(Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:10 p.m. with additional comments from Fox and others.) Gov. Chris Christie has tapped former state Department of Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox to return to that role, replacing longtime department chief James Simpson.In a news conference Thursday, Christie nominated the Democrat and onetime commissioner under Gov. Jim McGreevey. Fox, also a former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will now be considered for confirmation by the Senate.
The nomination comes at a time when funding for transportation infrastructure is among the most high-profile issues in Trenton. The state’s Transportation Trust Fund — the primary source of capital used by the state to maintain and improve roads, bridges and mass transit systems — is on the verge of running out of money after years of borrowing.
In a brief statement, Fox thanked Christie for nominating him to go back to the DOT, which he says was “the best job I ever had in my life.”
“I look forward to a confirmation hearing (and) I look forward to starting as soon as possible with the Department of Transportation,” Fox said.
If confirmed, Fox will succeed Simpson, who stepped down in June after serving since the beginning of the Christie administration.
Within minutes of Christie’s nomination, support flowed in from state Democrats.
“I am sure I speak for many people in the state when I say this is one of the best decisions the governor has made,” Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said in a statement. “Jamie is universally respected and liked, both for his demeanor and his ability to get the job done.”
Christie also nominated Richard Mroz, a lawyer and public affairs consultant, to serve as president of the state Board of Public Utilities, replacing Dianne Solomon. In addition, he nominated Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset) to become a BPU commissioner, in a move that would require him to leave the Legislature, while re-nominating BPU Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso.
Mroz said in brief comments that, if confirmed, he’s excited about working with what should be a “very good board” in an industry that “has such a great impact on the economy and employment in the state.”
Due to their pending hearings before the state Senate, neither Fox nor Mroz fielded questions from reporters.
Chivukula’s nomination comes after he finished behind Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Trenton) earlier this year in the Democratic primary to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Rush Holt in the 12th Congressional District. In 2012, he secured the Democratic nomination in the 7th Congressional District, but fell short to the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) said in a statement Thursday that while he will “miss” Chivukula’s “guidance and friendship in the Assembly,” he supported Christie’s nomination.
“New Jersey has no better advocate for consumers and modern utility reform than Asm. Chivukula,” Prieto said.
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