Ex-LWD commissioner to lead county college group

Aaron R. Fichtner, Gov. Chris Christie’s final labor and workforce development commissioner, has been named president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the organization announced recently.

Fichtner, who took over the post earlier this month, succeeds Lawrence A. Nespoli, who retired after 27 years of service with the state association representing New Jersey’s 19 community colleges.

“The New Jersey Council of County Colleges is very fortunate to have Dr. Fichtner as our new president,” NJCCC Chair Helen Albright said in a prepared statement. “We are confident that Aaron’s extensive experience in state government and workforce and economic development will add strength to an already-strong sector of higher education, and help our community colleges expand their reach to serve more students by providing them with the postsecondary credentials they need to succeed in the workforce and in life.”

Christie named Fichtner the acting LWD commissioner in September 2016 after serving in leadership roles with the department since 2010. He was confirmed in May 2017 and served until Christie’s administration left office in January.

The NJCCC, based in Trenton, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that represents community colleges before the state government.

“It is an incredible honor to be selected as the next president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges,” Fichtner said in a statement. “It is truly an exciting and important time for community colleges in New Jersey. Our state’s critical priorities, from expanding economic opportunity to enhancing economic competitiveness, can be achieved because of the high-quality programs and services provided by our 19 community colleges.”

Fichtner, who was director of research and evaluation at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University before joining the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, has a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, a master’s from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a doctorate from Rutgers.

“New Jersey’s 19 community colleges are excited to work with Dr. Fichtner in his new role with the NJCCC,” Passaic County Community College President Steven Rose, chairman of the New Jersey Community College Presidents, said in a statement. “Dr. Fichtner has been a community college champion for his entire career, and he recognizes the valuable role community colleges play in providing high-quality, affordable and accessible higher education to the people of New Jersey.”