Mejía is First Dominican in NJ Legislature

Pedro Mejía being sworn in. (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

When Pedro Mejía arrived in the U.S. at 15 years of age from his native Moca, Dominican Republic, he never imagined that one day he would become the first Dominican to serve in the New Jersey Legislature.

On Thursday April 12, Mejía was sworn in by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin as assemblyman for the 32nd District – which includes East Newark, Edgewater, Fairview, Guttenberg, Harrison, Kearny, North Bergen and Secaucus.

Mejía, who lives in Secaucus, will succeed former Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, who stepped down in February after a 14-year stint in the legislature to lead the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

“It is a tremendous honor to join the New Jersey General Assembly and to represent the residents of District 32 in Trenton,” said Mejía. “I am ready to get to work addressing the issues important to our communities and to the state. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to improve the lives of New Jersey residents.”

Mejía is a self-made man who, even without a college education, has succeeded in achieving the “American dream.”

“I first went to Puerto Rico. That’s where I met my wife and two of my children were born, and I would work as a butcher in restaurants. However, I realized that in Puerto Rico my kids could not have the education I wanted for them, so we moved to New Jersey in 1990,” said the new assemblyman.

Mejía said that in the Garden State he first settled in Union City, where he started working as a cook and then in construction. In 1997 he used his savings to buy houses, fix and flip them. That was his business for 20 years.

He moved with his family to Secaucus 11 years ago. He currently owns a small company in the New Jersey residential real estate industry.

He was offered the Assembly position by members of the Democratic Party who knew him.

As a legislator, he said that his priorities are transportation, education, health care and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. “Those are very important issues for our Hispanic community, and I intend to work on them.”

Come November, Mejía will need to ratify his appointment as assemblyman with the District 32 voters, who will decide whether they want to keep him as their representative.

His plans, he said, include running for this election and continuing his development in this new phase as a politician. “In those months I want to learn about the political process. I have always loved to help my people, my community. I feel good when I help. I think that helping people with their problems is much better than just going to church and praying.”

Mejía confessed that he is not very involved with the state Dominican organizations, with whom he hopes to establish a good relationship in the future. And yet, he thinks that becoming the first Dominican assemblyman in New Jersey “is something great, very important, I never dreamed that something like that would happen to me.”

Mejía does not rule out following the steps of his fellow national Adriano Espaillat, the first Dominican assemblyman and congressman in New York.

Pedro Mejía is married to Amalia Mejía. They have three children: Jaishka, Nelson and Ashley; two of them are teachers and one is finishing health care studies.

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