Working for Smart Growth:
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Christopher Daggett

Smart Growth Award Category: Cary Edwards Leadership Award

Recipient: Christopher Daggett

Career-long dedication across public, private, and nonprofit sectors to good government, environmental resilience, and equitable growth in New Jersey



The Cary Edwards Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have an outstanding commitment to improving quality of life and promoting smart growth in New Jersey through sustainable land-use policy and practice.

New Jersey Future is proud to honor Chris Daggett with the Cary Edwards Leadership Award for his decades of service and commitment to smart, sustainable, and resilient growth in New Jersey across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The Cary Edwards Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have an outstanding commitment to improving quality of life and promoting smart growth in New Jersey through sustainable land-use policy and practice.

Born in Orange and raised in Linwood, Chris Daggett is a lifelong New Jerseyan. For over 35 years, Daggett has worked in a range of capacities, demonstrating a strong commitment to resilience, community, and smart growth in New Jersey. In his career, Daggett has served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Thomas Kean, Regional Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Beyond this, he acted as managing director of William E. Simon & Sons, a private investment firm, and also operated a brownfields development company. Daggett was also a Principal with JM Sorge, Inc., an environmental consulting group.

Notably, Daggett served as the President and CEO of The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, one of the larger and more influential foundations in New Jersey. Daggett led the Foundation’s adoption of a new strategic plan that prioritizes racial equity and set the foundation on a path to integrate equity into its grantmaking. Under Daggett’s direction, the Dodge Foundation played an important leadership role in a number of initiatives that are central to New Jersey Future’s mission of promoting a sustainable, resilient New Jersey for all:

  • Post Superstorm Sandy, the Dodge Foundation teamed up with the Community Foundation of New Jersey to rapidly organize a coordinated and funded response to the disaster, including helping towns pivot and plan for a future based on climate change.
  • The Dodge Foundation helped launch the Jersey Water Works (JWW) collaborative, a diverse 600-member coalition dedicated to improving the state’s water infrastructure.  Recently, and due in part to the sustained advocacy of JWW, $9.4 million was proposed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to improve water quality and address climate change in New Jersey, including funding for building infrastructure to reduce combined sewer overflows related to stormwater (mis)management.
  • The Dodge Foundation’s leadership on advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the nonprofit sector educated and influenced many organizations to become aware of and pursue active culture change initiatives, including New Jersey Future.
  • In 2019, Daggett agreed to chair the JWW Lead in Drinking Water Task Force, generous with his talents and energy. This has led to passage of perhaps the nation’s most protective law to replace lead pipes, which requires that all lead service lines be replaced within 10 years.

Altogether, Daggett has acted as a partner to nonprofit organizations and initiatives, including New Jersey Future and Jersey Water Works, always implementing creative strategies and being generous with his time, contacts, experience, and talents. Daggett said of his work with JWW, “By aligning all these entities and diverse perspectives to advance shared goals, Jersey Water Works can accomplish so much more than any member organization could accomplish individually. It is a great example of the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Beyond this, Daggett has served on or led a number of nonprofit boards, including Hudson River Foundation, Schumann Fund for New Jersey, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Regional Plan Association (as co-chair of the NJ committee), Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Somerset Hills YMCA, and the NJ Advisory Committee of The Trust for Public Land. His experiences working with nonprofits across the state are a testament to Daggett’s widespread influence in the civic and environmental sphere in New Jersey.

In 2009, Chris Daggett ran for governor of New Jersey, on a platform which focused on a detailed, comprehensive effort to put the state back on sound financial footing, again demonstrating his commitment to serving New Jerseyans. He was endorsed by The Star-Ledger over the Democratic and Republican candidates in order to “put a highly qualified occupant in the corner office at the Statehouse… as a way to begin changing the corrosive culture of Trenton.” According to a New York Times article from 2009, when Daggett ran, “his specialty is solving thorny problems by getting people on all sides to set aside emotions and agree on facts.”

Daggett was the first independent candidate to ever be endorsed by the Sierra Club, of which NJ Director Jeff Tittel wrote, “Chris Daggett has shown leadership and a real commitment to protecting our environment. He has demonstrated his willingness to stand up to special interests and politicians to do what’s right for the environment. It’s very rare when you have the opportunity to endorse someone of such principle and integrity with a broad background in environmental issues.”


See all 2022 Smart Growth Awards winners

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