to provide resources and programs to residents of the greater Roselle community. Programs such as senior day activities, community Thanksgiving dinner and toy drives for underprivileged youth heaped much praise on the young mayor whose background also was impoverished.
However, Holley was determined to be the exception to the rule.
“The circumstances of my childhood were among the statistics that said children who grow up in single-parent households are less likely to succeed or even obtain a high school diploma. I am grateful my story is one of both perseverance necessary to succeed and the incredible return that comes from investments and programs designed to help those who are less fortunate obtain access to greater opportunities,” Holley explained.
Raised by his grandmother, this Roselle native said he and his two brothers were able to live and grow with the support of state benefits such as welfare and food stamps.
“I received a solid education and was able to obtain my undergraduate degree from New Jersey City University and Masters in Public Administration from Kean University as the result of being eligible for the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund,” Holley said, adding “all of these programs were created based upon the democratic values that say all children – regardless of the communities they come from – deserve to be cared for and are worthy of opportunities to achieve the American Dream.”