The Senator Joseph Pennacchio’s Meet the Leader Series story will be in two parts. The first part will deal mostly with his life story. The second part will be more about his political career.
MONTVILLE, NJ - State Senator Joseph Pennacchio says, “Montville is my home.”
After close to 30 years of living in Montville Township, Pennacchio moved to Rockaway to downsize, but his love for Montville Township drew him back. He has wonderful memories of his children growing up in the town, and he missed his many friends.
Tom Mazzaccaro, former director of the Montville Township department of public works and water and sewer and friend of Pennacchio, said to him when he moved back to town, “Joe, you are home.”
Mazzaccaro remembers this well and adds some facts on Pennacchio’s generosity.
Mazzaccaro said, “Senator Joe, or as we respectfully refer to him simply as “Joe,” left Montville for a short while, but not before long, both he and his wife Diane came back to where they truly missed longtime friends. I recall a friend of Joe and a constituent here in Montville asking him for a special request for the poor children of the Dominican Republic. Joe, being a fine dentist, responded generously and continually donated countless toothbrushes and toothpaste to treat the dental hygiene issues for poor kids. I know his compassion carries through to his constituents.”
Pennacchio has a special place in his heart for Woodmont School, where his two children attended for many years. He loved going to all of his children’s school activities and sports events. He has fond memories going all the way back to his children’s T-ball days. He said, “I loved it all.” It was a special time in his life. According to Pennacchio, his children are all grown up now and doing well.
Pennacchio grew up in Brooklyn, New York, son of Italian immigrants. They always taught their three children the importance of education. Because of their parents’ hard work, all three boys received a good education. This is one reason why Pennacchio has such a strong interest in education, not only in the state, but in the country.
Pennacchio said, “Education is your ticket to achieving the American dream. It takes discipline and time.”
He graduated in 1973 from Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School. In high school, Pennacchio was captain of the high school football team. He said the football team did well, but the school was more of a baseball school.
Pennacchio also is interested in baseball. He said he is a Yankees fan but wouldn’t be if the Dodgers had stayed in Brooklyn. Some of his favorite players are Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays and John Franco.
He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in biology from Brooklyn College and went on to New York University College of Dentistry, where he met his wife Diane.
Wanting to start a dental practice in a suburban setting, he and his wife moved to New Jersey in the 1980s. He said they moved here from New York with “only love for each other and debt.”
They moved to Montville in 1986 with their three year old daughter Valerie. Their son Joseph was born one year later. The family chose Montville Township because they loved the open space, the fine school system, the well run township government, availability of transportation, an easy commute, and loved looking at the manicured lawns. “I wanted to be part of this,” he said.
Pennacchio stated that there have been many infrastructure changes in the township. He listed some changes as the new library, town hall, and board of education office. He also mentioned that the opening of Rt. 287 made more people take note of the township. Even with these changes, Pennacchio said,“Even though it is not a farm town anymore, it still has that hometown flavor.”
When speaking of Montville Township’s local government, he believes the local government leaders have the best interest of the community in mind.
Pennachio was a founding member of the Montville Education Foundation, along with Matthew Kayne, who is now president of the Montville Township Board of Education. Pennacchio said that he was a volunteer for many organizations. “Where there was a need, I was there to be helpful,” he said.
As for his career, Pennacchio was a dentist for 38 years. His practice was in Parsippany and Mt. Arlington, and he is now retired from his dental practice.
The love of science and politics has always been a part of Pennacchio’s life. He said, “Politics has always been a part of me. It is something that I just had to do. I loved my profession as a dentist. It is a noble profession, but I always wanted to be involved in public service.” He said that he always “wants to help people.” He also said that he has an open door policy. He is accessible at his office right in Montville Township on Changebridge Road.
He believes that the greatest success stories do not come from politics but from science. He mentioned the importance of the polio vaccine. He said that science saw that polio was bad, and they got rid of it. He said that science is always changing and questioning, and this type of questioning leads right into politics. There are many questions concerning our society and government, and politicians seek to find solutions to these matters. He said that it is always necessary to question.
Pennacchio is a lover of history. He spoke about Frederick Douglass, who said “Agitate, agitate, agitate.” He believes that agitation is not necessarily bad because it evokes a response, which causes change.
Growing up, Pennacchio always admired John Kennedy and his brother Robert. He said he grew up in the age of television where he could watch politicians like the Kennedys. He said that John Kennedy was an inspiration, and Bobby Kennedy was a moralist. Pennacchio stressed the importance of honesty and morals in a leader.
So how does an admirer of the Kennedys become a republican? He said that conservative democrats no longer exist, and Ronald Reagan “crystalized my feelings about politics.”
This is the end of part one of the Senator Pennacchio story. Part two will continue with his political career and more.