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Murphy picks business lobbyist for top post

Melanie Willoughby heads Business Action Center

By David Wildstein, April 01 2018 7:21 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy has tapped a longtime lobbyist for the business community to head the New Jersey Business Action Center.

Melanie Willoughby has replaced Gerald Scharfenberger, who was fired in February after refusing to attend a Murphy press conference.  Scharfenberger, a former Middletown mayor, is now a Monmouth County freeholder.

Willoughby’s appointment has not been announced, although her social media page said she started her new job on March 19.  He name does not yet appear on the Business Action Center website.

Willoughby retired two months ago after a nineteen-year career with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.  She also spent seventeen years as president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association.  Willoughby started her career as a staffer for Gov. Brendan Byrne, served as Gov. Chris Christie’s appointee to the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission, and was on Murphy’s transition team.

“Melanie has been instrumental in NJBIA’s rise as the state’s premier business lobby, spearheading the fight for pro-business policies while working adeptly with the legislature through four different gubernatorial administrations,” NJBIA president Michele Siekerka said at the time of Willoughby’s retirement.

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