James J. Kennedy

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James J. Kennedy
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 22nd Legislative District district
Assumed office
January 12, 2016
Serving with Jerry Green
Preceded by Linda Stender
Mayor of Rahway
In office
January 1, 1991 – December 31, 2010
Preceded by Daniel Martin
Succeeded by Richard B. Proctor
Personal details
Born (1953-02-09) February 9, 1953 (age 64)
Spouse(s) Lori Kennedy
Residence Rahway, New Jersey
Website Legislative website

James J. Kennedy (born February 9, 1953) is a Democratic Party politician who is serving as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly representing the 22nd Legislative District since January 2016. He previously served as Mayor of Rahway, New Jersey from 1991 through 2010, when he declined to seek a sixth term.


Kennedy won his first nomination in the 1990 Democratic primary election, when he contested the re-election for Daniel Martin, who at the time had been mayor for 20 years.

Kennedy owns a local store, Kennedy Jewelers, that was adversely affected by the decline of the city's downtown area during the 1970s and 1980s, and he was president of the Rahway Chamber of Commerce during the later 80s. While serving on the board of trustees for the Rahway YMCA, Kennedy befriended Jim McGreevey, a lawyer then residing in neighboring Woodbridge who would ultimately become New Jersey's governor.

Kennedy and his wife, Lori, a kindergarten teacher who retired in June 2011, have one son, Sean, who operates the jewelry store on a day-to-day basis. The couple previously had another child, who died when he was two years old.[1] Lori Kennedy filed petitions to run for school board in the November 2012 election.[2]

Political career[edit]

McGreevey encouraged Kennedy to challenge Martin in 1990, the year before he took on Joseph Demarino to become Mayor of Woodbridge.[3]

As mayor, Kennedy set out to transform the central business district, which he did by refurbishing the train station, eliminating unsightly older buildings and creating an open plaza, attracting private investment from developers who built hundreds of units of new housing. Rahway committed millions of dollars in public funds to the development of a new public library and municipal recreation center on property adjacent to City Hall. The marquis of Kennedy's redevelopment scheme was the 16-story Carriage City Plaza, a 16-story hotel and condo project that went into foreclosure in 2010, after the housing market crash left developer Carlos Silva unable to sell more than 62 of the 222 units at Sky View at Carriage City Plaza, and leaving 72 units leased, another 88 unoccupied.[4]

Among Kennedy's achievements were construction of a new public library, recreation center and renovation of the city's train station, which served as catalysts for the privately funded development projects currently under way or recently completed.[5]

Kennedy's success in revitalizing the downtown won accolades and support from Republicans, Democrats and independent voters alike.[6] In 2006, Kennedy persuaded the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders to invest $6.2 million in the renovation of the Union County Performing Arts Center, an historic 1300-seat vaudeville venue that opened in 1928 as the Rahway Theater. The building fell into disrepair as a movie house in the 1970s, but after being reopened by local nonprofit preservation group in 1984, it has become a cornerstone of the Rahway Arts District and part of the ongoing $100 million redevelopment of downtown Rahway.[7]

After leaving office as mayor, Kennedy was appointed executive director of the Rahway Arts District, where he continues to seek advance his vision to make Rahway an arts destination.[8] For most of his tenure, Kennedy made tax stability a key priority. Rahway not only enjoys one of the lowest tax bills in the area, but it was cited in 2008 by the Star-Ledger as having the second-most stable tax bill in the entire county since 2000.[9]

Following the retirement of incumbent Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender in 2015, Kennedy was chosen by the local Democratic County Committees over Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr to succeed Stender.[10] He won the general election alongside incumbent Jerry Green that November.[11]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Union County School Board Candidates File"
  3. ^ "The Confession" by James McGreevey
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ "Mayor won't seek re-election" published at http://www.rahwayrising.com on MARCH 30, 2010
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ [5]
  9. ^ [6]
  10. ^ Haydon, Tom (March 5, 2015). "Former Rahway mayor picked to run for Assemblywoman Stender's seat". NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. Retrieved January 16, 2016. 
  11. ^ Johnson, Brent (November 3, 2015). "Elections 2015: Democrats keep hold of Assembly's 22nd District". NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. Retrieved January 16, 2016. 
New Jersey General Assembly
Preceded by
Linda Stender
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly for the 22nd District
January 12, 2016 – present
With: Jerry Green
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel Martin
Mayor of Rahway, New Jersey
January 1, 1991 – December 31, 2010
Succeeded by
Richard B. Proctor