BY TOM HESTER SR.
overnor-Elect Chris Christie Tuesday named Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow, a former federal prosecutor, as New Jersey's next attorney general.
Dow, of Maplewood, will become the first African-American woman to serve as the state's top law enforcement official. She was also a Democratic appointment as county prosecutor by Gov. James McGreevey. Then-Sen. Sharpe James (D-Essex) objected to the appointment and delayed it.
Christie also named to what he described as a bipartisan crime-fighting team, Marc Ferzan, deputy chief of the New Jersey U.S. attorney' office's Criminal Division, as executive assistant attorney general; Phillip Kwon, also deputy chief of the U.S.attorney's office Criminal Division, as first assistant attorney general, and Essex First Assistant Prosecutor Carolyn Murray as counsel to the attorney general.
Six of the initial eight people Christie has named to the attorney general's office and governor's office worked for him in the U.S. attorney's office.
Christie said his team in the attorney general's office will work hand in hand with the New Jersey U.S attorney's office to make fighting corruption a priority.Dow, 54, has experience both in the U.S. Attorney's office where she led the corruption case against former Irvington Mayor Sara Boas and as Essex prosecutor, Dow oversees the largest prosecutor's office in the state, managing 430 total employees, including investigators and assistant prosecutors. She will replace Attorney General Anne Milgram.
"The only way we are going to change the culture of corruption in New Jersey is by making it a priority at all levels of government,'' Christie said in Trenton. "I am confident that this strong team will only reinforce that corruption will not be tolerated in the Christie administration. I am honored to have Paula's experience, know-how and tough approach leading this dedicated group of federal prosecutors who know exactly what we need to do to root out waste, fraud and corruption because they've done it before."
"It's one of the greatest challenges I've ever faced,'' Dow said at a Statehouse press conference. "I love being a prosecutor. How could you not love being considered as the next attorney general.''
Peter C. Harvey, who served as attorney general from 2003 to 2006, was the first African-American man to hold the position. Zulima Farber, who served in 2006, was a black Cuban-American.
Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), who will become the first African-American woman to serve as Assembly speaker in January, said Dow's appointment, "Without question, Paula Dow has the strength, integrity and no-nonsense approach to the law that New Jersey needs in its ‘top cop.' Paula Dow built her reputation first as a capable federal prosecutor who took on corruption simply because it was the right thing to do. As Essex County's prosecutor, she has a proven record of success in working with local law enforcement, as evidenced by the fact that Essex County's overall crime rate has fallen every year she has been in office. Her willingness to take on the scourge of gang violence is especially noteworthy. As an African-American woman, I salute her for her achievements.''
Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth) and Amy H. Handlin (R-Monmouth) the Republican members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, commended Christie for ignoring political considerations in the selection of Dow.
"New Jersey's effort to fight corruption is too important to risk being tripped up by politics as usual," Casagrande said. "Essex County Prosecutor Dow has shown the ability to manage an extremely active criminal-prosecution agency while being motivated only by the law and the public good. As Attorney General, I would expect similar effort with significant results."
"Although sometimes overshadowed by our current economic troubles, the actions of corrupt public officials continue to plague our state and must remain a top priority for the incoming administration," Handlin said. "The selection of Prosecutor Dow, who has an impressive resume that includes criminal, civil and corporate law, as well as proactive social and policing programs, shows that Gov.-elect Christie will not let politics cloud his law-enforcement judgment."
In October 2003 Dow assumed the role of Essex prosecutor, the chief law enforcement position in the state's most populated county.
Previously Dow worked for eight years in the New Jersey U.S. attorney's office. From 2001 to 2003, she served as counsel to then-U.S. Attorney Christie. As an assistant U.S. attorney, Dow handled criminal prosecutions in the Special Prosecutions Division and the Criminal Division. From 1987 to 1994 Dow served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
Dow earned her bachelor's degree in 1977 from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. where she majored in government and economics. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1980. Dow is a member of the bars of New Jersey, New York and Texas; the U.S. Supreme Court; the Second and Fifth Circuit Courts of Appeals; the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, District of New Jersey, and Northern and Southern Districts of Texas.
Dow presently serves as president of the New Jersey Association of County Prosecutors. Dow and her two sons are active members of St. Paul Baptist Church in Montclair.
If her appointment is approved by the state Senate, Dow will oversee 9,000 employees in the state Department of Law and Public Safety, including the State Police.
New Jersey Republican Party Chairman Jay Webber praised the appointment of Dow.
"I applaud Governor-elect Christie's decision to nominate a public servant who shares his vision for New Jersey and record of success,'' Webber said. "The Governor-elect continues to demonstrate that he will surround himself with strong, qualified people with a commitment to making our state a better place to live. Paula Dow will be a fine attorney general for New Jersey, and I urge her swift confirmation by the Senate."