TRENTON – There are more than 480 boards, commissions and authorities to which Gov. Phil Murphy can appoint people, and his office is looking for people to raise their hands.

Appointments have taken a bit of a back seat during the pandemic, said Samantha Parker, director of appointments in Murphy’s office. But she is now seeking volunteers and held an online briefing this week to take some of the mystery out of the process.

“Please apply. Take a look at our website. There absolutely – your experiences as a resident of the state are so very much needed,” Parker said.

“It really doesn’t matter where you are at in your professional career,” she said. “I highly, really recommend if you want to give your time to a board or commission, I really ask you to apply.”

Around 200 people tuned in for a webinar on the appointments process Tuesday.

Parker said her office’s goals include matching the makeup of those boards to New Jersey’s diversity – beyond things like gender and race to also include age and geography.

“We want to make sure that we have many voices – not just from Central New Jersey, Northern New Jersey, southern, eastern, western, the Shore, everywhere,” she said.

Parker says all the boards should be diverse, not just ones with diversity-related missions. And she says her office is “in a way a bit nonpartisan.”

“We are looking for Democrats. But we are also looking for Republicans and unaffiliated and independents or if you identify as Green,” Parker said.

Parker said the first step is to check the lists of boards and click through to see their vacancies online; the website is nj.gov/governor/admin/bca. But she says to follow up with emails or calls, as over the years some details have gotten out of date.

“And we just don’t have the best information,” said Parker, who said efforts are underway to improve upon that.

People can apply for a position online. For those who appear to be qualified, the Governor’s Office will follow up with a full questionnaire. Parker said to answer it honestly – even the financial questions. She said if a person is deemed not qualified for any reason, those remains remain confidential and that the records are sealed for 10 years.

“There is nothing, again, that will preclude from being put on a board or commission that is on this questionnaire,” Parker said.

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People who advance past the questionnaire phase undergo a background check done by people in the Governor’s Office – not by the State Police, which has a unit that does ‘four-way’ character and criminal background investigations for some positions in state government, such as Cabinet officers and judges.

From there, they could be directly appointed to a board by the governor or, for some positions, nominated for consideration by the Senate – beginning another process before the Legislature.

Parker said there has been a slowdown in the appointments process in the last year and a half or more, largely because personnel was redirected to pandemic help such as personal protective equipment and vaccines.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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