515 US-1 South, Iselin, NJ 08830 The NJBIA Event Team Email
to Carry New Jersey Forward
New Jersey continues to experience the impact of COVID-19, with unprecedented workforce challenges, supply chain disruptions, record-high inflation, and overall economic uncertainty. Join NJBIA’s advocacy team as it brings together legislative and industry leaders to discuss policy initiatives including the investment of billions in infrastructure funds to strengthen the state’s economy.
With talk of a recession, business owners are forced to plan like never before. This year’s Public Policy Forum will help business leaders, like you, be better prepared for continued uncertainty as we enter 2023.
- Forum Agenda8:00 AM
Registration, Networking, & Breakfast8:45 AM
Welcome and Opening RemarksRemarks by Michele N. Siekerka, Esq.8:50 AM
Awards PresentationPresented by Michele N. Siekerka, Esq. & Chris Emigholz9:00 AM
Fireside ChatRecognizing the economic challenges that face the country and the state, such as a depleted supply chain, record inflation, and workforce challenges, the fireside discussion will set the stage for what lies ahead for 2023.
Panel: Brenda Ross-Dulan & Bruce Van Saun9:30 AM
New Jersey Legislative Leaders PanelThis panel will discuss policy priorities, utilizing unpreceded levels of federal infrastructure dollars, to create a strong economic climate for New Jersey’s business community and job creators.
Panel: Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate Minority Leader Steven Oroho, and Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio.
Co-moderated by Michele N. Siekerka, Esq. & Eric Scott10:15 AM
Networking Break10:45 AM
Driving the State’s Economy Forward Amidst an Uncertain ForecastThis panel will discuss the current economic climate in New Jersey, as well as strategies to effectively drive growth into 2023 despite uncertain conditions and a possible looming recession.
Panel: Kathleen Coviello, Kathleen Powers, Kyle Sullender, & Debra Tantleff.
Moderated by Chris Emigholz11:30 AM
Ensuring our Dollars Drive the Economy ForwardThis panel will dive into the details of how much infrastructure money will be spent in New Jersey over the next decade and how it will change the way we live and do business. Emphasis will be on transportation, energy, logistics, and communications.
Panel: Assemblyman Daniel Benson.
Moderated by Ray Cantor12:15 PM
Ensuring the New Jersey Workforce is Prepared to Execute Infrastructure ProjectsThis panel will discuss the current needs and efforts needed and underway to aggressively execute infrastructure projects.
Panel: Hugh Bailey, Don Di Zuzio, Aaron Fichtner, Ph.D., Kate Gibbs, Lesley Hirsh & Dr. Ali Houshmand, Ph.D.
Moderated by Alexis Bailey1:00 PM
Alexis Bailey is Vice President of Government Affairs covering employment and labor issues for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), the nation’s largest state-level business association whose member companies collectively employ 1 million people.
Prior to joining NJBIA, Bailey worked as a Legislative Research Associate with the Kaufman Zita Group and as a Government Affairs and Communications Consultant for the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association. Bailey has also held numerous internship positions with Hoboken Strategy Group, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21), the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics and the Republican National Committee.
In 2019, Bailey was named one of NJBIA’s Rising Star Award recipients.
Bailey graduated with summa cum laude honors from Rider University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
Deputy Commissioner Hugh Bailey oversees the Division of Finance and Accounting, the Office of Research and Information, and the Division of Workforce Development, where he previously served as Assistant Commissioner, having established a track record of managing diverse programs geared toward connecting workers with gainful employment.
Throughout his career, Bailey has managed the programmatic and operational implementation of One-stop Career Centers where job-seekers access workforce resources.
Prior to joining NJDOL, he was the Chief Operating Officer for Philadelphia Works, where he was responsible for all Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) workforce development activities.
Earlier, he was the workforce development director for the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development’s Division of Workforce Services, and he has also worked for ASHLIN Management Group.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Public Policy from North Carolina A&T State University.
A dedicated lifelong resident of Hamilton, New Jersey, Dan Benson has been serving the local community for most of his life. After graduating from both Georgetown University in Washington D.C. with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Government and New Jersey’s own Rutgers University with a Master of Public Policy, Dan showed his devotion to public service by becoming the youngest elected councilman in the Township’s history, at age 25.
Dan has been working to help area residents ever since; having served on the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders (2008-2011) and elected to represent New Jersey’s 14th District in the State Assembly since 2011. He now serves as the current Chair of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, as a member of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, as well as the Assembly Budget Committee.
As Assemblyman, Dan is known for rolling up his sleeves everyday and working hard for his constituents. He has prioritized investing in our communities to create economic opportunities, improving our overall quality of life, and making New Jersey more affordable for seniors and working families. Dan is one of the leading voices on legislation tackling the terrible opioid epidemic, the author of bills to encourage small business growth in our local downtowns, and tirelessly worked to cut out-of-pocket costs for New Jersey patients.
Even outside of elected office, Dan expands his service to his community in a variety of ways. Dan is currently the community advisor for the Key Club at Steinert High School, which gives students the opportunity to participate in local community service efforts as well as being a member of the Henry J. Austin Health Center Board of Trustees, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks Lodge #2622. Additionally, as a past President, Dan continues to be active with the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton Township.
In a time when politics is so divisive, Dan continues to prove that he is not your average politician. Dan is a sensible, strong, and reliable leader who cares about his community and works hard to deliver results. He uses his background in the sciences to think outside the box and bring consensus on difficult issues. Married to Drexel University professor Hande Benson, they are the proud parents of six year old Nicholas. Time and again Dan has shown he understands better than most the importance of fighting for New Jersey’s families and standing up for what is right. Dan is the man to get behind, and who we can believe in to restore trust in our government, because he’s always on our side.
Ray Cantor is Deputy Chief Government Affairs Officer of Government Affairs of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), the nation’s largest state-level business association whose member companies collectively employ 1 million people.
Cantor, an attorney whose career has included high-level positions in the legislative and executive branches of government, a former assistant commissioner and, later, chief adviser to the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), leads NJBIA’s advocacy efforts on environmental and energy matters affecting the business community.
At DEP, Cantor oversaw the offices of Legal Affairs, Dispute Resolution, and Economic Analysis in addition to advising the DEP commissioner on policy, legal, management, and economic matters. Cantor was also responsible for policy formulation related to all DEP regulations, including site remediation, NRD, air quality, water regulation, and land-use management.
A graduate of New York Law School, Cantor began his career working at the state’s Office of Legislative Services as senior counsel in the Environment, Energy, & Natural Resources section. He later served as the Assistant Commissioner of Land Use Management & Compliance at DEP until 2002 and also worked as a project consultant for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Cantor’s experience as a business lobbyist includes five years as director of Government Affairs for the Medical Society of New Jersey and then executive director of the New Jersey Apartment Association. He returned to the state DEP in 2010, where he served as chief advisor to DEP Commissioner Bob Martin for eight years.
The Honorable Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin was born Jan. 31, 1958 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He attended public schools in South Amboy going on to graduate summa cum laude from St. John’s University in 1980 and then to earn his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law in 1983.
Serving his seventh term in the General Assembly representing the 19th Legislative District, Coughlin in January of 2018 garnered the support of the Democratic caucus to become the chamber’s 171st Speaker.
Coughlin’s legislative career has focused on lifting up working and middle-class families and New Jerseyans, and he has led the way on smart investments into communities and the state’s economy. Highlights of the Speaker’s twelve-year tenure include successfully raising the state’s minimum wage, sponsorship of four expansive anti-hunger bill packages, reforming the state’s economic and business incentive programs principally through the Economic Recovery Act of 2020, expanding the state’s micro brewing industry, implementing automatic voter registration, and modernizing the state’s brownfield remediation process. His wealth of knowledge of governmental operations has led to several key pieces of legislation being signed into law. Advocating for taxpayers with the Middle-Class Tax Rebate and boosts to school funding, sponsoring the New Jersey College Affordability Act, fighting for the Senior Freeze, restoration of the Homestead Rebate, improving the fairness of landlord-tenant relations, revitalizing the workforce through investments to childcare, and strengthening food security have been cornerstone achievements of Speaker Coughlin’s policy agenda.
A long-time champion for food insecure communities, Speaker Coughlin spearheads an annual bowling fundraiser to benefit local food pantries in his district. In partnership with dozens of area businesses and organizations, the event has raised over $300,000 since its inaugural year in 2010. The Speaker also co-chairs the FeedNJ Campaign, launched at the height of the pandemic to connect local restaurants with soup kitchens feeding families.
Before running for the Assembly in 2009, Coughlin was a member of the South Amboy Board of Education, then served as a City Councilman for six years. Speaker Coughlin has served in various legal capacities including as a municipal court judge, prosecutor and public defender.
Coughlin is a partner in Woodbridge-based law firm, Rainone, Coughlin, Minchello LLC. He and his wife, Letitia, have three sons—Craig Jr., Vincent and Nicholas.
Kathleen Coviello is the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (NJEDA’s) Chief Economic Transformation Officer. In this role, she oversees the Authority’s strategic sector, economic transformation products (corporate and real estate tax credit programs, clean energy products, innovation and venture products) and the Product Operations departments. The Division provides value-added business engagement and products targeted at commercial businesses within the state’s strategic sectors. As a leader across these departments, she works to support high-quality job creation, catalyze private investment, and build a diverse innovation ecosystem in New Jersey.
Kathleen most recently served as the NJEDA’s Executive Vice President for Technology, Life Sciences & Entrepreneurship, where she was responsible for working closely with the state’s emerging technology and life science companies and investors and delivering Edison Innovation Fund products to this community.
Under Kathleen’s leadership, the NJEDA has delivered over $1 billion in direct investments, business incentives, tax credits, and venture fund investments through the Edison Innovation Fund. During her tenure, the New Jersey Chapter of Golden Seeds was created, the NJ Accelerate and the NJ Ignite programs were launched along with the State’s Angel Tax Credit Program, the New Jersey Founders & Funders program was born, and federal State Small Business Credit Initiatives funds were deployed into several regional venture funds.
Kathleen joined the NJEDA in 2005 as a single contributor and has continuously elevated her position within the organization. Prior to joining the NJEDA, Kathleen spent over 17 years in the banking industry, with the last eight focused on the NJ Technology Venture Lending Market. Her venture lending experience includes employment at Silicon Valley Bank, Comerica Bank and Progress’ Techbanc.
Assemblyman John DiMaio was elected Assembly Republican Leader last year. Previously he was the Republican Conference Leader, and had served as Budget and Appropriations Officer. He has also been a member of the Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, the Legislative Services Commission and the State House Commission. Prior to joining the Assembly in 2009 he had been a Mayor and Freeholder in Warren County.
Assemblyman DiMaio has been recognized frequently for his legislative efforts on behalf of large and small businesses, which has been very important to him as he was a small business owner himself for over 40 years, and in general, as a watchdog for taxpayers. He grew up and still lives in Hackettstown.
Mr. Di Zuzio is a Senior Vice President and the company Transportation Practice Leader at T and M Associates and primarily responsible for managing the practice company wide. In this capacity, he is responsible for identifying and pursuing transportation opportunities and expanding the footprint into NY, PA and the OH regions. Since joining T&M in 2012, he has served as the Transportation Operation Manager/ Regional Practice Leader. During this time, the New Jersey Transportation operation grew from 20 to 40+ engineers and has significantly grown in both revenue and profits. Don’s resume includes numerous significant professional accomplishments, and he is primarily focused on the business development and QA/QC of T&M’s transportation projects, serving as the Principal-in-Charge for all projects completed through the Transportation Practice. As an NJIT graduate, Don began his career at the NJDOT and has performed at all levels of the engineering spectrum, including leading as the Project Manager for the Route 1&9/Paterson Plank Road Interchange, the New County Road /15X Interchange, Route 19/Grand Street Interchange, and the Route 7/Belville Turnpike Movable Bridge Replacement, to name a few. Some other recent notable projects where Don was PIC include the Washington Street Redesign in Hoboken, the reconstruction of the NJDEP Seawall in Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach, the Garden State Parkway (GSP) Interchange 0, Bridge R-27and the Halls Mill Road reconstruction both in Monmouth County, and the North Main Street Extension in Morris County.
Don works closely with many State/Bi-State Agencies, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA), The Delaware Porth Authority (DRPA), The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA). Don is also the T&M client manager for over a dozen NJ counties. He provides strong relationship, management and technical experience with responsibility for design and construction supervision of highway/roadway/bridge/structural projects and railroad facilities. His other areas of expertise include project management, coordination of all phases of design with related departments, and direct interface with clients. Don is a strong advocate for all levels of mentorship and engages in T&M’s internship program initiatives. Recent professional honors and awards allow Don to champion the engineering and transportation industry, with recent features in multiple Roads & Bridges Magazine articles, NJBIZ Magazine, Commerce Magazine, Environmental Engineering, Construction Magazine, and ENR. Outside of T&M, Don is very active in New Jersey’s business development, engineering, and transportation industries. He sits on the Board of Directors/Regional Director of the Northeast Region, is the scholarship chair of the North-Central NJ Sections, and is the current 2nd National Vice President of the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE); ExCom Board Member and the board liaison for the PANYNJ and NJDOT subcommittees of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC); a Board Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Action; and is an Advisory Board Director on the Wall Township’s High Scholl Pre-Engineering Academy. He is also an active member of the Professional Engineers in Construction (PEC), Utility and Transportation Contractors (UTCA), Commerce and Industry Association of NJ (CIANJ) and the Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute of NJ (UESI), a certified PMP, and a PSMJ’s Project Management Bootcamp graduate. Don was recently honored with the Lifetime Achieving Award by the American Society of Highway Engineers (NCNJ) after 26 years of active involvement, and the 2022 NJBIZ ICON Honor Award.
His knack to inspire those around him to excel at what they do is just one of Don’s special skills. He does this by incorporating T&M’s vision, strategic plan, and core values into his management approach.
Don is a devoted advocate of community service and is active in many volunteerism platforms. He is the past treasurer of the Wayne Chapter of UNICO (Italian American Service Organization) and a member of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America. He has spent many years coaching soccer and basketball for the PAL, Boys & Girls Club, and the NJ Stallions Soccer Club and was a referee for the North Jersey Soccer League. He is an active member in T&M’s volunteer efforts, working on Habitat for Humanity projects and helping to support the firm’s partner communities, is a mentor and serves on the T&M Foundation’s Education Committee as an advocate for STEM mentoring and education.
In November, Don will celebrate his 36th wedding anniversary with his wife Nancy. Don is very proud of his daughter Rosella, a Ramapo graduate working in the fashion industry, and his son Daniel, working on his doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Hartford. Don enjoys soccer, snowmobiling, winemaking, and cooking. During the pandemic, Don turned to TikTok to share his pizza-making skills in a video enjoyed by close to 200K viewers.
As Chief Government Affairs Officer for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association Christopher focuses on taxation, budget, economic development and workforce development. NJBIA is the largest and most impactful business association in the nation.
Prior to his current job, Emigholz worked in state government for a decade. He was the Budget Director for the State Senate Republican Office for 8 years overseeing economic, fiscal and education policy, and he also directed education policy and legislative affairs in the New Jersey Department of Education prior to that. This is his second stint at NJBIA having served for years as their workforce development and education lobbyist earlier in his career. He was also a teacher through the Teach For America program in a high school in Atlanta, Georgia, and a community liaison/volunteer coordinator for an elementary school in Baltimore City through the AmeriCorps-VISTA program.
Emigholz has a Master of Public Policy degree from Rutgers’ Bloustein School and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University. He currently lives in Robbinsville, NJ with his wife and 3 children, where he is active in the community including coaching youth sports and serving on the school board to which he was elected.
Aaron Fichtner, Ph.D. is the President of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, a nonprofit organization, enshrined in state law, that supports and strengthens the state’s 19 community colleges. Fichtner began his new role with the NJCCC on February 5, 2018. Fichtner succeeds Lawrence A. Nespoli, Ed.D., who retired after 27 years of service to the NJCCC and New Jersey’s community colleges.
The New Jersey Council of County Colleges is the state association representing New Jersey’s 19 community colleges. As an independent, trustee-headed organization that joins the leadership of trustees and presidents, the Council is the voice of the community college sector before the state legislature and other branches of government.
Prior to joining the NJCCC, Fichtner served as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, appointed to the position in September 2016. He served in leadership roles in the Department since 2010, first as Assistant Commissioner for Research and Information and then as Deputy Commissioner for four and half years. Under his leadership, the Department implemented new initiatives that expanded economic opportunity through innovative, data-driven partnerships with high schools, colleges, community-based organizations, libraries, industry associations, and employers. Fichtner served as the Chair of the National Association of State Liaisons for Workforce Development Partnerships, an affiliate of the National Governors Association, from February 2016 to January 2018.
Before joining the Department in 2010, Fichtner was the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. In that role, he conducted extensive research on the workforce and skill needs of key industries, implemented a variety of workforce and education initiatives, and conducted evaluations of education and training programs. He has also worked in the field of economic development in Jersey City and Atlanta.
Fichtner earned a Ph.D. in Planning and Public Policy from Rutgers University, a master’s degree in City Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in History from Vassar College.
At the cross sections of economic develop, business and organized labor you will find Kate Gibbs. The Deputy Director for the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative, ELEC 825, a collaborative trust focused on creating work opportunities for the members and signatory contractors of Local 825 Operating Engineers, Gibbs leads Business Development for the organization by promoting economic development and advocating for investments in all types of infrastructure.
She has established a strong record of shaping policy, building coalitions and implementing successful strategies and tactics that include political advocacy, government relations, communications and social media in pursuit of organizational goals. With her background in politics, public affairs and organizational management, Gibbs is uniquely suited to help ELEC 825 achieve its core objectives of growing the economy to create jobs for Local 825 members and its union contractors.
In November of 2015, Gibbs was elected to the Burlington County Board of Freeholders; becoming the youngest woman in NJ to be elected to countywide office. During her first two years in office, Gibbs served as Deputy Director before being elected in January of 2018, in a unanimous and bi-partisan vote of her peers to serve as Freeholder Director.
In this role she crafted and passed a tax-cutting budget while investing in a first of its kind $20 million school security grant program, creating a women’s mentoring program, and ensuring that all County facilities, schools and libraries are equipped with dedicated, private space for mothers to nurse or pump.
Prior to joining the Freeholder Board, Gibbs served on the Board of Trustees for Rowan College at Burlington County, where she worked closely with the County’s new Workforce Development Institute and played an active role in establishing the College’s partnership with Rowan University.
Gibbs actively participates on boards and committees for various Chambers of Commerce and business and industry organizations throughout the entire State of New Jersey.
Gibbs earned her Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, graduating Summa Cum Laude and a B.A. from The American University, with a Double Major in Public Communications and Political Science.
Lesley Hirsch is the Assistant Commissioner of Research and Information at the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development NJDOL where she oversees all data production, analysis, and dissemination functions, as well as compliance reporting, evaluation, and business intelligence. She came to state government to help:
- Put customers at the center of our design of all research products and services;
- Use cutting-edge digital technology to improve data accessibility and broaden the customer base;
- Extract maximum meaning from performance and other administrative data for continuous program improvement and strategic decision making.
Her 25-year career has been dedicated to using research to inform policies and programs, with an emphasis on improving the lives of low-income people. Prior to coming to NJDOL, she was the founding director of the NYC Labor Market Information Service (NYCLMIS) at the CUNY Graduate Center. The NYCLMIS provides research and consulting to policy makers and providers in the region’s workforce development system. Before NYCLMIS, Lesley was the research director of the Education Law Center in Newark, New Jersey, a public interest law and advocacy firm that successfully sued the State of New Jersey for equitable school finance on behalf of 300,000 of New Jersey State’s poorest schoolchildren. She is a graduate of Barnard College at Columbia University and has completed all but the dissertation in political science/public policy at the CUNY Graduate Center. Ms. Hirsch also has taught political science and public policy at the City College of New York.
Dr. Ali A. Houshmand became Rowan University’s seventh president in 2012 after serving for approximately six years as provost/senior vice president, CEO and interim president. Houshmand is a dynamic leader whose personal connection with students, employees, alumni, government leaders, the business community and the public has become a hallmark of his presidency. A lifelong believer in the power of education, Houshmand holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s degree in mathematical statistics, and master’s and doctoral degrees in industrial and operations engineering. His entrepreneurial approach to higher education focuses on four goals: increasing access, improving quality, ensuring affordability and promoting economic development. His success is evident. Under Houshmand, Rowan has evolved from a well-regarded state school to a rising Carnegie-classified national research university with two medical schools and, soon, New Jersey’s first veterinary school.
Enrollment has increased from 11,000 students in 2012 to 23,000 students in fall 2021, making Rowan the third fastest-growing research university in the United States.
During Houshmand’s presidency, Rowan:
- earned Carnegie (R2) doctoral research university designation;
- has $1.71 billion in University-related construction projects completed and in planning;
- created a Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the first in the state and among the first in the nation;
- created more than two dozen $30,000 bachelor’s degree programs with partner community colleges;
- partnered with Virtua Health, the region’s largest health care system, to transform and advance medical education and health care;
- climbed in key national rankings and placed among the top 100 public research institutions in America;
- raised $263 million in new gifts and pledges.
With his entrepreneurial perspective, Houshmand has been instrumental in fostering public-private partnerships and creating new opportunities to collaborate with business and industry on research, relevant education that leads to productive, responsive careers, and economic development. He is deliberate about strategic growth, public stewardship and steering the University toward becoming financially self-reliant. Rowan’s workforce has grown by 125 percent in 10 years, a key indicator of the institution’s vitality and a major contributor to Rowan’s $1.53B statewide economic impact.
Early in his tenure, Houshmand partnered with community college leaders in Gloucester, Cumberland and Burlington counties to develop programs in which students at those schools may earn a Rowan bachelor’s degree for about $30,000. In the unique partnerships, the schools remain independent but adopted the names Rowan College of South Jersey-Gloucester County, Rowan College of South Jersey-Cumberland Campus and Rowan College at Burlington County to reflect their close relationship to the University. The partner schools now have 28 3+1 degree programs in place and more are planned.
In 2012, Houshmand oversaw the opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden and, in 2013, the integration of the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford from the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
With both schools part of Rowan, the University became just the second in the nation to offer both M.D.- and D.O.-granting medical programs. Under Houshmand, Rowan is also partnering with other health sciences organizations to develop a research hub in the
life sciences in the City of Camden.
In early 2022, Houshmand joined leadership at Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health system, to announce a landmark agreement establishing a new academic health system that will transform and advance health care education, clinical care and research. Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences will encompass medical, nursing and health professions education, as well as translational biomedical engineering, research and clinical practices in an innovative public-private partnership.
Revitalizing through partnerships
Active in reshaping virtually all aspects of the University, Houshmand has helped guide the success of Rowan Boulevard, a $426 million collaboration between Rowan, private developers and the Borough of Glassboro that, since 2008, has created a new downtown with housing, retail, restaurant and academic space.
From poverty to presidency
One of 10 children raised by hardworking but illiterate parents in Iran, Houshmand embraced education as a way to a better life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and his first master’s degree in mathematical statistics from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. He earned a second master’s and a doctoral degree in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
After earning his doctorate, Houshmand worked as a staff analyst for United Airlines, developing large-scale optimization and forecasting models. Leaving industry for academia, he served at the University of Cincinnati and, later, Drexel University, where he taught and held various administrative positions before joining Rowan as provost in 2006.
Houshmand lives in Harrison Township, N.J., with his wife, Farah. They have two adult children.
Senator Steve Oroho is currently serving his fifth term in the New Jersey State Senate, where he serves as the Senate Republican Leader. He represents the 24th Legislative District in the northwestern part of the state, which includes all of Sussex County and parts of northern Warren and Morris counties.
Before entry into public office, Senator Oroho had extensive professional experience in the finance departments of top New York City firms including work for Price Waterhouse, W.R. Grace and Company, as well as Young and Rubicam where he held the position of Senior Vice President of Finance. Senator Oroho is presently a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Stonebridge Capital Management.
Senator Oroho first ran for public office in 2001 winning a seat on the Franklin Borough Council. He moved up to the Sussex County Freeholder Board in 2005 upon his successful election and served one term before winning election to the State Senate in 2007. He has been re-elected to the Senate four times.
In the State Senate, Senator Oroho sits on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Senate Higher Education Committee. He also is a member of the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus.
In the State Legislature, Senator Oroho takes a particular interest in budgetary and economic development issues. He has helped craft, in a bipartisan fashion, most every major tax reform issue enacted in New Jersey over the past decade. His contributions in this particular area have earned him numerous awards and citations from the business community at-large in the state, an honor of which he is infinitely proud.
Senator Oroho is married, and the father of five children and seven grandchildren. He resides in Franklin Borough, Sussex County.
Parth Oza was appointed to the position of Acting Assistant Commissioner, Capital Program Management (CPM) on July 1, 2022. As a key member of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s senior leadership team, he is charged with delivering an annual Capital Program of $600 Million plus in state and federal projects as well as overseeing a work force of more than 1,300 employees in six Divisions within CPM. He is responsible for leading an active Construction Program valued at $5 Billion with 250 plus active Highway and Bridge construction projects. He serves as a voting member on the AASHTO Highway Subcommittee, and as one of two Deputy State Transportation Engineers of the Department.
Prior to his current appointment he was the Assistant Division Director of the Bureau of Operations Support and Engineering where he successfully delivered 50 plus construction projects valued at $300 Million plus annually.
In 2012 Parth received a Bachelor of Science (BS), Civil Engineering degree from Rutgers University and a Master of Business and Science (MBS), Engineering Management from Rutgers University, Professional Science Master’s Program. in 2021.
He is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in the State of New Jersey.
Resilient, integrity-driven, charismatic C-level executive with verifiable results in driving efficiency, compliance, and profit by applying deep corporate financial, operational, business, and people strategies. Adept at aligning diverse organizations with growth opportunities as a trusted finance partner who understands business performance beyond just the numbers. Passionate, motivational turnaround agent, known for guiding rapid operational transformations and lasting organizational change by focusing on core values of quality, service commitment, and uncompromising ethics.
Brenda Ross-Dulan is the Founder and Managing Principal of The Ross-Dulan Group, a boutique strategy consulting firm designed to transform companies by transforming decision-makers. She leverages more than 25 years of experience in the ever-changing financial services industry, to help executives successfully navigate through periods of challenge and change to realize strong, immediate, and sustained results.
Prior to launching her consulting practice, Ms. Ross-Dulan was selected to lead the M&A integration of the Southern New Jersey Region of Wachovia and Wells Fargo – noted as the largest merger in the banking industry. She served as President of the consumer banking group for half of the State of New Jersey, overseeing more than $12 billion in deposits, $5 billion in loans while managing 1,700 employees. In this role, she was responsible for balance sheet and P&L management, performance planning, risk management, operational integrity, distribution strategies and community investments. Moreover, Ms. Ross-Dulan was charged with strategically integrating the consumer banking segment with other business segments, including mortgage, investments, and consumer products, to grow market share and profitability. Her region’s revenues exceeded $500 million annually and her region was recognized as one of the best places to work in New Jersey.
Her financial services experience includes corporate banking, construction financing for commercial real estate developers, and community development and investment. Driven by her personal mission to continue to make a difference in the lives of others, she leveraged the new opportunity zone legislation, to establish the RD Capital Partners. The firm seeks to demonstrate that investments in underserved markets can be both transformative and profitable for local stakeholders and investors.
Ms. Ross-Dulan has extensive experience in board governance primarily in the non-profit arena. She typically serves in roles of significant influence and leadership, often heading the finance and audit or strategic planning committees. In 2021, she was elected to the board of directors of NJM Insurance Group, her first corporate board. Later that year, she was elected to the board of trustees of NCIF, a private equity trust fund based in Chicago. She has previously served on the boards of NJTV, Greater Trenton Initiative, Coopers Ferry Community Development Association, and most notably the Governor Phil Murphy’s Advisory Council for the Restart and Recovery of the state of New Jersey. She became the first African American female to lead a majority chamber in the State of New Jersey, when she was installed as the Chair of the Board of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce in January 2020. She has been ranked as one of the nation’s most powerful women in corporate America by Black Enterprise Magazine and has received dozens of accolades as a leading executive.
Ms. Ross-Dulan holds a BBA from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.
People who know Brenda describe her as caring, disciplined and visionary. Fearless in the face of challenge, she is guided by her personal mission: to make a difference in the lives of others and to leave them better off. That philosophy has led to countless testimonies about the impact she’s had on them, their careers and companies.
Paul A. Sarlo is the Deputy Majority Leader of the New Jersey Senate. He serves as chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee and is a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Higher Education Committee, the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, and the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee. He is a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Labor Committee.
He has also sponsored bills which reformed New Jersey’s worker’s compensation system, criminalized the illegal trafficking and distribution of prescription drugs, required schools to adopt bullying prevention policies and upgraded penalties for identity theft.
Mr. Sarlo’s career in public service spans more than two decades. He has served as Mayor of the Borough of Wood-Ridge since 2000 and served on its Borough Council from 1995-2000. In 2001, he was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly, a position he held until May 2003 when he was sworn in to the New Jersey Senate to fill an unexpired term. He was elected to a full term in the New Jersey Senate in November 2003 and was re-elected in 2007, 2011, and 2013. Mr. Sarlo represents the 36th legislative district, which includes 15 municipalities in Bergen and Passaic Counties.
I’ve been a broadcaster and creator of content since I was 14, but there has never been a more exciting time for our industry. In digital and social media spaces we are able to break through the boundaries of over-the-air broadcast signals, and extend into markets that were previously unreachable.
As the Senior Political Director for New Jersey 101.5, I help you understand the complicated world of New Jersey politics. With almost 30 years of covering the state’s political scene, I offer insight and perspective and help you understand what it all means for you and your family.
You can hear me on-air as I deliver the morning news broadcasts on the Bill Spadea show. I also produce and host our Town Hall series of programs that explore critical issues facing the residents of New Jersey.
I am honored to have received three Edward R. Murrow awards for my broadcasts.
Michele N. Siekerka, Esq., President and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, leads the nation’s largest, most influential employers’ organization, advocating on behalf of New Jersey’s large and small businesses for policies that will make New Jersey more affordable and regionally competitive.
Being known as a collaborative leader, Siekerka is leading an NJBIA established coalition (New Jersey Business Coalition) comprised of more than 100 business and nonprofit associations across the state to tackle the tough economic and business challenges our state is facing during COVID 19.
Well versed on the ‘boots on the ground” issues affecting our state’s business community, Michele is often the “go to” resource for media and is sought after to share her expertise in public forums across the state.
Jim Starace is the Chief Engineer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In this capacity, Mr. Starace is responsible for the Agency’s Engineering services that include design, construction, structural integrity, quality assurance and asset management to support the Port Authority’s Capital and Operating programs. These programs include projects at the Port Authority airports; tunnels, bridges and terminals; ports; the PATH rail system and the World Trade Center. Most recently, Mr. Starace and the Engineering Department have had a major role in the new Goethals Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge Raise the Roadway and the redevelopment at LaGuardia, Newark Liberty International, and JFK International Airports.
Mr. Starace’s Port Authority career spans 36 years and includes assignments in an increasing capacity to his current position, which he assumed in August 2015. Assignments have included overseeing various PATH and Tunnels and Bridges projects, the Resident Engineer for the construction of the Newark Liberty International Airport International Arrivals Building, Resident Engineer for LaGuardia Airport, Engineer of Construction for the AirTrain Terminal at Jamaica Station and New Jersey Airports, Manager of the Construction Management Division and Deputy Chief Engineer.
Mr. Starace holds a Bachelor of Engineering Degree from the State University of New York Maritime College, a Master of Engineering Degree from Stevens Institute of Technology and is a licensed Professional Engineer in New York and New Jersey.
Kyle Sullender is Director of Economic Policy Research for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), the nation’s largest state-level business association whose member companies collectively employ 1 million people.
Sullender also serves as the Executive Director of Focus NJ, an independent research nonprofit conducting timely, innovative, nonpartisan economic and workforce research to support sound public policy in New Jersey.
Prior to joining NJBIA, Sullender supported the Camden County Board of Commissioners, coordinating external affairs and media relations. Sullender earned his Master of Public Policy in 2019 from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. He also graduated summa cum laude from Rowan University in 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and philosophy.
Sullender was a Class of 2019 Graduate Fellow at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, and is an active member of the Eagleton Alumni Committee.
As Founding Principal of TANTUM Real Estate, Debra Tantleff operates a certified Women’s Business Enterprise development and advisory firm focused on creating boutique multi-family and mixed-use communities in the New Jersey region. Prior to founding TANTUM, Ms. Tantleff was a Vice President of Development at Roseland Property Company, where she established a highly-acclaimed reputation for delivering exceptional mixed-use projects, with a portfolio that grew to more than 5,000 residential units and 200,000 square feet of retail space.
Ms. Tantleff serves as Treasurer to the New Jersey Builders Association (NJBA) and is a member of the Executive Committee at the Center for Real Estate at Rutgers Business School; she sits on the Board of Trustees for the Meadowlands Regional 2040 Foundation and the Board of Directors for Downtown New Jersey. She has been listed on ROI-NJ’s Real Estate Influencers List, named a “Top Forty Under 40” both by Real Estate Forum and NJBiz, and was honored by Professional Women in Construction as a Woman of Achievement. She has been recognized numerous times by the National Association of Home Builders and the NJBA, including twice being awarded the Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Political Action and the Special Service Industry Award.
An honors graduate from Rutgers University, Ms. Tantleff holds a B.A.S. from the School of Communication and Information Studies. She holds a Masters in Real Estate Finance from the Schack Institute of Real Estate at New York University.
Bruce Van Saun is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Financial Group, Inc, a large regional bank with a significant presence in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest that serves more than five million consumer and business customers.
Van Saun joined CFG in October 2013 from the Royal Bank of Scotland. He led Citizens to a successful initial public offering in September 2014, and full independence from RBS in October 2015. Citizens continues to focus on delivering well for its stakeholders, including customers, colleagues, communities and shareowners.
At RBS, Van Saun served as Group Finance Director and as an executive director on the RBS Board from 2009 to 2013. He led efforts critical to re-establishing safety and soundness at RBS after the financial crisis, including improvements in the capital, liquidity and funding position, reduction in risk concentrations, and several significant divestitures such as Direct Line Group – the company’s insurance subsidiary – through an IPO and sell-down.
Prior to that, Van Saun held a number of senior positions with Bank of New York and later Bank of New York Mellon over an 11-year period. As Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer he was actively involved in the strategic transformation of BNY from a diversified regional bank into a focused global securities servicer and asset manager. This included over 80 transactions, including notable ones such as the merger with Mellon, a swap of businesses with JP Morgan and the acquisition of Pershing. He had also served as head of Bank of New York’s asset management and market-related businesses.
Van Saun was selected as a Top CEO of 2022 by Barron’s and as the 2019 Banker of the Year by American Banker magazine, while Citizens was named “The US’s Best Bank” by Euromoney magazine for 2021. He previously had been rated one of the industry’s top CFOs at both RBS and Bank of New York.
Earlier in his more than 30-year financial services career, he held senior positions with Deutsche Bank, Wasserstein Perella Group and Kidder Peabody & Co.
Van Saun has served on a number of boards in both the U.S. and the U.K. He is currently a director of Moody’s Corporation, sits on the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston board, and is Audit Chair of the Bank Policy Institute. He is a member of The Clearing House Supervisory Board (since 2013) and serves on the board of the Partnership for Rhode Island.
He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business administration from Bucknell University, and earned an MBA in finance and general management from the University of North Carolina.
Our Award Winners
Brian Bergen has been a member of the Assembly since January 2020.
A combat veteran, Brian Bergen served with distinction for eight years in the U.S. Army after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point. During his military service, he was an officer, company commander and Apache helicopter pilot – assignments that earned him a Bronze Star and the Combat Action Badge for his actions in Iraq.
In business, Bergen rapidly progressed through a variety of positions in multiple industries, including finance, operations management, process improvement, general management, executive management at the vice president level, and entrepreneurship. He is the owner of Bergen Botanicals, an interior landscape company, and is in the process of purchasing a second business.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from West Point, an MBA from Rutgers Business School, and a master’s degree in administration of justice and security from the University of Phoenix. He also earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certificate in business operations improvement from Villanova University.
Previously he was a Denville Township councilman from 2017 to 2019 and as vice chairman of the zoning board.
He and his wife, Kristin, and their two children, Samantha and Justin reside in Denville.
Assemblyman Lou Greenwald has represented New Jersey’s 6th Legislative District since 1996. He currently serves as the Assembly Majority Leader. During his tenure in the Assembly, Majority Leader Greenwald has led the fight on many key initiatives. He was the architect of the 2003 legislation to increase competition in New Jersey’s broken auto insurance market, which stopped a ballooning crisis in New Jersey and significantly increased the number of auto insurers in the State. Additionally, he was the lead sponsor on recent legislation to expand the use of design-build for New Jersey construction contracts, aimed to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness for the state’s procurement process. As a supporter of cancer research and trying to find a cure, the Majority Leader helped in bringing a branch of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey to South Jersey, ensuring South Jersey cancer patients would not have to cross the Delaware River just to get the treatment they needed. He also played an integral role in protecting charity care funding for our State’s hospitals, and he led the fight to get students vaccinated for meningitis before college. A leader on health care policy, Majority Leader Greenwald successfully fought to ensure all women in New Jersey continue to have access to affordable healthcare services, which were jeopardized by the federal government’s Title X “gag” order. Additionally, he was a critical advocate for legislation to create a state-wide healthcare insurance exchange, so that residents of New Jersey can purchase affordable healthcare coverage.
Majority Leader Greenwald has been a champion of the effort to reduce gun violence. He authored laws that, among other things, limited ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, banned-armor piercing ammunition, and closed the background check loophole. Recognizing that gun violence is a public health crisis, he also championed laws to stem cycles of gun violence through hospital-based violence intervention programs, which has gained broad support from gun control advocates and physicians alike.
Most recently, with New Jersey gripped by the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Majority Leader Greenwald fought to support Main Street businesses by sponsoring legislation authorizing the Economic Development Authority to award millions in grants and loans to struggling small businesses. He also sponsored a law which prevented potential billion-dollar unemployment payroll tax increases, to allow business owners to better recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The Majority Leader has been widely honored and recognized for his legislative leadership and dedication to public service. He has received the Legislator of the Year award from the Southern New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the South Jerseyan of the Year award from the Walter Rand Institute, the New Jersey Elected Official of the Year award from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Consortium, the Standing Ovation Award from the South Jersey Cultural Alliance, and the Legislative Champion Award from the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research.
John is first and foremost a ‘Jersey Boy’, as he has always been proud of his home State and what it actually brings to our country…including significant Manufacturing, Engineering, Science, and R&D capabilities. As an Engineer and NJ Business Owner, John was focused on (both) Engineering & Manufacturing and enjoyed success through working with many incredible individuals. From Coleman Equipment to Sandvik to Barnett Industries to The Multitech Group…all part of my Manufacturing evolution through the Material Handling, Power Plants, and DoD workloads.
When John came to NJMEP in 2012, he found a place where he could support a critical Industry that means all the difference to our independence as a Country, while keeping New Jersey in the forefront of technology. NJMEP is his ultimate ‘fit’ as a professional. John is a proud Eagle Scout and National Distinguished Eagle. NJ Manufacturing…it is our time again!
For over 30 years Connie has served as the founder and CEO of HomeFront, an organization whose mission is to end family homelessness in Central New Jersey by harnessing the caring, resources, and expertise of the community. From its humble beginnings around Connie’s kitchen table, HomeFront has evolved into a multi-faceted organization which helps the most vulnerable families in our community transform their lives in numerous ways, by providing housing assistance, emergency shelter, food, clothing, educational opportunities for children and adults, job training and placement, and much more. HomeFront on any given night provides shelter to more than 450 people, two-thirds of whom are children. HomeFront has helped thousands of individuals and is guided by the beliefs that every family has the right to a home, access to the tools needed to become self-sufficient, and the opportunities for their children so they thrive and ultimately break the cycle of poverty. Connie has just “graduated” from HomeFront and currently serves as the CEO of the NJ Coalition to End Homelessness.
Ms. Mercer began her social services career with the Canadian Mental Health Association where she created a network of 19 group homes for disturbed youth. She then headed the Interstate Consortium on Residential Child Care where she successfully drafted standards that formed the basis for licensing standards that were adopted in 27 states. In 1984, she was made Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, responsible for oversight of all state child welfare services, with guardianship of 30,000 children.
She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from York University, and an honorary Ph.D. from Princeton University.
In 2007, Senator Ruiz became the first Puerto Rican elected to the Senate. Since then she has been re-elected five times. Currently Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ruiz is the highest ranking Latina legislator in state history. She previously served as chair of the Senate Education Committee. Throughout her time in the Senate, she has fought for equity in educational spaces, acting as the leading force in expanding access to early childhood education throughout the state. She also spearheaded the law to build on the federal free and reduced meal program so that all students who qualify for the program could receive breakfast and lunch at no cost, eliminating the reduced category. Furthermore she has sponsored laws to increase diversity within school curriculum and strengthen the Amistad Commission.
The senator has also focused on expanding employment opportunities for underserved communities, sponsoring bill packages to expand apprenticeship programs in the state and increase teacher diversity. The apprenticeship package, which was enacted, created more accessible pathways to careers in high growth industries by incentivizing business participation in apprenticeship programs. In addition, she has taken a targeted approach at mitigating the barriers which prevent people of color from obtaining and retaining full time teaching positions, advancing legislation to establish educator apprenticeship programs, provide loan redemption opportunities and expand alternate route programs.
Senator Ruiz was also the prime sponsor of a 2020 law to allow candidates to use campaign funds to cover childcare expenses incurred due to campaign activities.
The Senator received a bachelor’s degree from Drew University. She was a 2010 Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow, and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program. She is vice chair of the Essex County Democratic Party and is deputy chief of staff to Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. She served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Among all of her accomplishments, the title she holds most dear is that of a mother.
Holly Schepisi served as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 2012 until March 25, 2021, when she was sworn in as a member of the New Jersey State Senate. Senator Schepisi represents the 39th Legislative District, which includes twenty-three municipalities located in Bergen and Passaic Counties. She serves as a member of the Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee and the Community and Urban Affairs Committee and has been selected as the Deputy Conference Leader. While in the Assembly, she sat on the Environment and Solid Waste, Judiciary, Housing, and Appropriations Committees.
In 2022, Ms. Schepisi joined the law firm of O’Toole Scrivo LLC as a Partner. Before joining the firm, Ms. Schepisi had her own law firm, Schepisi Consulting & Law, LLC, had previously served as Vice President of Holy Name Medical Center and President of its Foundation, and was Special Counsel at Huntington Bailey LLP.
Experienced in public issues, Ms. Schepisi currently serves as counsel to the Park Ridge Board of Public Utilities and previously served as the public defender for the Borough of Oakland and the township attorney for River Vale. She is an executive committee board member of the Bergen Community College Foundation, a board member for the Adler Aphasia Center, the previous President of the Fordham Law Alumni Association, New Jersey Chapter, and serves as an advisory board member of Provident Bank.
Ms. Schepisi earned a Bachelor’s degree in politics and psychology in 1993 from Catholic University of America and a law degree from Fordham University Law School in 1997. She currently resides in River Vale with her husband, Paul, and her two children.
Liz received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Rider University in 1977, following a year studying abroad at the University of Graz in Austria. Liz is the former Vice President of the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held for thirteen years before retiring this position the end of July 2014 to start her own part-time consulting Liz Tindall & Associates. LLC. In her role at the Chamber, Liz was in charge of the day-to-day operations. Prior to that, Liz was in the banking industry for more than twenty-three years, with FleetBoston (formerly Summit Bank and United Jersey Bank), and ended her career there as Assistant Director of Government Banking and Affairs.
Born in Austria, her family moved to the United States when she was one year old. They settled in the Chambersburg section of Trenton. Over the years, she has invested much of her time and energy to giving back to Mercer County where she has lived all her life. She is now retired.
NJBIA’s Mercer County Employer Legislative Committee (Mercer ELC) – since 1984, serving as, Vice Chair over the many years and more recently as Chair ; Chair of the St. Lawrence Rehab/Morris Hall Foundation Board, and member of their Philly Pops Committee; Board Member and past Chair of the St. Lawrence Rehab/Morris Hall Board of Trustees; Hamilton Township Economic Development Advisory Commission member; Hamilton Area YMCA Board of Directors (for 13 years) and Secretary on the Executive Committee (two years); NJBIA’s Government Affairs Committee and NEW JOBS Committee; Mercer County Workforce Investment Board member; Trenton Small Business Week Committee member for 21 years (since inception); member of the Trenton Crusade Committee (American Cancer Society); Deputy Administrator for the Drumthwacket Foundation; member and secretary to the Mercer Chapter of the American Bankers Association.
Some of the awards/recognitions she received are “Volunteer of the Year” given by the Hamilton Area YMCA, as well as the “Everyday Hero” Award, also presented by the Hamilton Area YMCA at their annual Spring Fling in 2013. She was also recognized on Women’s Equality Day 2013 by the Mercer County Board of Commissioners as a key advocate and catalyst for business and economic affairs in Mercer County. In 2015 she also received the “Ed Meara Lifetime Achievement Award” at the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner. In December 2019, Liz was awarded the Leonard C. Johnson award at the NJBIA Public Policy Forum.
Liz and her husband Al reside in Allentown, New Jersey, with their Maltepoo, Benny. They have two married daughters and four grandchildren.
Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA is CEO and Executive Director of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA). Prior to joining NJCPA in 1999, he was a vice president and region audit head for Citibank, and previously held various management accounting positions at AT&T, Potomac Electric Power Company and PriceWaterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers).
Mr. Thomas has extensive leadership experience on accounting industry boards and committees. He is a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and was selected to be an AICPA Inclusion Champion. He was appointed to the inaugural AICPA National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion and was subsequently appointed to the AICPA Foundation Board. Mr. Thomas has also served on the following AICPA boards/committees: Pre-Certification Education Executive Committee, the Group of 100, Business and Industry Executive Committee, CPA Vision Project Team, Peer Review Executive Committee Board, Strategic Planning Committee and AICPA Council. He is a former member of the CPA/Society Executives Association (SEA) Board. and has served on the State Society Network Inc. (SSNI) and Shared Services LLC, a joint venture of the AICPA and SSNI.
Mr. Thomas is a lifetime member and former national and chapter president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). He currently serves on NABA’s President’s Advisory Council, Finance Committee and Corporate Advisory Board. In 2018, he was awarded the NABA National Chairman’s Award. He was also the recipient of NABA’s 2010 National Achievement in Non-Profit Award, the 2010 Presidential Service Award, NABA’s 1989 Outstanding Member Award and was honored as a “NABA Legend” in 2009. In 2017, Mr. Thomas was selected to receive the NABA New York Chapter President’s Award for Leadership and Excellence and the “Boss” award by NABA’s Northern New Jersey Chapter. In 2021, he was honored by the
African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey with the Business Award at their Eleventh Annual Circle of Achievement Awards Gala.
Mr. Thomas was also appointed chair of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s (NASBA) State Society Relations Committee and was appointed to serve on NASBA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He is a member of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone Initiative and was appointed to the Chamber Board of Directors. Mr. Thomas was also the treasurer of Opportunity NJ, a grassroots organization created to inform policymakers and the public about state economic initiatives. Additionally, he was selected yearly since 2010 by Accounting Today as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting.” In 2018, he received the NJBIZ Icon Honors award, which recognizes New Jersey business leaders over the age of 60 for their notable success and demonstration of strong leadership both within and outside of their chosen field. Mr. Thomas was awarded the Boy Scouts of America’s 2019 Accounting Distinguished Citizen Award. He was also the recipient of the African American Chamber of Commerce 2021 Business Award and was named #1 on the NJBIZ Accounting Power 50 list in 2022.
Mr. Thomas is a member of the accounting advisory boards of his alma mater Lehigh, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Montclair State and Rider University. In addition, he is a member of Lehigh University’s Audit Committee, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and the College of Business Board of Advisors. He is also the first African American to be elected as President of the Lehigh Alumni Association and to be named as a Lehigh University Trustee Emeritus. He is a past chair of the Lehigh University Audit Committee and the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and a former member of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees and Finance, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Campus Planning & Operations committees. In June 2018, he was the recipient of Lehigh University’s Dr. Costel Denson’56 Award, presented to an alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated leadership by identifying and implementing pathways to increase diversity in the American workplace and educational institutions.
In January 2018, Mr. Thomas was invited by Senate President Steve Sweeney to join a newly formed bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Policy Review Workgroup comprised of a variety of economists and policy experts.
Mr. Thomas earned a B.S. in business and economics as well as an M.B.A. from Lehigh University. He is a CPA licensed in Washington, DC. He resides in South Brunswick, New Jersey, with his family.