Updated Melissa Orsen named new head of EDA

Tom Bergeron//February 26, 2015//

Updated Melissa Orsen named new head of EDA

Tom Bergeron//February 26, 2015//

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Citing her long experience in government — and in running government agencies — the board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority selected Melissa Orsen as its new chief executive officer Thursday morning during its scheduled meeting in Trenton.Orsen, who previously served as the deputy commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, began the new job immediately, filling a spot left vacant by the departure of former CEO Michele Brown, which was announced in January.

Tim Lizura, the well-thought-of EDA chief operating officer, will continue in that role.

Board Chairman Al Koeppe said he was confident the move was the right one at the right time for the organization.

“(Melissa) has had clear leadership responsibilities in professional organizations and in very sensitive situations; a wide range of both experience-based and subject-matter knowledge; a comfortable and thoughtful demeanor; and both a serious work ethic and well-defined ethical standards,” he said in a prepared statement at the meeting.

“At this stage of her career, Melissa is establishing a record as a first-class professional manager. Melissa, as you would expect, enjoys the highest level of respect in state government.”

RELATED: Michele Brown leaving EDA to become Choose N.J. CEO

Koeppe feels Orsen can produce the same type of results as the highly effective team of Brown and Lizura.

“It is clear to me that she and Tim will be a very effective and complementary team,” he said in his remarks.

“I believe that she fits the CEO leadership template we developed in 2012 very well. She has the strong government and leadership skills, which complement Tim’s top-rate business, financial and real estate acumen to make a strong leadership team.”

Her experience is vast.

Orsen has served as a trial lawyer with the Attorney General’s Office (2000-03) and the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (2003-10) — and five of those years were spent as chief counsel.

In 2010, she joined the DCA as chief of staff, overseeing a budget of approximately $1 billion and a workforce of approximately 900 employees.

From 2011 to March of last year, she was deputy chief and then chief of staff to Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.

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As the deputy commissioner of the DCA, Koeppe said, she oversaw a budget of more than $3.8 billion and a workforce of approximately 400 employees.

Koeppe, however, said it’s more than just the numbers — it’s the experience and connections Orsen brings to the job.

“She has been heavily involved in the active leadership of the organization at all levels (policy, contracts, constituent relations, communications, legal and procurement, among others),” he said. “She has solid working relationships with, and enjoys the respect of, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and, importantly, with our own staff.”

Her selection comes after a vetting period, inside and outside of the organization.

“Members of our officer team (Brown, Lizura, Maureen Hassett and Fred Cole), as well our chief counsel, Betty Renaud, expressed their high professional regard for her,” Koeppe said in his remarks.

Koeppe said Orsen was lauded by the New Jersey community of business leaders, government officials and economic development professionals.

“I reached out to respected members of the New Jersey community to learn of their perspectives on her leadership qualifications from their direct experience with her,” he said. “Their opinions uniformly supported her reputation as a strong and sensitive leader.”

She will have big shoes to fill.

Brown, who left the EDA to become the head of Choose New Jersey, was No. 5 on the NJBIZ Power 100 in January.

And the team of Brown and Lizura was named No. 1 on the NJBIZ Real Estate Power List last winter.


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