Home>Health>Joe Simonetta, longtime lobbyist and renaissance man, dies at 69

Joe Simonetta. (Photo: Public Strategies Impact).

Joe Simonetta, longtime lobbyist and renaissance man, dies at 69

Respected and affafable partner at PSI worked for congresswoman, state legislators

By David Wildstein, March 11 2023 9:40 pm

Joseph A. Simonetta, a prominent and effective lobbyist for the last three decades and a fixture in New Jersey politics for six decades, died today after a long battle with cancer.  He was 69.

He spent more than 31 years as a partner at Public Strategies Impact, helping the firm grown into one of the largest and highest-earning contract lobbying firms in the state.  Simonetta was widely respected on by both parties and was among the first to bring association management skills into the contract lobbying lane.

“In a very real sense, Joe was a larger-than-life figure,” said his longtime friend and business partner, Roger Bodman.  “For me, our PSI colleagues, and our many trusted clients, it is a devasting loss. I simply have no words to express how shocked and saddened I am.”

As a lobbyist, he helped pass New Jersey’s Good Samaritan law that shielded volunteer from liability while helping in natural disaster recovery.   After Superstorm Sandy, Simonetta worked with law enforcement and state and county governments to develop emergency evacuation plans that would help the state prepare for future disasters.

Simonetta became involved in politics at age 19 when he worked on the Phillipsburg mayoral race in 1973.  He was the volunteer coordinator for Helen Meyner, the former First Lady of New Jersey who outed Rep. Joseph Maraziti (R-Boonton) in a 1974 race for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Before joining PSI, Simonetta was the legislative director, and later chief of staff, for Assemblyman Francis J. McManimon (D-Hamilton) and Assemblywoman Helen Chiarello Szabo (D-Trenton).     He served as executive director of the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers and as director of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors  during the 1970s while Gov. Brendan Byrne was in office.

“We have not just lost our colleague, but we’ve lost a trusted partner, a mentor, and a dear friend. Joe has been a partner at PSI for over 30 years,” his firm said in a statement.  “Though he fought recent health issues with bravery and positivity, we are saddened to have lost him so suddenly.

His firm remembered Simonetta tonight as a “passionate advocate of social reform issues” and as a renaissance man who was an avid golfer, world traveler, boat captain, wine aficionado, and lover of the arts.

“Joe will always be remembered for his desire to make the world a better place for everyone, and for the way he would light up the room at any event the minute he walked in the door,” his PSI colleagues said.

He is survived by his husband, Kevin.  Memorial arrangements are pending.

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