AIA New Jersey Recognizes the Loss of Our Executive Director, Joseph A. Simonetta, Hon AIA, CAE

March 13, 2023

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AIA New Jersey Recognizes the Loss of Our Executive Director, Joseph A. Simonetta, Hon AIA, CAE

AIA New Jersey is very sad to share the news that our devoted executive director and lobbyist, Joseph A. Simonetta, Hon AIA, CAE, has passed away suddenly while recovering from a long health battle. The resounding sentiment from AIA leaders past and present is of Joe’s perpetual support as a trusted advisor, mentor, and friend. Joe was helpful to them on a personal level, whether it was sage advice, explaining politics and government affairs, or business in general; he was always generous with his time and made personal connections with so many of our members.  

Joseph Simonetta has worked in political advocacy and association management for nearly 40 years. Considered an expert in public policy and legislation, Simonetta was appointed chair of the Advocacy Committee of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) International Green Construction Code Task Force in 2012 and chaired the Advocacy Subcommittee, creating a strategy for the AIA’s state and local components. Simonetta received awards for his success in association management, including Association Executive of the Year and the 1991 New Jersey Society of Association Executives. Simonetta earned the designation of Certified Association Executive, the highest certification in the association management field.

AIA NJ first worked with Joe in 1987, while he represented the New Jersey Professional Society of Engineers (NJPSE), and together with AIA NJ (formerly NJSA), collaborated and formulated the Building Design Services Act, A-32. That legislation, which clearly defined the responsibilities of Architects and Engineers, has served as a nationwide model. 

Upon joining AIA-NJ in 1995 as executive director, Joe brought with him the unique experience of already being the Executive Director of two allied organizations, the NJPSE and the NJ Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA). This was a key reasons why the leaders of AIA-NJ at that time decided to hire Joe and his firm, Public Strategies Impact. Joe’s unique position representing all three organizations enabled him to share knowledge and information from organizational and legislative perspectives. He helped AIA NJ remain financially prudent which allowed us to better serve our members’ needs.

Organizationally, through Joe’s efforts, AIA-NJ and NJPSE have jointly conducted regular programs for Disaster Assistance Training. To date well over 400 professionals have been trained to assist in post-disaster building evaluations through the California Office of Emergency Services, a much-needed force that will be available for the next natural disaster. Since Superstorm Sandy, AIA-NJ has worked with several State and County agencies including the State Police, Office of Emergency Management, the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and FEMA in order for those organizations to be aware of the resource that AIA-NJ has created.

Legislatively, Joe monitored and led AIA New Jersey advocacy on well over 250 bills each year that impact the built environment. He aided AIA New Jersey in navigating our path to legislative relevance. Joe was keen to understand that by working with allied organizations, AIA-NJ has been able to accomplish more regulatory change for the health, safety and welfare of the public. Joe helped pass New Jersey’s Good Samaritan law that shielded volunteers from liability while helping in natural disaster recovery.   After Superstorm Sandy, Simonetta worked with law enforcement and state and county governments to develop emergency evacuation plans that would help the state prepare for future disasters.

In 2018, AIA New Jersey nominated and AIA National recognized Joe for Honorary AIA Membership, conferred upon individuals who have made notable contributions to the advancement of the architecture profession but are not otherwise eligible for AIA membership. 

Joe’s passing is a significant loss and our AIA New Jersey Leadership and community share our condolences to Joe’s family, close friends, and PSI firm colleagues. AIA New Jersey is making plans to celebrate Joe’s notable life with a reception in June at the AIA A’23 Conference in San Francisco, as well as, locally in New Jersey in the near future. Details for commemorative events will follow. 

Calling hours will be held on Wednesday, March 22, from 2 to 4 pm and from 6 to 8 pm at the Van Horn-McDonough Funeral Home, 21 York Street, Lambertville, NJ 08530.

The memorial mass will be offered on Thursday, March 23, 2023 at 11 am at Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 1 Riverstone Circle, New Hope, PA 18938. Committal services will follow at the parish cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations in the memory of Joseph A. Simonetta may be made to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, 195 Little Albany St., New Brunswick, NJ 08901 or to the Bucks County Playhouse, 12 West Mechanic St., Suite 2A, New Hope, PA 18938.

Obituary and details on services are available HERE

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