A life of public service: Getting to know state Sen. Fred Madden

From law enforcement to politics, state Sen. Fred Madden remains focused on family, local communities

State Sen. Fred Madden

State Sen. Fred Madden was not raised in the environment most people would perceive as a Senate household. While Madden was the first child in his family to attend college and earn a degree, his “down-to-earth, blue-collar” upbringing taught him the value of family — a principle he prioritizes in both his work and home life.

Madden moved to South Jersey in eighth grade when his family relocated from Southwest Philadelphia to Bellmawr. After graduating from Gloucester Catholic High School, Madden received his two-year degree in law enforcement from Camden County College, and finished first in his class at the police academy alongside 81 fellow graduates. Before Madden was elected to the 4th Legislative District, he was climbing the ranks of the state police where he finished his 28-year career in 2003, under Gov. Jim McGreevey, as the acting superintendent, the highest position within the department.

After winning the 2003 Senate election by 63 votes against Republican opponent George Geist, Madden’s career of serving the public was launched in a new direction, one that has sustained 14 years after his unopposed re-election last year.

“I believed [running for Senate] would be a fantastic opportunity to actually represent people, their voices and their needs,” Madden said. “I felt wholeheartedly I could make a personal difference in their lives and I would be able to represent them with honor and integrity. I’ve never deviated from that.”

With his history of policing and years of education, having been schooled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service, Madden said soon after his election to the state Senate, he was urged to serve on the Law and Public Safety Committee. However, Madden said he lobbied against the position after meeting with communities, door-to-door, during his campaign and hearing from more than 8,000 residents about their concerns in health-care access and costs, specifically seniors. Madden now serves as the chair of the Labor Committee, as well as the vice chair of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, in an effort to serve those who are in need within the district.

“When you look at my bills of the laws I have passed, they’re fairly diverse across the board, but there is a general theme of health and safety,” Madden said. “I’m very conscientious about paying attention to all the needs of people, but I believe a certain cadre of people need to have individuals stay especially focused on them, and that’s our seniors and veterans of the U.S. armed forces.”

During his time in the Senate, Madden has established a position for a district employee to travel throughout year to any and all of the Fourth District communities’ senior groups and provide information on social safety net programs, such as access to health care and prescription costs, income tax and property tax rebates and more.

One of the first programs Madden implemented after his election was the Student Enrichment Program, a two-hour lesson each week, for six weeks, that teaches the internal workings of the state government and Senate office. Madden said the program, which started with one student from each of the 10 public high schools within the district, has grown substantially throughout the years and is now offered in both the spring and fall for juniors and seniors.

During the program, students will hear from public office guest speakers, such as county surrogate, freeholders, clerks or legislators. Additionally, students are required to select a topic to write a position paper on with the goal of having the majority of the class on their side.

“It teaches them and exposes them, on a small scale, the negotiations and back and forth dialogue, as well as how concessions need to be made on bills to get supporters in your corner,” Madden said. “[The program] has been a foundation of the Fourth District.”

Madden and his wife Patti moved to Bells Lake in Washington Township in 1978 when they were expecting their second child. Now celebrating 42 years of marriage as parents to four and grandparents to seven, Madden said he and Patti, the corporate director of nursing for Jefferson Health Washington Township, prioritize weekly meals with their family. While 13-hour days are common for Madden, he said he consciously sets his Senate schedule around his grandchildren’s activities, consistently attending about 80 percent of their sports games.

“I find with all of my down time and off time, I enjoy spending time with my family,” Madden said. “We’re very fortunate.”