Gutierrez-Scaccetti to succeed Helmy as chief of staff

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who has served as the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation since the earliest days of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, has been selected to succeed George Helmy as chief of staff, the governor announced Monday.

She will begin in the role Oct. 2 — but she will continue to serve as DOT commissioner until January.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti has long been considered the front-runner for the job. News of her selection was first reported by the New Jersey Globe.

Murphy was more than happy to have his say about it.

“Diane has been a dedicated member of our administration since day one, and I am looking forward to welcoming her to our senior leadership team in the Governor’s Office,” he said. “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 appreciative of the opportunity.

“I am honored that Gov. Murphy has entrusted me to serve as his next chief of staff,” she said. “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. I am committed to continuing to build on the governor’s achievements on behalf of the people of New Jersey.”

The role certainly is challenging. Helmy said Gutierrez-Scaccetti has the skillset to handle it.

“Gov. Murphy has made an exceptional choice in selecting Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti to serve as his next chief of staff,” he said. “I have worked closely with her and seen up close her leadership, expertise and tenacity in spearheading the rebuilding of our state’s infrastructure. 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.”

The 64-year-old is career public servant. She has spent more than three decades as a transportation executive, much of it in New Jersey. She worked at the Turnpike Authority for 21 years, rising to executive director in 2008 during Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration.

She went to Florida during Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, serving as CEO at Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, before returning to New Jersey to work for Murphy. (She began working as acting commissioner on Jan. 16, 2018, before being confirmed in June of that year.)

As the DOT commissioner, Gutierrez-Scaccetti has managed the largest-ever capital program in state history, awarded significant construction contracts and agreements and supported communities during the pandemic with mobile vaccination efforts and charitable drives.

In her capacity as commissioner, she serves as chair of New Jersey Transit, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority and as vice chair of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Science from Rutgers University.