Justin Braz, a key member of Gov. Phil Murphy’s senior staff and his point man in the legislature, will shift to a new role as Assistant Commissioner of Transportation for transportation policy and chief of staff next month.
His move had been rumored for the last few months. Staff turnovers for second term governors is not unusual.
Braz, who has will continue to manage Murphy’s relationships with private sector labor unions while working at the Department of Transportation.
“From the first days of my Administration, Justin has served our state with a deep sense of purpose and drive to move New Jersey forward,” Murphy said. “Justin’s strong relationships with the Legislature and our union partners, coupled with his unmistakable tenacity, helped advance hundreds of pieces of vital legislation to my desk.”
Braz’s slot is one of several vacancies on the governor’s senior staff.
Zakiya Smith-Ellis is departing as chief policy advisor and Deborah Cornavaca is leaving her post as deputy chief of staff for outreach to join the New Jersey Education Association. Murphy’s communications director, Mahan Gunaratna, left this month to take a top post at Everytown for Gun Safety.
Braz had joined Murphy’s campaign team in 2017 and became deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs in January 2018, a post he’s held except during a 2021 departure to serve as a senior advisor on Murphy’s re-election campaign and returned after Election Day.
At the DOT, he’ll serve as a top advisor to state Transportation Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti.
“Justin will serve as a tremendous asset to NJDOT,” said Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “His commitment to public service and to bettering the lives of New Jerseyans will continue to benefit our state as he takes on this new role. I look forward to working with him as we continue to enhance and revitalize New Jersey’s transportation system.”
Murphy said he was confident that Braz “will use his talents and extensive knowledge of state government to oversee critical infrastructure projects to secure New Jersey’s transportation future.”
Gutierrez-Scaccetti will remain as commissioner for the foreseeable future, perhaps through the end of Murphy’s second term, an administration official told the New Jersey Globe.
“Serving the people of New Jersey as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Murphy has been an incredible honor,” Braz stated. “I am extremely grateful and proud to have played a part in the progress we have made as an Administration to build a stronger, fairer state and to better the lives of every New Jerseyan. I look forward to continuing this important work at the Department of Transportation and thank the Governor and Commissioner for their trust.”
Prior to joining the Murphy campaign, Braz was chief of staff to Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth), and the New Jersey political coordinator 1199 SEIU.
Searches continue for new Murphy staffers. Alex Altman has been named acting communications director and Alyana Alfaro is serving as acting deputy communications director while continuing her role as the governor’s press secretary.