WILMINGTON – After three decades of service with the state of Delaware, Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan announced she was leaving to become the next CEO of Leadership Delaware
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Cohan will retire from the Department of Transportation
at the end of October. Departing Leadership Delaware CEO and co-founder Terry Strine will work side by side with Cohan to ease the transition on Nov. 1 and Cohan will effectively become the nonprofit’s chief officer on Jan. 1, 2021.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Delaware for the last 31 years,” Cohan said in various press statements. “I am excited to take on this new challenge as CEO of Leadership Delaware to help grow our state’s up-and-coming leaders … I am a lifelong learner of leadership and I believe strongly in giving back to the amazing Delaware community, which makes this a perfect fit for me,"
Leadership Delaware is a yearlong program that unites rising Delawareans to leave lasting change on the First State through issue-based focus forums on diverse topics ranging from the economy to corporate governance and more. Strine had founded the organization in 2009 with his wife, Sandy, and former Gov. Pete du Pont after he stepped down as the chair of the Delaware Republican Party.
In its first year, Leadership Delaware had 15 members in its first class. To date, it has seen 300 cohorts collectively over the years.
“Jen is incredibly capable and a phenomenal choice for Leadership Delaware,” Strine told Delaware Business Times. “She’s effective, charismatic, and she’s deeply rooted in Delaware. Her roots grow stronger every day. I’m highly enthused to see where she will take it from here, and I’ll do all I can to help her hit the ground running.”
Last year, Strine announced he wanted to step down and the Leadership Delaware Board of Directors started a long search for his successor. Cohan was among the top three candidates for the job. With a recommendation from Strine, she rose above the rest.
Cohan was appointed by then-Gov. Jack Markell in January 2015 and later confirmed by the State Senate to lead DelDOT. She became the third woman in the department’s 100-year history to serve as secretary. In the past five years, Cohan oversaw the development and execution of the largest roadway infrastructure program in Delaware’s history.
Gov. John Carney called Cohan a tremendous asset to his team and that Leadership Delaware’s gain was the state government’s loss.
“Her experience, intellect and depth of knowledge about how state government works will not easily be replaced. Jen also has a unique ability to lift the spirits of those around her and rally a team around a common cause,” Carney said in a statement. “We will miss her in state government. But I’m positive she will continue to do great work on behalf of the people of Delaware.”
Previously, Cohan served as the director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles
for eight years,
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Terry Strine, center, announced he would be stepping back from Leadership Delaware last year. He will work with Cohan to smooth the transition when she comes aboard in November 2020.[/caption]
where she led a transformation of the DMV through investments in technology and a focus on customer service. Other highlights of her long tenure with the state include managing the state’s clean water program at the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and serving as budget analyst for the General Assembly in the Office of the Controller General.
Carney intends to nominate Deputy DelDOT Secretary Nicole Majeski to replace Cohan. She served in that role for nine years before working as chief of staff to then-County Executive Chris Coons. The nomination must be approved by the Delaware Senate.
“I am grateful to the governor for the trust and faith he has in me to lead this agency and to serve in his Cabinet,” Majeski said in a statement. “It has been a privilege to work with Secretary Cohan and I am grateful for her leadership, guidance and for the inspiring way she has led our department for the past six years with an enthusiastic spirit, a passion for innovation and an incredible commitment to customer service and our employees.”
If confirmed, Majeski will be tasked with overseeing one of DelDOT’s biggest projects ever with the overhaul of Interstate 95 through the city of Wilmington scheduled to get underway in earnest next spring.
Meanwhile, Strine said he will be spending time with family and friends after he steps down from Leadership Delaware. He also plans on working more closely with the commercial reality company he started and a long-term project he wants to keep under wraps for now.
“Looking back on my time at Leadership Delaware, what really stands out is the tremendous talent in our fellows,” Strine said. “We set out to build a foundation for something that would really grow Delaware and leave it better than when we came, and for me it’s truly a legacy one can only dream about.”
By Katie Tabeling