NJ governor appoints three more cabinet members

(l-r) Deirdre Webster Cobb, B. Sue Fulton and Zakiya Smith Ellis with Gov. Phil Murphy.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has chosen three more cabinet members. With the appointments, his cabinet is comprised of more women than men, a first in state history.

Murphy appointed Zakiya Smith Ellis as the secretary of higher education, B. Sue Fulton as chair and chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and Deirdre Webster Cobb as chair and chief executive officer of the Civil Service Commission.

“For the first time in New Jersey’s 242 years, the majority of the appointments are female,” Murphy said. “While it has taken too long to get to this first, I am proud to stand with this diverse group of leaders, all of whom are committed to building a stronger, fairer New Jersey that works for everyone. This is who we are – strong and diverse, smart and talented, and committed to making our state a better place. Our team is made up of the best and brightest and their accomplishments and dedication will ensure that our residents and businesses have a state government that is responsive, responsible, and professional.”

Smith Ellis is the director of Finance and Federal Policy at the Lumina Foundation, a role where she leads efforts to develop new models to help students afford post-secondary education, including working with states to design college affordability initiatives. Previously she served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as the senior policy advisor for education under President Barack Obama. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and Vanderbilt University.

“I know from personal experience the transformative power of education and have worked for my entire professional career to ensure those opportunities are available for more students,” Smith Ellis said in a written statement. “I’m excited that Governor Murphy recognizes and understands the increasing necessity of higher education in today’s society and am looking forward to building out his vision to make learning after high school more affordable and accessible for residents of New Jersey of all ages and backgrounds.”

Fulton is a veteran of the United States Army and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She currently serves as executive director of the Women in The Service Change Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for women in the U.S. Armed Forces. She also currently serves on the U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors, a position to which she was appointed by President Barack Obama.

“We will make it our aim every day to better serve the people of New Jersey. There is tremendous opportunity to bring about a positive change in New Jersey and I am excited to be a part of that change,”  Fulton said.

Webster Cobb is the current equal employment opportunity/affirmative action Officer at the New Jersey Department of Treasury, where she oversees enforcement of state policies prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. She previously served in senior leadership roles at the New Jersey Department of Treasury, the Department of Community Affairs, and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. She earned her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and is a graduate of Chatham College.

“As a career public servant, I understand the issues that the civil service system has experienced over the last 28 years. My goal is to implement Governor Murphy’s agenda by working diligently to address these issues in cooperation with labor and management with a clear and open mind,” Webster Cobb said. “I plan to undertake a thorough review of the current system to determine the areas that need improvement for the well-being of all government employees.”