TRENTON – For the second week in a row, Gov. Chris Christie announced a high-level cabinet replacement. Chief of staff Rich Bagger is stepping down, Christie said, and Deputy Chief Counsel Kevin O’Dowd will be taking his place.
Observers had speculated that O’Dowd would replace Chief Counsel Jeff Chiesa, who is moving into a role as Attorney General, but instead moves up to the chief of staff role.
Christie thanked Bagger, having “lured him out of the private sector,” when he left his role as senior vice president of government relations for Pfizer.
Bagger will be leaving to join Celgene as an executive vice president, Christie said.
Charles McKenna, director of the office of homeland security, will succeed Chiesa as chief counsel.
Also, Wayne Hasenbalg, deputy chief of staff for policy and planning, will be taking over the reins at the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority. Deb Gramiccioni, director of authorities, will take over for Hasenbalg.
“I think this staff has been, in the history of the governor’s office, one of the best,” Christie said. “Times for change in an administration are always time for evaluation.”
He said he intends to fill the homeland security vacancy by Jan. 10, 2012.
Christie said his office ran with everyone reporting to either the chief of staff or the chief counsel – the “two-chiefs model” – and with turnover at both positions, his administration will need to readjust.