Days after announcing the departure of longtime Chief of Staff George Helmy at the end of this month, Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday named New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti as his successor, beginning Oct. 2.
Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who will continue to serve as NJDOT commissioner until January, brings more than 40 years of public service experience to the chief of staff role. That includes 21 years at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, rising from an administrator to executive director, as well as serving as executive director and CEO at Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, prior to becoming NJDOT commissioner in 2018.
In her current role heading the NJDOT, Gutierrez-Scaccetti serves as chair of NJ Transit, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the South Jersey Transportation Authority and the NJ Transportation Trust Fund Authority, as well as vice chair of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commissioner.
During her tenure, she has managed the largest-ever capital program in state history, awarded significant construction contracts and agreements, and helped support communities in myriad of ways during the pandemic.
In a statement announcing the appointment to the critical role, Murphy described Gutierrez-Scaccetti as a dedicated member of the administration.
“And I am looking forward to welcoming her to our senior leadership team in the Governor’s Office,” said Murphy. “She has built an impressive track record leading the Department of Transportation and has earned the respect of legislators and elected officials across the state. Having worked with her for six years, I know that her experience and skillset make her the ideal choice to lead our entire administration.”
Gutierrez-Scaccetti said she was honored to be entrusted as Murphy’s next chief of staff.
“I had the privilege of working with George Helmy closely on transportation and infrastructure policy and am grateful to him for his four-and-a-half years of service in this role,” she said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing to build on the governor’s achievements on behalf of the people of New Jersey.”
Helmy said that Murphy made an exceptional choice in selecting his successor.
“I have worked closely with her and seen up close her leadership, expertise, and tenacity in spearheading the rebuilding of our state’s infrastructure,” said Helmy. “I know Diane and the rest of the team will serve the people of New Jersey well and continue to build on the Murphy Administration’s unprecedented record of accomplishments.”
As NJBIZ reported, it was announced Sept. 19 that Helmy would step down from the chief of staff role, which he has served in since 2019 – including through the throes of the pandemic – with leaders across business, politics, and more thanking him for his work and service.
Reaction to the appointment of Gutierrez-Scaccetti began to flow in from around the Garden State Monday evening.
Senate Democrats said that Murphy made an excellent selection.
“Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti has proved to be a highly-skilled public official who has succeeded as New Jersey’s Transportation Commissioner – one of the most demanding and consequential positions in state government,” said Senate President Nick Scutari, D-22nd District, and Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, D-29th District, in a statement. “Her strengths as a strong and effective manager who works constructively with legislators will continue to be an asset as the chief of staff. As a Latina, Diane’s appointment demonstrates further the value of diversity in positions of influence. We are confident that legislative leaders will continue to have a productive working relationship with the governor’s top aide as we work to move New Jersey forward.”
“Gov. Murphy has made an outstanding decision in naming Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti his chief of staff,” said Utility and Transportation Contractors Association (UTCA) Executive Director Dave Rible. “There are few people better equipped to tackle the issues of our state, in particular, our transportation and infrastructure issues. She’s done a remarkable job at the Department of Transportation and we look forward to working with her as chief of staff. Her appointment is tremendous news for our industry and the people of New Jersey.”
In a statement to NJBIZ, Tom Bracken, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said his organization applauded the selection of Gutierrez-Scaccetti — noting that improving the state’s transportation network has been a top priority of the Chamber.
“And as chair of several statewide infrastructure initiatives, I have said many times our infrastructure is the foundation of our economy. Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti has done an outstanding job ensuring that transportation projects have been prioritized that will keep New Jersey’s economy moving,” said Bracken. “She has a strong record of accomplishment, is an excellent administrator and is dedicated to making New Jersey a better place to live and work. All these admirable qualities will make her an excellent chief of staff – and it is for these reasons, and more, that we previously announced that she would receive the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s Business Advocate of the Year Award in October. We look forward to working with Chief of Staff Gutierrez-Scaccetti on important issues to employers and discussing with her our six-point pro-economic growth agenda designed to position New Jersey for a more prosperous future.”