Top CEOs and CFOs

by Madeleine Maccar, Carly Murray and Chelsea Valcourt | Feb 27, 2024
Top CEOs and CFOs
Teamwork makes the dream work, and every good team starts with visionary leaders doing their best to do right by their staff, mission and community. In this year’s installment of our annual feature, we recognize those CEOs and CFOs who not only tap into their experience to guide their teams forward but also are willing to share some of the most impactful insights they’ve gained along their upward trajectory to help their peers head confidently into 2024 and beyond.
 

Wesley Mathews, President & CEO, Choose New Jersey
Mathews brings over two decades of experience in business development, diplomacy and finance to Choose New Jersey as a career diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service focused on strengthening the nation’s economic and commercial interests. He served at numerous embassies and consulates and was instrumental in enhancing New Jersey’s global reach and devising successful strategies to attract greater foreign investment. Mathews played a critical role in opening new markets for New Jersey and launching hubs in Europe and India. 

What are your goals for 2024?

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I look forward to deepening the economic and commercial linkages between New Jersey and East Asia by opening the New Jersey Asia-Pacific Center in Taipei in the first half of 2024 and deepening our engagement with key markets in the western hemisphere, Europe, the Middle East and India. By investing in our digital capabilities, I intend to increase our domestic U.S. outreach and marketing, targeting high-growth companies that will continue strengthening New Jersey’s innovation economy. 


Charles Muracco, CPA, CGMA, CEO, CLM Advisors
Muracco founded CLM Advisors in 2013 to elevate businesses and enhance the economy's fiscal health. A visionary leader driving business evolution, he collaborates with business owners, providing expertise in fiscal management, accounting systems, tax strategies and overall business enhancement. Recognized as a SmartCPA by SmartCEO Magazine, Entrepreneur of the Year by South Jersey Biz and Small Businessperson of the Year by the Gloucester County Chamber, Muracco’s impact extends to serving on the boards of YMCA of the Pines, GCCOC and more.

What advice do you have for tomorrow’s leaders?
Always have confidence in delivering your knowledge but never take yourself too seriously. If you think you are the smartest person in the room, you won’t learn anything from the people around you. Being surrounded by people who are smarter than you is the road to success.  Making decisions for the organization regarding what you have learned from those people is leadership.

 

Kristina Hernandez, CEO, KR1STNA Media
For two decades, Hernandez has made an extraordinary career by pushing the limits of business innovation. Her expertise in blending marketing, sales, event management, cutting-edge technology, strategic insight and creative vision is crucial in driving brand growth and success. Since the inception of KR1STNA Media in 2018, Hernandez's leadership has been synonymous with flexibility and pioneering ideas, attracting notable clients such as Ford and Cisco. Alongside her professional achievements, Hernandez finds joy and fulfillment in her family life with her son Joel, her partner Micheal and his three boys.

What advice do you have for tomorrow’s leaders?
My advice for tomorrow’s leaders is to embrace empathy and active listening. Understanding the perspectives and needs of your team, clients and stakeholders is crucial for effective leadership. It's important to create an environment where everyone feels heard and valued. This not only strengthens team dynamics but also encourages a more inclusive approach to problem-solving and decision-making.

 

L. Scott Elwell, Business Accounting Systems, PC
Elwell has been with the firm since 1980; today, he is responsible for all aspects of managing the firm, from the daily operations to recruitment and, most importantly, marketing and new client acquisition. Among other professional accreditations, he an Enrolled Agent, a license granted by the Department of the Treasury—specifically the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—allowing him to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the IRS, as well as an Accredited Tax Advisor and an Accredited Tax Preparer.

Who would you credit as an impactful mentor?
Without question, my father Leon A. Elwell. He started this practice in 1971 because he wanted to be in control of his own destiny. His drive and passion to start an accounting practice after a career as an electrical engineer is an amazing accomplishment. From the beginning, he understood what a client in the small business sector needs to be able to survive.


Peter C. Connolly, Chief Executive Officer, NJMEP
Connolly brings a wealth of experience to his role with 40 years’ experience in operations, business development and general management in the aerospace and defense industry, on top of serving as chairman of NJMEP’s board of directors for over 12 years. He is a Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) graduate who is looking to give back to the manufacturing industry, and leads with an unwavering commitment to leaving a long-lasting positive impact on New Jersey’s economic well-being.

What are your goals for 2024?    
Continue to support New Jersey’s small and medium-sized manufactures to improve their businesses, and remain a mainstay of those statewide manufacturing businesses. We’ll also focus on assisting our Southern New Jersey manufacturers, which has been a neglected segment within the industry. It’s also important to increase awareness of training and apprenticeships to high school students and show them how manufacturing is a viable, rewarding career.


Jarrod C. Grasso, Chief Executive Officer, New Jersey Realtors®
Grasso joined the association in 1999; before his role as CEO, he served as New Jersey Realtors’ chief lobbyist, which included advocating for the industry. He maintains an active role with the National Association of Realtors, having served as a director and a chair of the Association Executives Committee, and received the National Association of Realtors William R. Magel Award of Excellence for excelling in his role as an association executive.

Who would you credit as an impactful mentor?
My first boss Assembly Speaker Jack Collins and former New Jersey Realtors CEO Robert Ferguson shared their New Jersey political landscape wisdom with me, but no one has impacted me more than my mother Faith Liguori. She raised my sister and I while balancing her career as director of human services in Ocean County, and watching her balance a career and family helped me become a better CEO to my staff, understanding the importance of flexibility and that family comes first.


Lisa Conley, Chief Executive Officer, The Arc Gloucester
For 32 years, Conley has been dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She started her career with The Arc Gloucester in 1991 and became CEO in 2021. Conley continues to apply her knowledge and expertise toward providing quality services, advocating for the individuals served, educating the community and expanding the reach of The Arc Gloucester to hundreds of individuals and their families throughout South Jersey.  

What advice do you have for tomorrow’s leaders?
Over the years, I have seen firsthand the importance of a good team. Surrounding yourself with motivated people you can trust makes a monumental difference. I have been very fortunate to work alongside so many wonderful people who have taught me and continue to teach me. Working in an ever-changing environment, it is necessary to surround yourself with a variety of experience and expertise to bounce ideas off of and explore new perspectives. 

 

Jennifer Dubrow Weiss, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey
Dubrow Weiss has been the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey’s (JFSNJ’s) CEO since 2012. Initiatives launched under her tenure include the Aleph Adult Day Center, an affordable housing community for older adults and adults with special needs called Weinberg Commons, and the community security initiative JFed Security, LLC. She is dedicated to building a culture of trust, collaboration and leading by example. Dubrow Weiss holds a master’s degree in social work from Temple University, and began her career as an intern at JFSNJ’s agency, Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

What lesson shaped your leadership philosophy?
Everyone needs someone to believe in them. If you provide others with opportunities to grow and help them navigate both their failures and their successes along the way, you’ve exuded leadership by teaching someone to be a leader in their respective role, which allows them to inspire others, as well.

 

Charles Kelly, Chief Financial Officer, Volunteers of America Delaware Valley
Kelly joined the Volunteers of America Delaware Valley in 2011, and is is responsible for the accounting, treasury, information technology, risk management and vehicle fleet functions of the organization. Prior to this, Kelly held financial and accounting roles in various not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. An active member of his community, Kelly sits on several nonprofit boards of directors, and earned both his B.S. and MBA from LaSalle University.

Who would you credit as an impactful mentor?
Dan Lombardo, the CEO of Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, has been an impactful mentor for me. Dan has taught me to have empathy for not only the clients we serve, but also the employees we work with, and has also taught me to think strategically about how to get to where we need to be as an organization. Dan has always been a demanding boss, but also a great friend.

 

Robert Curatola, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Samaritan
Curatola oversees strategic financial planning, budgeting, forecasting, accounting and revenue cycle for the organization’s continuum of life-enhancing services. He brings 39 years of health-care finance experience to the role, including leadership positions with Hahnemann University Hospital, the UPenn Health System, Cooper University Health Care and CAMcare. Curatola holds a bachelor’s in accounting from Stockton and master’s in business administration in corporate finance from Drexel.

What advice do you have for tomorrow’s leaders?
Be Flexible. You should expect excellence from your employees and lead them where you want to go. Demanding usually does not work, as staff want opportunities to shine and put their own “touches” on projects. This allows them to take ownership in the outcome of a project and learn how to drive change better than if you, as their leader, tightly manage all phases of a project. The end result is that you develop your staff to move up and accept increasing amounts of responsibilities.

 

Dana L. Redd, President/CEO, Camden Community Partnership, Inc.
In her role at Camden Community Partnership, Redd leads the private nonprofit organization with a mission to help preserve and nurture a vibrant Camden. Redd is responsible for implementing the strategic plan and managing a diversified special project portfolio, including neighborhood initiatives, public infrastructure and business development. She has worked in various positions including mayor of the city of Camden and state senator and was previously  the CEO of Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors.

What are your goals for 2024?
As we enter 2024 and celebrate Camden Community Partnership’s 40th anniversary, we aim to continue advancing economic growth and development for the city of Camden while marketing Camden as a place to invest, expand and grow a business. We will also work to support the long-term development of neighborhoods outside of the Downtown to ensure that the city’s economic growth directly benefits residents, and fosters equity and inclusive prosperity. Our commitment to Camden is unwavering.

 

Denise Napier, RN, BSN, MHA, President and CEO, Jefferson Health Plans
Napier leads Jefferson Health Plans, which cares for more than 370,000 Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents through its Medicare Advantage, Individual and Family, CHIP (KidzPartners) and Medicaid (Health Partners) health plans. Napier previously served as CEO for multiple health plans, focusing on improving financial and growth outcomes to both obtain profitability and transform lives. She is chair of the board of directors for HealthShare Exchange and St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, where she serves as treasurer.

What are your goals for 2024?
I am looking forward to 2024 and the opportunity to increase our impact in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We recently expanded our footprint, adding new service areas as well as four new Medicare Advantage Plans. We also launched our Individual and Family Plans in the Greater-Philadelphia area. We will continue to meet members where they are and deliver an outstanding customer experience. 

 

Anthony DiFabio, Psy.D., President & Chief Executive Officer, Acenda Integrated Health
Dr. DiFabio’s vision for innovative care and strategic development has elevated him as a leader within health and social services. As president and CEO of Acenda Integrated Health, he leads the workforce in implementing efficient yet compassionate care models across Acenda's services. Dr. DiFabio serves as a leader on numerous boards at the national, state and county level. He resides in Mullica Hill with his wife Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D., and their four beautiful daughters. 

Who would you credit as an impactful mentor?
My predecessors Ruth London and Angela Estes taught me that effective leadership is not a solo act but rather a team sport. They helped me to harness my passion-fueled purpose and inspired me to inspire others. Perhaps most importantly, they shaped my work ethic and helped me to understand that my main responsibility as a nonprofit, mission-based leader was to provide our team with the support and resources necessary to achieve our shared goals. 

 

Thomas X. Geisel, President and Chief Executive Officer, Republic Bank
Geisel is president and CEO of both Republic Bank and Republic First Bancorp, Inc. Prior to joining Republic, Geisel held senior executive positions at Webster Bank Corporation (formerly known as Sterling Bancorp), which was preceded by his time at Sun Bancorp, Inc., where he served as president and CEO, as well as director. Prior to Sun Bancorp, Geisel was at KeyCorp, which included serving as president of the Northeast region.

What advice do you have for tomorrow’s leaders?
One valuable piece of advice for tomorrow's leaders is to recognize that anyone can assert themselves as a leader when circumstances are favorable; however, genuine leadership is revealed during times of crisis. True leaders willingly accept responsibility and accountability, demonstrating resilience, tenacity and optimism in the face of challenges. Not everyone may appreciate or concur with your decisions, but as a leader, you are entrusted with a role, and people rely on you to fulfill that responsibility. 

 

Qindi Shi, CFO, Oaks Integrated Care
Shi joined Oaks in 1991 after receiving her MBA from Syracuse University, and she continued to grow within the organization. Now as CFO, Shi manages a team of 50 employees and has played a critical role in the implementation of Oaks’ strategic plan, while spearheading initiatives that have grown the agency’s budget from $4.4 million to $134 million. For Shi, the bottom line is always about meeting the needs of the people: Her personal goal remains to ensure that every deal is the best deal for all involved. Shi is a member of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies’ CFO Practice Group, NJCPA and AICPA. 

What are your goals for 2024?
The financial industry is ever-evolving and new technologies have been introduced to assist with improving efficiency and effectiveness. My goal is to leverage some of these new technologies to support my staff and build an even stronger financial foundation for Oaks.

 

Leslie Anderson, CEO & President, New Jersey Redevelopment Authority (NJRA)
In her role at NJRA, Anderson oversees the multi-million-dollar independent financing agency focused on urban community transformation. The sole Black woman leading such an authority nationally, Anderson has been reappointed by four governors due to her effectiveness. Under her leadership, NJRA has attracted nearly $4 billion in investments, aiding the redevelopment of economically challenged areas. Anderson is also known for creating the NJRA Training Institute, training thousands in redevelopment and revitalization.

What’s one of the most pressing business challenges you’re facing?
The most pressing challenge is fair and equitable access to capital to complete real estate development projects. We hear all the time about the challenges to building the capital stack; however, there are certain individuals who are always able to access capital to complete their projects. Those with the ability to invest must establish criteria and financial resources to level the playing field in 2024 so that all have equal access to capital.

 

Jack Kocsis, Jr., CEO, Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey
For more than 35 years, Kocsis has led the association and been directly involved in labor negotiations and jurisdiction settlement proceedings statewide. He serves on several boards and committees, including the Bricklayers Labor Management Fund, LECET, ELEC and CCT. Kocsis is co-chair of numerous union funds and councils, including the Ironworkers District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity, Heavy and General Laborers, and more. Recognized as a leader in the construction industry, Kocsis currently serves as treasurer of the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank and is a member of the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority and the Moles.

What are your goals for 2024?
Our goals in 2024 are to continue to provide the level of service our members have become accustomed to with a focus on continuing to build strong partnerships with our labor partners. Together we must continue our focus on keeping signatory union contractors competitive with a skilled, diverse and growing workforce.

 

Steven R. Cocchi J.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, South Jersey Industries
Since becoming senior vice president and CFO in 2020, Cocchi has maintained the organization’s fiscal strength—enabling profitable operations through effective strategic planning and oversight of financial activities. Since joining SJI in 2009, Cocchi has held several other positions including director of legal affairs, director of rates and revenue requirements, vice president of rates and regulatory affairs, and chief strategy and development officer. He is a member of the Public Utility Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, the State Affairs Committee of the American Gas Association, and the Board of Trustees at the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.

What advice do you have for tomorrow’s leaders?
My advice would be to find ways to make an impact, share your ideas, raise your hand for projects and have an open mind about your career path. Using your skills and your perspective to your advantage will get you far.

 


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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 14, Issue 1 (January 2024).

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Author: Madeleine Maccar, Carly Murray and Chelsea Valcourt

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