Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chamber exec gets new green jobs post at NJDEP

Michele Siekerka, who has served as Mercer County Regional Chamber of Commerce president and CEO for more than six years,will fill the newly created post of assistant commissioner for economic growth and green initiatives at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin told lawmakers during recent budget hearings that he was creating the position and was reviewing potential candidates for the job. This afternoon, a DEP news release confirmed the appointment.

Siekerka earlier this year served on Governor Chris Christie's Red Tape Review group, which issued a report that called for  easing some regulatory mandates at the DEP and other state agencies.

"For me personally it is a culmination of things I have been working on over the course of the past year," Siekerka said in a Trenton Times story today.

She cited the chamber's Economic Development Foundation, which she helped create to look at issues that would encourage businesses to stay and grow in New Jersey, and a Ford Foundation-funded fellowship on regional sustainable development that she was selected for.

"Sustainability isn't just the environment," she said. "It's environmental, economics and the quality of life."

Before joining the chamber in 2004, Siekerka worked in the general counsel's office at AAA Mid-Atlantic, and was a lawyer in private practice for 12 years in Robbinsville, NJ.  She also served as a member of the school board in Washington Township for 10 years.

The announcement was met with skepticism by one of the state's most-quoted environmental activists, Jeff Tittel, executive director of the NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club. Tittel said he was concerned the position went against the DEP's main mission of environmental protection.

He also said some of the chamber's members during Siekerka's term were subject to DEP regulation.

"This person has worked for the chamber, and is now going to be working for the DEP in a position affecting applications for permits," he said. "Isn't there a conflict of interest?"

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