Ernest Reock Jr. Still Hard at Work—20 Years Post-Retirement

Ernest Reock

One would be hard pressed to find a local government official in New Jersey whose career has not been touched by the work of Ernest Reock Jr. 

Tax assessors, borough clerks, township engineers, business administrators, zoning officials, code inspectors, public safety directors—pretty much all significant officials needed to run a city or town—obtain their professional imprimaturs through coursework developed, taught, or overseen by Reock during his six-decade affiliation with Rutgers’ Center for Government Services (CGS).

Officially, Reock retired as CGS Director in 1992. Unofficially, he is still working nearly 20 years later. While he may have traded his suits and ties for flannel shirts and khakis, he is no less devoted to his projects. At 87, Reock puts in 25 hours a week in his New Brunswick office doing research and teaching part time.  

“I am here because I like the work,” he said. “I had built up a big backlog of things I wanted to do and didn’t have the time for. Fortunately, they let me have an office.”

At its annual convention in November, the New Jersey League of Municipalities honored Reock with a Distinguished Service Award, which he modestly ascribes to his participation on a committee studying property taxes.

“Ernest Reock has dedicated a lifetime to understanding and explaining the phenomena associated with New Jersey’s government services,” said Alan Zalkind, who became CGS Director in 2009. “His contributions are prodigious. The award from the League is well deserved.”

Few people in New Jersey possess Reock’s historical perspective, nor insights. Reock has long been a favorite resource for the media seeking clarity on complex issues.

He currently is wrapping up one of his signature projects: the latest edition of the New Jersey Legislative District Data Book. Conceived by Reock, it has been published annually since 1976. The spiral-bound tome is packed with demographic, economic, fiscal, geographical, and political data on every municipality and legislative district in the state. It is one of the university’s most widely used publications.

Reock was a young Rutgers graduate student in history when he joined the newly created Bureau of Government Research in 1950. “I moved from being a graduate student right into a full-time job,” he said.

He went on to earn a Ph.D. in political science, while becoming the bureau’s most prolific researcher and its staunchest advocate. He became its second director in 1960 and remained in that position until his retirement.

He also served as chair of the Department of Government Services from 1981 to 1992 when it was combined with the bureau and renamed the Center for Government Services. Today, CGS offers some 300 courses annually to approximately 11,000 participants, with many earning their professional certification through its programs. It is a legacy that even the modest Reock acknowledges. 

“The center has played a big role in training local officials,” he said. “The professionalization of local government is one of our major accomplishments.”

Though he has accomplished many goals, Reock still has a wish list. He would like to see funding for more research on New Jersey government. He believes Rutgers is best positioned and even duty-bound as the state university to handle it. And knowing Reock, he probably would be the first to volunteer.

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