Murphy Names Transition Team, Signals His Priorities

High-profile appointees include NJEA president; Gov.-elect also appoints less well-known figures

Less than a week after his election, Gov.-elect Phil Murphy yesterday started naming names to his various transition committees that show where his policies lie.

Murphy has appointed a wide array of well-known — and some less well-known — individuals. The list is notable for a few familiar high-profile names, including New Jersey Education Association president Marie Blistan on the education committee, former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman on law and justice, and former NAACP president Cornell Brooks, also on law and justice.

But in each of the 13 committees Murphy announced yesterday, there were lesser-known appointees who represent varying constituencies, including the Rev. William Howard of Newark (education committee), Ehsan Chowdhry of the New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association (law), and Demelza Baer of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (economic development).

Even the naming of committees itself also sent a clear signal to the next governor’s stated priorities. There is a panel centered on a “stronger and fairer economy,” up on the same stage as healthcare and environment. Other committees will focus on urban and regional growth, veterans and military affairs, and government technology and innovation.

No hint yet of his picks as commissioners

The transition process and its appointed players only mean so much. The real impact will be in Murphy’s ultimate selection of state commissioners and directors who will actually make and drive policy. Those names have yet to be divulged, with the exception of Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver, who will head up the Department of Community Affairs. And it is hardly certain that any commissioners or directors will come from the transition committees. Typically, they do not.

Murphy has been somewhat close to the vest as to specifically whose advice he is relying on in making those eventual appointments, and the transition panels are one indicator.

Blistan, the head of the NJEA, is hardly a surprise, as the teachers union has backed Murphy from the beginning and played a prominent role in his campaign. And the education transition committee includes not just Blistan but also a former local NJEA president, Gayl Shepard of Montclair.

Meanwhile, there are no names from the ranks of the so-called school reform movement, including charter schools, or the growing list of advocacy groups centered on making drastic changes in school policy.

The public finance committee includes some familiar names, including one who served on outgoing Gov. Chris Christie’s transition: former state treasurer and current Woodridge Mayor John McCormac.

Another named on that committee is David Rosen, the former finance director for the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services and a frequent sparring partner of Christie’s over budget projections. Their battles were notorious, with Christie calling Rosen “Dr. Kevorkian” for his downbeat revenue forecasts. (Rosen’s numbers, more often than not, proved the more accurate.)

The economic development committee is another interesting mix. Baer of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has been a leading voice on the issue of income disparities in the state, including between genders. Laurence Downes, CEO of New Jersey Resources, heads one of the state’s largest utilities.

The energy committee indicates a clear eye on renewable energy, as Murphy has promised. David Crane, former CEO of NRG Energy, pushed the company to embrace renewable energy. Jeanne Fox, former BPU president and acting commissioner of DEP, helped propel New Jersey to become a leader in solar energy.

The following is the full list of appointees:

Director of Transition Policy Committees Jose Fernandez, former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs

Senior Advisor to the Transition for Strategy and Policy Carl Van Horn, Ph.D., Director, John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University


Albert Kelly, Mayor of Bridgeton and President of the League of Municipalities

Alison Lewis, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Johnson & Johnson

David Rosenberg, Co-Founder and CEO, AeroFarms


Henry Coleman, Ph.D., Professor of Public Policy, Rutgers University

Amy Mansue, President, Southern Region at RWJBarnabas Health

John McCormac, Mayor of Woodbridge

David J. Rosen, former Legislative Budget and Finance Officer, New Jersey
Office of Legislative Services

Education, Access, and Opportunity

Marie Blistan, President, New Jersey Education Association

Mark Biedron, immediate past President, New Jersey State
Board of Education

Rev. Dr. William Howard Jr., former Chair, Rutgers University Board of Governors

Christopher Irving, Ed.D., President, Paterson Board of Education

Gayl Shepard, former President, Montclair Education Association

Jianping Wang, Ed.D., President, Mercer County Community College

Environment and Energy

David Crane, former President and CEO, NRG Energy

Jeanne Fox, former President, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities

Kathleen Frangione, former Senior Advisor, Senator John Kerry

Lisa Garcia, Vice President of Litigation for Healthy Communities, Earthjustice

John S. Watson Jr., Vice President, D&R Greenway Land Trust

Government Technology and Innovation

Jay Bhatti, Co-Founder, BrandProject

Jazlyn Carvajal, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Stay On Your Daily

Tim Castano, President, New Start New Jersey

Judith Sheft, Associate Vice President of Technology and Enterprise Development,
New Jersey Innovation Institute at NJIT

Avis Yates Rivers, President and CEO, Technology Concepts Group International


Omar Baker, M.D., Co-President, Chief Quality and Safety Officer
and Director of Performance Improvement at Riverside Medical Group/ProHealthCare of New Jersey

Shereef Elnahal, M.D., Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health,
Veterans Health Administration

Balpreet Grewal-Virk, Ph.D., Director of Community Engagement,
Department of Population Health at Hackensack Meridian Health

Valerie Harr, former Director, Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services

Heather Howard, former Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

Linda Schwimmer, President and CEO, New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute

Maria Vizcarrondo, former President and CEO, United Way of West Essex and West Hudson


Joseph Della Fave, Executive Director, Ironbound Community Corporation

Christiana Foglio, Founder and CEO, Community Investment Strategies

Michelle Richardson, Executive Director, Hudson County Economic Development Corporation

Renee Wolf Koubiadis, Executive Director, Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey

Human and Children Services

Zillehuma Hasan, Founding Member and Executive Director,
Wafa House, Inc.

Trish Morris-Yamba, Executive Director Emerita, Newark Day Center

Kevin Ryan, President and CEO, Covenant House International

Jennifer Velez, Senior Vice President of Community and Behavioral Health,
RWJBarnabas Health

Joseph Youngblood II, Ph.D., Vice Provost and Dean, John S. Watson School of Public Service
at Thomas Edison State University

Cecilia Zalkind, President and CEO, Advocates for Children of New Jersey

Labor and Workforce Development

Kevin Brown, New Jersey State Director and Vice President,
32BJ Service Employees International Union

Lizette Delgado, Political Director, Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters

Maria Heidkamp, Director, New Start Career Network

Greg Lalevee, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825

James H. Moore, Jr., Ph.D., former Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor

Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey State Director, Communication Workers of America

Nelida Valentin, Vice President, Princeton Area
Community Foundation

Law and Justice

Rev. Cornell William Brooks, former President and CEO, NAACP

Ronald Chen, Co-Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School

The Hon. Paul Fishman, former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey

Ricardo Solano Jr., former First Assistant Attorney General of New Jersey

Tahesha Way, former Freeholder Director, Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Law and Justice, Immigration Subcommittee

Johanna Calle, Program Coordinator, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice

Sara Cullinane, Director, Make the Road New Jersey

Law and Justice, Social Justice Subcommittee

Ehsan F. Chowdhry, President, New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association

Ryan Haygood, President and CEO, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

Military and Veteran Affairs

Col. Jeff Cantor, Councilman, Marlboro Township

Maj. Gen. Maria A. Falca-Dodson, U.S.A.F., ret., Vice President
of Strategic Initiatives, MDAdvantage

Former Cpt. Sue Fulton, Executive Director,Women in the Service Change Initiative

Lt. Col. Kamal Singh Kalsi, D.O., FACEP, U.S.A.R., Medical Officer
for 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, Fort Dix, New Jersey

Sgt. Maj. Jennifer Long, SGM Jennifer Long, ret., 
Financial Advisor, Integrated Financial Concepts

Stronger and Fairer Economy

Demelza Baer, Senior Counsel and Director, Economic Mobility Initiative at the New Jersey
Institute for Social Justice

John Ballantyne, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters

Vivian Cox Fraser, President and CEO, Urban League of Essex County

Luis O. De La Hoz, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, 
Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey

Julie Diaz, State Political Director, 32BJ Services Employees International Union

Laurence Downes, Chairman of the Board and CEO, New Jersey Resources

Carl Van Horn, Ph.D., Director, John J. Heldrich Center
for Workforce Development at Rutgers University

Transportation and Infrastructure

Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef, former Senior Advisor and Director of Logistics
and Industrial Opportunities, Mayor Cory Booker

Pam Fischer, former Director, New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, former Executive Director, New Jersey Turnpike Authority

Jack Lettiere, former Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Transportation

Ray Pocino, Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager, Laborers' International
Union of North America

Martin Robins, Director Emeritus, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center

Urban and Regional Growth

Leecia Eve, former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development for New York

Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future

Kimberly McLain, President and CEO, Newark Alliance

Preston Pinkett, Chairman and CEO, City National Bank

Richard Roper, Retired Director, Planning Department at the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey

Dawn Zimmer, Mayor of Hoboken

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