The top-ranking officials in New Jersey's education and corrections departments will stay on as acting commissioners while Gov.-elect Jon Corzine conducts a "nationwide search" for permanent commissioners, his office announced yesterday.
Acting Education Commissioner Lucille Davy, who took over in September, will remain in her present position, and Assistant Corrections Commissioner George Hayman will take the top post in his agency.
"I have always said that I would search far and wide for individuals with exceptional ability and integrity to serve the people of New Jersey," Corzine said in a prepared statement.
"I think highly of Assistant Commissioner Hayman and Acting Commissioner Davy," Corzine added, "and I am grateful that they have agreed to continue their service to New Jersey while the search is conducted."
Corzine's announcement did not say how long the searches are expected to take, nor did he outline how they would be conducted. Corzine said he would invite Davy and Hayman to apply for the permanent posts.
The announcement, released late in the same day that Gov. Richard Codey gave his State of the State address, means the two departments will remain under interim leadership after Corzine takes office next week.
In the meantime, Corzine is contemplating several other Cabinet decisions.
Kris Kolluri, a former chief of staff at the Department of Transportation, is the front-runner to become its next commissioner, according to sources close to the process. Corzine is also considering bringing former Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin, who left to work on his campaign, back in that role, sources said.
Davy, previously counsel to Codey and to former Gov. Jim McGreevey, had been rumored a top candidate for the permanent education post as recently as last week. She has pressed her own agenda since taking over for outgoing Commissioner William Librera in the fall. For instance, she won the praise of some education groups when she scrapped Librera's plans for a new battery of student tests and instead launched a year-long review of the system.
"We feel that Lucille Davy has provided leadership during this interim period, and we look forward to continuing to work with her," said Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for New Jersey School Boards Association.
A two-decade veteran of the Corrections Department, the 50-year-old Hayman was essentially the top-ranking official in the agency after former Commissioner Devon Brown this week began a new job as corrections director in Washington, D.C.
As commissioner since 2002, Brown had a turbulent tenure. He is credited with clamping down on the department's spiraling overtime budget, and he stressed a reform agenda for inmates that included chess, educational television and widespread high school level classes.
But Brown rankled union leaders and state politicians this year when he publicly denounced political patronage in his department and disputed corrections officers' accounts of a "riot" at Bayside State Prison.
John Mooney covers education. He may be reached at email@example.com, or (973) 392-1548. Staff writers Rick Hepp and Dunstan McNichol also contributed.