Gov. Christie's chief of staff leaves administration for post at hospital

Chris Christie's chief of staff and choice for attorney general, Kevin O'Dowd is leaving the administration for a post at a hospital.

A top aide to Gov. Chris Christie and his choice to serve as attorney general is leaving the administration for a post at Cooper University Hospital.

Kevin O'Dowd, who has been Christie's chief of staff since 2012, will serve as senior executive vice president and chief administrative officer at the Camden hospital. The hospital's board is chaired by influential Democratic Party power broker George Norcross.

"It was an honor and a privilege to serve the people of the state of New Jersey for the last five years," O'Dowd said in a statement. "While I will miss interacting with my colleagues in the executive and legislative branches, I am very much looking forward to joining the Cooper team and beginning the next phase of my career."

Norcross and Cooper Health System President and CEO Adrienne Kirby announced the move Friday.

"His proven track record of leading large organizations will be extremely important as Cooper continues its expansion of programs and services throughout the region," Norcross and Kirby said in a statement.

Regina Egea will succeed O'Dowd as chief of staff at the end of the month, according to a spokesman for the governor. She is currently director of the authorities unit, where she oversees a staff of lawyers who deal with the state's boards and commissions.

O'Dowd and Christie formed a close bond working together for more than a decade.

"Cooper is fortunate to land him, and they can count on the same level of dedication, competence and knowledge that I received from Kevin over the course of 11 years working together," Christie said in a statement.

O'Dowd's departure comes after the Republican governor indicated he would nominate him to be attorney general earlier this year but then chose not to. Christie maintained O'Dowd's nomination also depended on whether O'Dowd wanted the job, saying it was a "two-way street." That decision also came amid Democratic concerns of O'Dowd's possible connection to the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal. O'Dowd supervised the aide who was fired for her involvement.

Despite a pending legislative investigation into the lane closures, lawmakers say they'll miss O'Dowd. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said he got to know O'Dowd when Prieto served on as the Budget Committee chairman.

"He's been an extremely great person to work with," Prieto said. "He's a guy of compromise."

Before serving as Christie's chief of staff, O'Dowd was the governor's deputy chief counsel. He has also served as the head of the New Jersey U.S. attorney's securities and health care fraud unit and as an assistant United States attorney in the criminal division.

O'Dowd's wife, Mary O'Dowd, is the state health commissioner.

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