Peter Garcia, a respected former local official in Camden County and U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, died on Tuesday night after complications from surgery. He was 60.
Garcia was an intern on Rep. Jim Florio’s congressional staff in 1979, worked as a district office aide in the 1980s, and became an assistant counsel after Florio was elected governor. He later served as a deputy state public defender under Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and as deputy attorney general in the casino investigation section.
He was elected to the Gloucester Township Board of Education in 1985 and to the Mount Ephraim Board of Commissioners in a 1995 non-partisan election. He won that race by four votes.
After Camden County Clerk Michael Keating was convicted on bribery charges in 1995, Whitman nominated Garcia to serve as acting county clerk. But Garcia had backed former Sheriff William Simon in a vicious Demcoratic primary against a candidate backed Democratic powerhouse George Norcross, so Camden County senators declined to sign off on the nomination.
The race was won by James Beach, who is now a state senator from Camden County.
Over the years, Garcia wound up on the right side of the Camden Democratic organization and by 1998 he was among those considered for a federal judgeship.
As an Army reservist, Garcia completed several tours of duty in Afghanistan and Central America.