When a new governor is elected, it is widely understood that they will replace the old political appointees in the cabinet with one of their own. To the victor go the spoils, right? Governor Christie has already named several new Secretaries or Commissioners as part of that process. But, when it came to the Ag Commissioner Christie's transition team had to deal with a process that was different than the rest because of the politics behind the 1947 state constitution.
In New Jersey, the Commissioner of Agriculture is not chosen by the governor but is named by the State Agriculture Board and then accepted or rejected by the governor. Since the Star-Ledger reported that everyone was happy with Commissioner Doug Fisher (D), it didn't seem like an issue. Oops. Reports are that the new governor wants to appoint Harold J. Wirths (a Republican freeholder from Sussex County) but the Board isn't interested right now. Still, the S-L says that "New Jersey laws permit the governor to remove the secretary of agriculture from his post "upon notice and opportunity to be heard." "
This has traditionally been a less politicized position in favor of stability. For around a 70 year period, from 1938 to 2008, there were only four Commissioners (Willard Allen, Philip Alampi, Arthur Brown and Charles Kuperus). If I have my math right, Republican Charles Kuperus served exclusively under Democratic administrations.
Anyway, I am told that there is an "emergency" open-to-the-public Ag Board meeting TODAY at 3 at the Rutgers Eco-Complex where they will be discussing the future of the Commissioner as well as the future of the Department. Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore will be representing the transition team's agriculture subcommittee and clarifying their intentions.
So? What does ag matter in a place formerly called the Garden State? First, farming is still a big industry in NJ. This department is responsible for farmland preservation as well as deeply involved in fighting urban childhood obesity. They are key to the landscape industry and soil and water conservation.