Joseph A. Palaia

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Joseph A. Palaia
Member of the New Jersey Senate
from the 11th district
In office
November 20, 1989 – January 8, 2008
Preceded by John D'Amico, Jr.
Succeeded by Sean T. Kean
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 11th district
In office
January 12, 1982 – November 20, 1989
Preceded by John O. Bennett
Marie Sheehan Muhler
Succeeded by Paul A. Kapalko
Personal details
Born (1927-02-03)February 3, 1927
Neptune, New Jersey
Died August 20, 2016(2016-08-20) (aged 89)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Wedell Simon
(m. 1956–?, her death)
Children 2
Residence Ocean Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey
Alma mater Rider College
Rutgers University

Joseph A. "Joe" Palaia Sr. (February 3, 1927 – August 20, 2016) was an American politician. He served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1981 to 1989 and in the State Senate from 1989 to 2008, representing the 11th Legislative District.

Early life[edit]

Palaia was born in Neptune, New Jersey and was a graduate of New Jersey's Rider College where he received a B.S. degree in Business Administration in 1949. He then went to study at Rutgers University and was awarded an M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision.[1] Before entering politics, Palaia was an educator, and principal of the Wanamassa Elementary School in Ocean Township (Monmouth County) where he resided.[2]

Political career[edit]

Prior to entering the State Legislature, Palaia served in a variety of state and local elected offices. He was a member of the Ocean Township Council from 1967 to 1971 until he became mayor in 1971. During his tenure as mayor, the Seaview Square Mall was built and the oversaw the township's conversion of the Deal Test Site into a park which was renamed for him in 1998.[3] Palaia served as Ocean Township's mayor until 1979. He then served on the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1979 to 1981.[1][4]

In 1981, Palaia was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly, the lower house of the New Jersey Legislature, where he served until 1989. In 1984, he served as the Assembly's Assistant Minority Whip.[1] He chaired the Assembly Education Committee during the one term Republicans controlled the Assembly from 1986 to 1988. He created bills signed into law that would allow for the state takeover of failing school districts and the requirement that 11th grade high school students pass a standardized test (High School Proficiency Assessment) to graduate high school.[4]

He was elected to the State Senate in 1989, defeating the appointed incumbent Democrat John D'Amico, Jr.[5] After taking the office on November 20, he served in a variety of leadership roles. From 1992 to 1993, Palaia was the Assistant Majority Leader and from 1994 to 2003 he was President Pro Tempore of the Senate. In 2002-2003 he was the Republican President Pro Tempore when the Senate was evenly split 20-20. Palaia was a member of the Senate Education Committee.[1] He was one of the sponsors of the New Jersey Childproof Handgun Law that passed in 2002.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Palaia was married to the former Wedell Simon from 1956 until her death. Together, they had two children: son Joseph Jr. (1959 – 2016)[7] and daughter Denise who has followed her father into education and is principal of Wayside Elementary School[citation needed]. Palaia died on August 20, 2016.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d "Senator Palaia's Senate Legislative Website". New Jersey Legislature. Archived from the original on December 18, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  2. ^ 75th Anniversary of Wanamassa School Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., The Coaster, September 29, 2005. Accessed July 8, 2007.
  3. ^ Larsen, Erik (August 21, 2016). "'Senator Joe' Palaia dead at 89". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey - Two Hundred and Eleventh Legislature (First Session) (PDF). Skinder-Strauss Associates. 2004. pp. 224–225. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  5. ^ Wally Edge (August 28, 2007). "The Villapiano/D'Amico reunion". Politicker NJ. Retrieved August 21, 2016 – via Four-term Republican Assemblyman Joseph Palaia challenged D'Amico and won by 3,900 votes — 28,344 to 24,444, despite a huge Democratic trend in the 1989 General Election statewide. 
  6. ^ Napoliello, Alex (August 21, 2016). "Joe Palaia, longtime N.J. senator, dead at 89". NJ Advance Media for Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Joseph James Palaia". Asbury Park Press. January 27, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2016 – via He was predeceased by his mother Wedell Palaia. Surviving are ... father Joseph Anthony Palaia former State Senator; sister Denise Palaia... 
  8. ^ Associated Press (August 21, 2016). "Longtime state lawmaker, educator Joseph Palaia dies at 89". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 21, 2016. The Francioni Taylor & Lopez Funeral Home in Neptune City says Palaia died Saturday. 

External links[edit]

New Jersey Senate
Preceded by
John D'Amico, Jr.
Member of the New Jersey Senate for the 11th District
November 20, 1989 – January 8, 2008
Succeeded by
Sean T. Kean
New Jersey General Assembly
Preceded by
John O. Bennett
Marie Sheehan Muhler
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly for the 11th District
January 12, 1982 – November 20, 1989
With: Anthony M. Villane, John Villapiano
Succeeded by
Paul A. Kapalko