Michele N. Siekerka, President and CEO of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, has accepted a position as the Department of Environmental Protection's Assistant Commissioner for Economic Growth and Green Energy, Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.
"This newly established office will work with all stakeholders * environmental groups, business and industry, local governments, and residents * to explore and create opportunities for economic growth while maintaining our highest standards of protection for the environment," Commissioner Martin said. "Environmental protection and economic development are not mutually exclusive goals. Rather, a strong economy is built upon a healthy environment. You cannot have one without the other."
Siekerka will be the DEP's point person in helping New Jersey tap into the full potential of renewable energy by coordinating efforts with other state agencies and working to help businesses develop more opportunities for wind and solar power.
"With her years of experience working with New Jersey's business community, her legal background, and her incredible energy, Michele Siekerka is the ideal person for this job," Commissioner Martin said. "She will help change old ways of thinking about the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection. She will be a key member of the leadership team I have assembled that will re-energize and refocus the DEP."
Siekerka is eager to begin putting the administration's practical approach to environmental protection to work.
"The DEP has long been viewed as a shield to growth," she said. "We need to be proactive. We need to go out there and show that we can do it, that we can balance economic growth and environmental protection. Regulatory processes cannot stand in the way, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs."
The Robbinsville resident has been with the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce for six years. She is currently finishing up a year-long Ford Fellowship in which she worked with Chamber of Commerce and business leaders from across the nation in developing regional sustainability action plans. She also served on Governor Chris Christie's Red Tape Review Group.
Prior to the Chamber of Commerce, Siekerka worked with the Automobile Association of America as a senior legal consultant and vice president of human resources. Before this, she had a private law practice in the Mercer County area.
She will begin work in her new DEP position on June 26.