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Indian American named New Jersey Transport Commissioner

February 01, 2006 12:18 IST

New Jersey Governor Jon S Corzine has named Indian American Kris Kolluri as the Commissioner of Transportation, a cabinet post that requires Senate confirmation.

If confirmed, 38-year-old Kolluri will be the first Indian American to hold a cabinet post in New Jersey.

With 3,900 employees and a budget of $2.6 billion, the Department of Transportation is charged with the construction, operation, maintenance and management of the state's transportation infrastructure. There are 2,344 miles of roadways and 2,454 state bridges in New Jersey.

Corzine praised the leadership and experience of Kolluri and Steven M Goldman, who has been named as Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, saying, "I am pleased that we have been able to recruit two outstanding commissioners who are excellent managers and have a terrific grasp of the pressing issues."

"Both Steve Goldman and Kris Kolluri understand the unique challenges facing their departments and have assured me that they are as eager as I am to get New Jersey back on track," he added.

"In a densely populated state like New Jersey, maintaining, expanding and ensuring the safety and security of our vast transportation system is not just a worthy goal, but a crucial duty," Kolluri said, adding, "While many challenges are ahead, I am honored that Governor Corzine has asked me to join his efforts to build a better New Jersey."

Kolluri, who came to the US about 20 years ago, earned a Jurist Doctorate from Georgetown University, a Masters in International Business from Johns Hopkins University and Bachelor of Science from Rutgers University. He lives in West Windsor with his wife and two children.

Though, another Indian American, Seema Singh, was named as Public Advocate with cabinet rank four years ago by then Governor Jim McGreevey, the legislature did not reinstate the post, which was abolished by the Republican governor a few years ago.

Singh later became the Ratepayer Advocate of New Jersey and continues to hold that post. The new administration has not taken any decision on Singh, a spokesperson at the governor's office said.

Kolluri has been counsel at Parker McCay since January 2005 and is the firm's principal attorney for oversight of client matters pertaining to transportation law. Previously, he served as assistant commissioner and chief of staff of the department of transportation.

Kolluri worked as assistant commissioner of intergovernmental relations for then DOT Commissioner Jamie Fox in the early part of the McGreevey administration. This was his first transportation-related job. He later became chief counselor to the current commissioner, Jack Lettiere, on all policy and administrative matters, and worked closely with the legislature to reform the motor vehicles division.

Prior to being appointed assistant commissioner, Kolluri served as the senior policy advisor to House Democratic Leader Richard A Gephardt. In this capacity, Kris headed the member support program, which was established to help freshmen members of Congress design and implement long-term strategic initiatives.

In addition, Kris was Gephardt's principal staff member responsible for communicating with opinion leaders, elected officials and interest groups across the country. In July 1999, he was appointed as the chief of staff to Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey.

In early 1998, Kris was tipped to be the special advisor to Gephardt on India and Indian-American affairs.

Assemblyman John S Wisniewski, D-Middlesex County, chairman of the assembly transportation and public works committee, called Kolluri an 'exceptional leader' who has 'a firm understanding of New Jersey's transportation challenges and a deep appreciation for the important roles that highways and mass transit systems play in the state economy.'

George Joseph in New York