New Jersey lost a true gentleman and dedicated public servant this week.
Wesley Lance served New Jersey for more than 70 years ---first as a representative from Hunterdon County to the New Jersey State Legislature, and most recently as the attorney for the Township of Lebanon. It was at a Lebanon Township committee meeting I had the first opportunity of meeting Mr. Lance.
In early 1995, I was giving a presentation for the First Night Flemington to the Lebanon Township Committee, and Mr. Lance served as their Township Attorney. I introduced myself as the newly elected Councilman from Flemington Borough, and he could not have been more courteous.
I served as the Hunterdon County Democratic Committee chairman from 1996 to 2000. During that time I had the privilege of developing an acquaintanceship with Wesley Lance, the father of Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance. The younger Lance would be the first one to tell you that it was not too long ago that he would be introduced as the son of the father, rather than the other way around.
While I was Chairman, Mr. Lance would sometimes call me out of the blue to discuss some local or statewide issue. The issue I remember most vividly was his telling of the story of the 1968 meeting of the Electoral College, where Richard Nixon was chosen as president over Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.
Mr. Lance told me that he served as the president of the Electoral College that year, and that he was not a big fan of that method of choosing the president. His articulation of that point of view proved prophetic 32 years later in the 2000 Bush-Gore debacle.
He was a very bright and respectful man, who generously shared stories with me about the early days of Hunterdon County. He told me bits and pieces of many stories: How he was chosen by the Republican Party to run for the Legislature; How the Republican Party used to have picnics on the property that is now St. Magdalene’s Church in Flemington; How the 1947 New Jersey State Constitution changed the power of the governor in the state.
His thoughtful consideration of issues, as well as his good-natured articulation of the stories behind the people of Hunterdon showed a unique combination of intelligence and humor.
His like is rare in politics today. We are better off in New Jersey for his having been a public servant.
My condolences go out to Senator Leonard Lance, his wife Heidi, and to James Lance, and the rest of the Lance family.