New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher will retire on July 1 as just the seventh person to hold the post since 1916 and will not seek a return to the State Assembly.
Fisher had initially expressed interest in running in the 3rd district, where his one-time running mate, John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), is running for the State Senate but has now changed his mind, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
It will now be up to the State Board of Agriculture to select a new agriculture secretary, with the consent of Gov. Phil Murphy, unless Murphy decides that he wants more say in the selection process. Farmers got to fill the cabinet post as part of a deal with Gov. Alfred Driscoll to ratify a new State Constitution in 1947. Click HERE for a primer on the arcane selection process.
Fisher, a former Cumberland County freeholder who, along with Steve Sweeney and Burzichelli, flipped the 3rd district in 2001, was named Secretary of Agriculture in 2009.
Gov.-elect Chris Christie planned to replace Fisher with Hal Wirths, then a Sussex County freeholder. He believed he had the support of the Board of Agriculture to make the switch.
But Sweeney, the incoming Senate President, pushed Christie to keep Fisher. Instead, Christie named Wirths as his Commissioner of Labor.
Murphy praised Fisher’s service as a member of his cabinet since he took office in 2018
“For the past 14 years, New Jersey’s farming and agriculture community has had a friend in Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher. Doug has been an important partner in our administration-wide efforts to fight hunger and food insecurity,” said Murphy. “He has advocated for agri-tourism and supported the growth of businesses that are keeping farms financially viable and our agricultural heritage alive. His tenure has ensured that our nickname as the Garden State remains a point of pride for all New Jerseyans.”
Had Fisher run for the legislature, he would have needed to vacate his post immediately.