New Jersey Future’s Cary Edwards Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have an outstanding commitment to improving the quality of life and promoting smart growth in New Jersey through sustainable land-use policy and practice.
The 2017 honoree, James W. Hughes Ph.D., has been dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University since 1995. At the end of the 2016-17 academic year he will step down from his leadership role there, but fortunately for New Jersey, he has no plans to actually retire.
Dean Hughes’ academic research and insights have helped bolster the smart-growth movement, providing independent and authoritative statistics and data to predict demographic trends and reinforce the validity of population movements and the impact of these movements on our cities and towns. The high standard he set for graduates of the Bloustein School has filled the planning field with bright, knowledgeable, civically-engaged professionals committed to smart planning and sustainable growth.
A nationally recognized academic expert on demographics, housing, and regional economics, Dean Hughes has authored or co-authored more than 150 articles and 34 books and monographs, including New Jersey’s Postsuburban Economy, his most recent book, which he co-authored with University Professor Emeritus Joseph Seneca. The book is a wake-up call for the state’s policy makers, as New Jersey experiences the growing pains that come with transforming from a car-centric, suburban-dominant society to a new technology- and internet-based global economy in which younger generations and businesses are seeking to locate in the state’s urban areas.
As director of the Rutgers Regional Report, Dean Hughes has produced more than 40 major economic, demographic, and real estate studies on New Jersey and the broader metropolitan region. Over the last two decades, the Rutgers Regional Report has been a must-read for policy makers and business leaders, chronicling the trends that shape our state’s economy, jobs, and real estate market. Under Dean Hughes’ direction, the report has provided rich insights into the impacts on New Jersey of the national recession, globalization, population migration, technology transformations and other challenges.
Dean Hughes’ list of academic and scholarly works is impressive. But his impact is felt far beyond the academic community. His ability to translate sometimes wonky research findings into language the general public can grasp has made him a resource trusted by local, regional, and national media outlets. Concise and witty, his comments and quotes in articles or on the airwaves provide readers and listeners with clear explanations of the economy backed by meticulous research. Unlike others who might skew research to fit an agenda, Dean Hughes has always been a trusted voice of accuracy and wisdom. And invariably, he is entertaining. Whether he is speaking on the radio or at a public forum, the state’s policymakers and business leaders lean in to listen to James Hughes when he tells them about the state’s challenges and the economic opportunities and consequences that lie ahead.
State and national lawmakers have relied often upon Dean Hughes for his knowledge and insights. His testimony on the state’s budget and economy has been sought after by many New Jersey state legislative committees. Policy makers in both Washington and Trenton have called upon him to deliver expert, unbiased policy briefings. Even if what he has to say on a topic isn’t good news, it is always illuminating. Dean Hughes’ research and writings have informed the state’s most important conversations about economic development, education, housing, land use, and transportation issues.
He has served on numerous commissions and task forces, including the New Jersey Governor’s Commission on Jobs, Growth and Economic Development; the Economic Advisors Board of the Council of the City of New York; the New Jersey Governor’s World Class Economy Task Force; and the New Jersey Governor’s Property Tax Commission.
However, perhaps Dean Hughes’ most important contribution to New Jersey is his elevation of the Bloustein School into a center of public policy and planning influence for New Jersey and the entire Northeast region. Among planning schools, Bloustein often ranks in the top five in the country.
Students have gone on to illustrious careers across the country in both the public and private sectors, including the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, NAGA Architects and The Louis Berger Group. And many Bloustein alumni continue to serve in leadership roles throughout New Jersey, including the planning director for Jersey City, the executive director of New Jersey’s Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and both elected and staff officials in the New Jersey Legislature.
The fruits of their efforts to foster quality growth and development in New Jersey and its cities and towns will be Dean Hughes’ most significant legacy.