Name: Regina M. Egea
Who she is: Appointed Chief of Staff to Governor Chris Christie on Monday,
Hometown: A resident of Harding Township in Morris County since 1996, she has served on both the Harding Township Board of Education and the Harding Township Committee.
What she does: Traditionally, the chief of staff runs the Governor’s Office, serves as one of the governor’s lead negotiators on policy and political issues, and effectively functions as the gatekeeper to the governor. With Christie traveling more frequently as chairman of the Republican Governors Association throughout 2014 and as a prospective GOP presidential candidate the following year, more of the day-to-day responsibility will fall upon Egea and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to keep state government running smoothly.
How she got here: Egea served as senior vice president of AT&T in Bedminster, where she managed a global sales marketing team of more than 300 employees in offices throughout the world. An active Republican, soon after she retired from AT&T she volunteered as a policy adviser in Christie’s 2009 campaign.
Hired as chief of staff to Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff in the new administration, Egea managed Treasury Department operations and played a leading role in developing the landmark pension and health benefits overhaul that was signed into law in June 2011. She then joined the Governor’s Office as director of the Authorities Unit, which is responsible for the 55 authorities over which the governor exercises veto power, including the powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Turnpike Authority, and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Christie chose her as chief of staff to replace Kevin O’Dowd, whom he nominated to be the new state Attorney-General.
What she brings to the job: Egea, who has earned the governor’s trust on the job over the past four years, will be one of a handful of top officials who did not serve under Christie in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as her predecessor O’Dowd did, work closely with him during the 2000 George W. Bush presidential campaign or serve in a senior position in his 2009 gubernatorial campaign.
“She’s conservative, she’s insightful, she reaches decisions, but she’s also pragmatic in figuring out how to achieve the objectives she would like to achieve,” said Harding Township Mayor Louis Lanzerotti, who worked closely with Egea on local government finances from 2008 until January 2012.
Egea and Christie administration officials did not respond to interview requests yesterday. But Egea made her fiscal philosophy clear when she was first elected to the Township Committee in 2008. “I firmly believe in the ‘live within our means’ policy. If revenues are challenged, priorities must be set,” she told her hometown Observer-Tribune newspaper. The comment, made before she joined the Christie campaign, perfectly mirrors Christie’s philosophy.
Egea’s three-decade career at AT&T, during which she headed teams focused on business strategy development, product management, core network operations, human resources, and executive-succession planning, gives her a deeper understanding of how the corporate world works than anyone who has served in Christie’s inner sanctum. That includes Richard Bagger, his first chief of staff, whose career at Pfizer focused more on government relations and legislation at the federal and state government levels.
Serving in a high-level spot in Treasury gave her a crash course in state government that no other vantage point except the Governor’s Office can match, because every state department runs both its fiscal and policy needs and priorities through Treasury as part of the annual budget preparation process.
Further, Treasury was the center of the action in Christie’s first two years in office because it was the agency responsible for the steep cuts the governor needed to make in the FY2010 and FY2011 budgets, for the pension and health benefits overhaul, and for Christie’s business tax cuts, and unsuccessful income tax cut proposal.
Egea’s two-year stint as deputy mayor in Harding Township gave her a ground-level insight into the impact of state policies she was implementing on municipal government and added to the perspective she had gained by serving on the Harding Township Board of Education from 2003 to 2008.
“We were lucky to have her on the Harding Township Committee,” Lanzerotti said. “She brought insights and experience from the private sector that were beneficial in looking at finance issues, and she was a strong proponent of rigorous benchmarking. Given the experience she has had, and what she has seen on the pluses and minuses of achieving savings through shared services, she is in a good position to advise the governor on what local governments face.”
Egea served on the committee that oversaw the successful startup of the merger of the Harding, Madison, Chatham Borough, and Chatham Township municipal courts, Harding Township Deputy Mayor Nic Platt noted.
“She introduced benchmarking and that completely reshaped our budget process,” said Platt. “Before, we were comparing ourselves to ourselves in previous years. Once we started comparing ourselves with our towns, we saw how much we were spending and where the opportunities for savings were.”
That perspective will be valuable with Christie committed to a second-term agenda that includes expanding shared services, limiting sick-leave payouts, and overhauling civil service to enable more towns to merge like the two Princetons did last year.
Egea resigned from the Township Committee in January 2012 when she moved from Treasury to the Governor’s Office as director of the Authorities Unit, where she completed her immersion into the intricacies of state government by overseeing the vast “hidden government” of independent authorities that the governor ultimately controls through his power to veto the minutes of any board action with which he disagrees.
Personal: Egea grew up in Monmouth County, where she attended St. Rose High School in Belmar. She is a graduate of Montclair State University and earned a master’s degree in business administration in marketing from Fordham University at Lincoln Center in New York City. She also graduated from the International Executive Program at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. She and her husband Emilio have two children, Christina, who is in college, and Emilio, who is in high school.