Gov. Phil Murphy announced Sept. 14 his intention to nominate Jacquelyn Suarez to serve as the next commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA), succeeding the late Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who served in the role since the start of the Murphy administration until her untimely passing last month.
Pending her Senate confirmation, Suarez, who currently serves as director of DCA’s Division of Local Government Services (DLGS), will take the helm as acting commissioner, effective Sept. 18 — making her the department’s first Hispanic commissioner.
In a press release announcing the nomination, Murphy noted that since she began leading the DLGS in January 2021, Suarez – who also served as chair of the state’s Local Finance Board – has been an advocate for local government interests and provided them with technical and financial assistance in a number of areas. His office also points to her work reviewing and approving all municipal, county and fire district budgets; upholding the financial integrity of local government units; and guiding the conduct of local government officials.
Prior to serving as director of DLGS, Suarez was an associate counsel in the governor’s office – providing legal advice to Murphy on a slew of matters and critical issues, notably the pandemic response.
“Jacquelyn has skillfully served our state for many years – lending her expertise to important legal and policy matters affecting municipalities throughout New Jersey,” said Murphy. “When local governments were faced with tremendous challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, she stepped up as head of the Division of Local Government Services and provided local leaders with the support they needed during a difficult time. While Sheila Oliver can never truly be replaced, Jacquelyn will undoubtedly carry on Sheila’s legacy of passionate, dedicated leadership of this department on behalf of New Jersey’s communities.”
Suarez described the nomination as a true honor.
“Having worked under the remarkable leadership of Lt. Gov. Oliver, it is my pleasure to continue moving her legacy forward in serving the communities of our great state,” said Suarez. “DCA plays a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of life for New Jersey residents, municipalities, and businesses – and I will remain steadfast in my commitment to honor each and every one of our communities with the utmost respect and dedication.”
The move was applauded by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“I’ve witnessed firsthand Jacquelyn’s dedication in her current role as Director of Local Government Services at DCA,” said Sen. Nellie Pou, senate majority caucus chair, D-35th District. “As she steps into her new role, she not only carries the torch of our beloved Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver but also carries her vision for housing and community development in New Jersey.”
“We want to commend Gov. Murphy on the nomination of Jacquelyn Suarez as Commissioner of the DCA,” said Sen. Vince Polistina, Assemblywoman Claire Swift and Assemblyman Don Guardian, all Republicans representing the 2nd District in South Jersey. “Jacquelyn is one of the best we have worked with, and we are excited to continue our efforts working with her in her new role.”
The nomination was especially welcomed at the local level around the Garden State.
“Director Suarez is the consummate professional and an exemplary public servant,” said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. “My administration is elated about her elevation to the position of Acting DCA Commissioner.”
New Jersey State League of Municipalities Executive Director Michael Cerra said that while succeeding Oliver is no easy task, he believes Suarez’s experience makes her the ideal choice.
“The League is pleased to learn of her appointment to be the Acting DCA Commissioner,” said Cerra. “We have worked with her both when she was with the governor’s office and as DLGS Director. We very much look forward to continuing our partnership in advancing the interests of local governments and our taxpayers.”
Murphy also gave a shoutout to Kim Holmes, the longtime DCA chief of staff and an assistant commissioner, who has been serving as acting commissioner in the aftermath of Oliver’s sudden and tragic passing.
“I would be remiss to not extend my deepest gratitude to Kim Holmes, who has played a vital role in leading the department over the last several years and swiftly stepped up to the plate to head the department in one of our state’s darkest times,” said Murphy. “I appreciate her remarkable leadership in the month following Sheila’s passing and her firm commitment to the critical work of the Department of Community Affairs.”