Live Comedy, Deceased Clients, Rolling as Honey Bee: These are NJ’s Legislators
It's tempting to view New Jersey's Legislature as 120 no-nonsense, hard-nosed lawyers and consultants.
But if you take a closer look at the roster, you may be surprised at what you find.
Sure, there are dozens of attorneys, and a few occupations we couldn't even begin to explain, but select legislators have some unique side jobs and hobbies that could make you rethink the word "politician." Below we feature four members of the New Jersey Assembly.
Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg (District 8 Republican)
She's known as Honey Bee on the roller derby track.
Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg has been a derby girl for more than half a decade, currently on the roster of two travel teams.
"It's very physical. Like any sport, injuries can happen," she said.
And she would know. Early last year, Rodriguez-Gregg had a full ACL tear, among other complications, in her left knee. Following surgery, she returned to the track a little too soon and quickly suffered a torn meniscus in her other knee.
"I had meniscus repair back in February, and I just started skating again a few weeks ago," she said.
Rodriguez-Gregg said roller derby gives her a chance to "completely de-stress." She finds the time for games, and a couple practices per week, on top of her position as a legislator and as the director of relationship management for Home Towne Rx Pharmacy.
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (District 21 Republican)
He may be a lawyer, but he also holds the title of "Funniest Lawyer in New Jersey."
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick has performed stand-up comedy for the past 25 years. And he's still writing new material.
Bramnick, the Assembly Minority Leader for New Jersey, recently entertained in Ohio during the four-day Republican National Convention.
According to Bramnick, his sense of humor has helped him "big time" in politics, from forming relationships to navigating heavy negotiations.
"In politics, No. 1, they have to like you, and I think comedy is a very useful tool in getting people to like you," he said. "The hard part is lowering taxes in New Jersey. The easier part is being funny."
Bramnick refuses to take money for his stand-up appearances, unless it goes to an organization or charity.
In the video above, Bramnick takes on some of his "favorite" road signs in New Jersey.
Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (District 6 Democrat)
"Sunday night meals at my house, I'm cooking up a storm," Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt told Townsquare Media.
Lampitt is a professionally-trained chef who received her certification from Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island.
Shortly after graduating, she served as a banquet chef at a Hilton outside Boston. But for the past 35 years, she's been involved with overseeing food operations at the University of Pennsylvania. Her current role on the "Penn Dining Team" is Director of Business Services, Hospitality Services.
Lampitt said cooking is like therapy for her. The more complicated the recipe, the better.
"When I cook something and it has many steps or many ingredients, I really get lost in the recipe and it really helps me relax," she said. "I never learned how to cook for four, so if I had another two families come to my table on a Sunday night, I would have plenty of food."
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (District 37 Democrat)
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle may have the most morbid occupation among all New Jersey legislators, but it's in her blood.
After all, she was born upstairs from a funeral home.
Huttle became licensed as a funeral director in 1980, 31 years after her father opened Vainieri Funeral Home in North Bergen.
Today, she runs the business with her brother, but has had to hand off much of her responsibilities since entering the legislature 10 years ago. The business handles about 200 funerals per year.
"Being a funeral director is not a 9-to-5 position," Huttle said. "As we all know, death knows no time. We are on call 24-7."
Huttle believes her experience helping families through an extremely difficult time has prepared her for her current role as chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee.
Huttle had to learn how to embalm a body in order to obtain her license, but she skips that part of the job these days.
Still, the job can be emotionally exhausting. Huttle has handled ceremonies for young children, stillbirths and victims of domestic violence.
"I still cry at certain deaths and circumstances," she said.
Acknowledging that her occupation is certainly not common among legislative members anywhere, Huttle said the presence of unique jobs and positions gives this legislature a better representation of the people of New Jersey.