SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School students had a unique opportunity last week when they hosted Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Senior Sean Schoch had asked Guadagno to accompany him to this year’s prom when he was attending the American Legion Boys’ State last summer.
She said yes. Schoch, however, ended up with a different date so Guadagno came to Sparta High School to speak with the students instead.
Guadagno spoke with the students assembled in the media cente telling them her story. She explained after high school in Ohio, she went to “Ursinus College in Pennsylvania” and then law school in Washington DC.
Guadagno said it took a couple of years to convince her parents they “were going to have a doctor in the family just not a medical doctor,” as she pursued her Juris Doctor or law degree.
After graduating from Washington College of Law, Guadagno went to work for the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey. There she served as deputy chief of the US Attorney in the corruption office. She went on to serve as the deputy director, then left to raise her family.
Though she did not completely leave the law, teaching at Rutgers School of Law. Also during that time Guadagno decided to get involved with politics at the local level, getting elected to be a Commissioner of Monmouth Beach where they live.
From there she decided to run for Sheriff of Monmouth County, despite "being told I couldn’t be sheriff because I was a girl. That made me work harder,” said Guadagno. She ran and won.
She was the first woman to hold the job where she “ran the jail, the 911 Emergency Dispatch Center and had 110 guys working” for her.
It was while she was on that job that she “got a call from the governor asking if [she] wanted to be the Lieutenant Governor.”
Guadagno told the students, “I could take the chance because I had a really good education in a field that I was passionate about. If it didn’t work out, I could go back and practice law, which is what I wanted to do anyway.”
She reiterated that lesson several times while talking with the students; get a really good education and do work you are passionate about.
Speaking about her current position as Lieutenant Governor she said, “I have the greatest job in the world.”
Guadagno said the governor tasked her early on with “cutting through red tape.” The best way to do that, she said, “was to have people call me. So I started giving out my cell phone number. Sometimes all you have to do is answer the phone. I may not be able to help them but by listening to them they have a renewed faith in government.”
She explained one thing that she “has a problem with” is when “two parts of the government tell businesses two different things.”
Guadagno told the students one tactic she uses to get the two sides to agree. She said she tells “both arms they will meet in my office in Trenton on a Friday afternoon in the summer.” Problems usually get solved, Guadagno explained.
The lieutenant governor took questions from the students. The first asked her opinion about “government officials taking the fifth” in a hearing. “I knew there was going to be a Hillary question but I didn’t think it would be the first one,” quipped Guadagno.
“I believe my life is an open book,” she said.
When she took the job she knew “everything about me was going to be fair game, except my kids.” With respect to presidential candidate Clinton she said, “It might take a long time. When you are on the world stage you have to make sure you have it right. It’s not like Law and Order.”
There were a couple a questions about being a woman in a career predominantly comprised of men. Guadagno said, “I never ran into a barrier until I ran for sheriff.” She attributes that to her “experience and possibly because I had subpoena power.”
Guadagno told the students she did not like to do the “girl speech” but sometimes it is necessary. She referred to a recent article in the New York Times in which it was stated “there are more CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies named John, than there are female CEOs.”
She reiterated, “Get a good education and get a job doing something you like to do.” She challenged the students to “keep track of one another” saying women especially do not do a good job in that area nor do they do enough to “toot their own horn,” or support other women.
She continued, “Forget the guilt stuff. You can’t have it all - at the same time.”
When asked for advice about interviewing Guadagno said, “Be very prepared, tell your personal story and be respectful.”
Guadagno told the students a story about how on the day she was sworn in she got on an elevator with the dean of her college in Pennsylvania. She left them with two thoughts, “It’s a small world” so you should be sure to “be nice to everyone.”
Guadagno left the high school to go to Space Farm, accepting an invitation from Assemblyman Parker Space to see his zoo.
Shoch thanked the lieutenant governor for coming to Sparta and gave her a Spartan Bag and t-shirt. He said, “It is not often a political figure or a role model can come to speak to us. Luckily I found another prom date.”