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Acting New Jersey Commissioner of Human Services Sarah Adelman. (Photo: Sarah Adelman).

Adelman nomination to lead Human Services advances through committee

Acting commissioner has held top Human Services role since early 2021

By Joey Fox, March 21 2022 2:49 pm

Sarah Adelman, who has served as acting commissioner of the Department of Human Services since early 2021, was unanimously advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee today, clearing her path for confirmation by the full Senate on Thursday.

Adelman, a former deputy commissioner of Human Services, stepped in to lead the department after Commissioner Carole Johnson left to take a role in the Biden administration. However, Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t formally nominate Adelman until this January, leaving her as an acting commissioner for more than a year.

“I’ve known throughout my lifetime the value of Human Services programs, and my own family has relied on, and would have benefited from, many of the services our department provides,” Adelman said in her testimony. “My own experiences and my family’s struggles inform and motivate my work and my commitment to serve others.”

Adelman faced a number of questions following her testimony, though no senator expressed any specific concern or complaint about Adelman’s year leading the department. State Sen. Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) focused on the possibility of allowing citizens to register to vote within existing Human Services programs, as the Motor Vehicle Commission already does.

“We are actively looking at that in our Medicaid program, and as we transition out of the public health emergency, I think this is one area where we’ll be looking at opportunities … to see if that’s something we can do,” Adelman said in response to Pou’s questioning. “We’ll be working closely with the Secretary of State’s office on that effort.”

Adelman also promised she will continue recusing herself from matters involving Virtua Health, where her husband is employed, as she said she has done since she joined the department.

A resident of Burlington County, Adelman was subject to senatorial courtesy from State Sens. Troy Singleton (D-Delran) and Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton), the latter of whom evidently did not follow use courtesy to slow down Murphy’s nominations, as some of her Republican colleagues have done.

If Adelman is confirmed when she comes before the full Senate, the number of acting commissioners in the Murphy administration will be reduced by one. Still awaiting their own Senate hearings are acting Secretary of State Tahesha Way (who was confirmed in 2018 but holds one of two jobs that require reappointment every term), acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting Comptroller Kevin Walsh, and acting Corrections Commissioner Victoria Kuhn.

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