Home>Highlight>The O’Toole Chronicles: Tom Giblin – A Giant Among Political Legends

Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin. (Photo: International Union of Operating Engineers).

The O’Toole Chronicles: Tom Giblin – A Giant Among Political Legends

By Kevin O'Toole, April 18 2023 12:01 am

May you always be blessed
With the walls for the wind
A roof for the rain
A warm cup of tea by the fire
Laughter to cheer you
These you love near you
And all that your heart
May desire
     — Irish Proverb

I have known Assemblyman Tom Giblin since I began in Essex County politics in 1984. Anyone involved in politics since the 1970s, they are well aware of Tom’s astonishing service and gargantuan impact on county and state politics. In a nutshell, Tom has long been a legend in Essex County, well before he became a political giant in state politics.

For starters, politics is in Tom’s blood. Tom’s family has a long record of public service and they wear this service as badge of honor. The apple does not fall from the tree. Tom’s dad was a very powerful labor leader, Newark City charter study member, served as a powerful state senator (John J. Giblin) from 1966 to 1968, and was an Essex County freeholder (now commissioner) from 1955-57.

He was more than just a bystander.  Tom was just 7 when he was trained in his family business handing out leaflets for his father.

Most politicians do not necessarily distinguish themselves over a long period. Rather, most are judged by title or a particular position they held, or event that occurred on their watch. Tom is a little different.

After reviewing Tom’s entire body of work, it will be very easy for any political observer, even the casual one, to conclude that Tom is one of the most consequential elected officials of this century in the state. I know this covers a lot of ground with the likes of Hague, Bradley, James, Rodino, Farley, Kean, Fenwick and others, but it is true.

Tom’s niche in life has been to give as many ordinary people a chance in life. In this quest, Tom has helped thousands, literally thousands, of people get jobs. From toll collectors and boilermakers to CFOs, Tom has been a catalyst for job creation and he continues to do that today. As Carly Simon sang, “no one does it any better.”

I recently had a long overdue lunch with Tom and I got to know the legend I had seen in action for the past four decades. We spent nearly two hours talking about the politics of today, politics of tomorrow, and politics of yesterday. I could have stayed for a few more hours listening to Tom recount precise dates, details, relationships and little known facts going back 60 years. In this business they say everyone and everything has a history, well, when you sit with a historian of politics like Tom Giblin, he helps to fill in a lot details that shaped and will shape future political events.

For those unaware of Tom’s political resume let me give a quick refresher:

Essex County Commissioner: 1977 – 1978 & 1982 – 1990
New Jersey Real Estate Commissioner: 1979 – 1982
Essex County Surrogate: 1990 – 1993
Essex County Democratic Chair: 1993 – 2003
New Jersey Democratic Chair: 1997 – 2001
New Jersey State Assemblyman: 2006 to present

But the top lines of his curriculum vitae don’t properly explain his career.

As a freeholder, he was genuinely committed to providing necessary services to the people of Essex County. He took his job as an assemblyman seriously and was a powerful and effective advocate for his constituents and for working-class people.  It was an honor to serve alongside him for several years.

To properly round out his resume, it is important to note that he honorably served in the New Jersey National Guard from 1966 to 1972 and was a staff sergeant.

Currently, Tom is the long-time business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers AFL-CIO Local 68. Tom is a proud and dedicated family man who surrounds himself with his children and dotes on his grandchildren.  He is especially proud that three of his children have followed him into public service: a Cranford mayor, an Verona councilman, and an assistant counsel to the governor.

Assemblyman Giblin is passionate about his charity work and community causes. Whether it be for local food banks, The Giblin Association, hospitals, apprenticeships or social causes, Tom leads the way in giving back to the community and county that raised him.

Tom casts a large and imposing and everlasting shadow on the Essex and New Jersey political landscape but yet manages to show a powerful political deftness and grace that belies his imposing standing and strength.

And Tom was incredibly proud of his Irish heritage as the son of an immigrant from County Roscommon.  He wished that every day were St. Patrick’s Day.  Nothing made him happier than marching in a parade.

None of us knows what our future holds, but this much I can predict, Tom Giblin will walk towards his with the same excitement and energy he has brought to everything else he has done.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


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