NJEA Goes Inside for Next Executive Director

John Mooney | June 18, 2013 | Education
Edward Richardson, new top staffer at teachers union, moves up from human resources to assume chief post

Edward Richardson, new chief executive of NJEA.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s presiding teachers union, has selected an organization insider to be its next executive director.

The 200,000-member organization yesterday announced its executive committee had picked Edward Richardson, its human resources director the past eight years and staff member for almost 20, to succeed Vincent Giordano in the top staff position.

Giordano, who has more than 40 years with the union, is leaving the post after seven years in December.

Richardson brings to the influential job both experience from inside the union and from the state Department of Education, where he was a lobbyist and policy advisor under the administrations of Gov. Thomas Kean Sr. and Gov. James Florio.

He joined the NJEA’s communications office in 1994 and then moved up to human resources manager in 2005.

In an interview yesterday, Richardson said he would be focused on all assets of the organization since the union is at a critical period of change in local, state, and federal education policy.

“I think we need to be very forward leaning in the policy making that is going on,” Richardson said. “Our members want to be heard, and they expect us to be both their educational and professional advocates.”

“Ed Richardson brings an impressive and diverse set of skills to this demanding position,” Giordano said in the press release announcing the selection. “NJEA members know he will work closely with our elected leaders and staff to represent them well, and to advocate for their interests in a time of great change in public education.

While Giordano came from the collective bargaining side of the union, Richardson brings more of an organizational background, with a focus on staffing and budgets.

“Things are strong. We need to keeping looking into the future to stay that way,” Richardson said, “but financially [for the union], things are very strong.”

The union has about 265 staff, and its roughly 200,000 members represent a slight dip from a peak of 203,000 before the recession, he said.

Richardson said he did not expect big staff changes when he takes office, other than his current post and also that of assistant executive director, Richard Gray, who is also retiring. Richardson said high-profile staff like Ginger Gold Schnitzer, the union’s chief lobbyist, would remain.

“I don’t expect any of [the top management team] leaving,” he said. “Gosh, I hope not.”

In addition to the staff changes, the union’s elected leadership is also turning over this year, with vice president Wendell Steinhauer moving up to president in July. He replaces Barbara Keshishian, who reached her two-term limit.