For the past seven years, Velez has been at the helm of Human Services, serving as commissioner through both Democratic and Republican administrations. That puts her in charge of an $11 billion budget, one she is managing as the department wades through a time of significant change.
And it's the reason she is in the No. 1 spot on the NJBIZ Health Care Power 50.
The department has taken responsibility for seniors in recent years. The state is making a controversial push to close more state-run institutions, putting the focus on keeping the elderly and disabled in the community. And the Affordable Care Act has meant major shifts when it comes to Medicaid in the state.
In short, the job is a huge responsibility — one Velez takes very seriously and one that still leaves her in a state of disbelief at just how far she's come.