Home>Feature>John Kolesar, Associated Press’ statehouse bureau chief in 1950s and 1960s, dies at 96

Former statehouse reporter John Kolesar in the early 1970's. (Photo: Cenetr for the Analysis of Public Issues).

John Kolesar, Associated Press’ statehouse bureau chief in 1950s and 1960s, dies at 96

Legendary N.J. journalist also headed think tank, worked at Department of Community Affairs

By David Wildstein, May 08 2023 2:06 pm

John N. Kolesar, a giant in the history of New Jersey journalists and a fixture at the statehouse since Robert Meyner’s first year as governor, died on May 5.  He was 96.

Kolesar started covering New Jersey politics as a reporter for the Herald News in 1951 and joined the Associated Press in 1953.  He was the AP statehouse bureau chief for nine years.

In 1961, Kolesar served as president of the New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club.

He joined the Trenton Times as an investigative reporter in 1966 and later returned as managing editor.   He also worked for the Courier News and the Bergen Record.

Kolesar served as president of the Center for the Analysis of Public Issues, once New Jersey’s premier non-profit think tank.  In one report, he noted that “shoddy ethics” helped create useless and harmful public projects.

He also had some short stints in government and politics.  He served as an advisor to New Jersey’s first Commissioner of Community Affairs, Paul Ylvisaker, during the last three years of Gov. Richard Hughes’s administration, and held the rank of assistant commissioner.

He was an advisor to former State Sen. Bill Schluter’s independent bid for governor in 2001.

“He was of a generation where there were quite a few reporters who covered the statehouse, and he did a wonderful job,” said Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township), whose father, Wesley L. Lance, served as Senate President while Kolesar was the AP bureau chief.  “It’s tragic for the people of New Jersey that the statehouse is not extensively covered today.”

Kolesar lived in Burlington County and served as chairman of the Chesterfield Planning Board in the 1970s.

He met his wife, Nina, when she worked as a teletype operator in the Trenton Bureau of the Associated Press.  She passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.

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