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 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 29, 2012

ESSEX COUNTY FREEHOLDERS CELEBRATE WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey, Former Newark Councilwoman Marie L. Villani
and Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson
Honored at March 28th Event

(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held its Annual Women's History Month Celebration on Wednesday, March 28th, at the Hall of Records.  The sponsors were Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson of Newark, Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold of Livingston and Freeholder Carol Y. Clark of East Orange.  The program was held in the Freeholder Board's Chambers and was followed by a catered reception.

The accomplished and highly-respected honorees of this year's event were: Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey of South Orange, Former Newark Councilwoman Marie L. Villani of Verona, and Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson, Rector of St. Andrew and Holy Communion Episcopal Church in South Orange.

The Women's History Month honorees and their Freeholder sponsors gather for a group photo: (left to right) Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold of Livingston, Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey of South Orange, Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson of St. Andrew Episcopal Church in South Orange, Freeholder Carol Y. Clark of East Orange, Former Newark Councilwoman Marie L. Villani of Verona and Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson of Newark.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Freeholder President Blonnie Watson opened the program by reminding the audience that although women have come a long way to overcome discrimination and inequality that continues to exist in the workplace, in the realm of politics and government and all other segments of society, saying, “We still have work to do to break the glass ceiling that looms above us."  She went on to say, “Today, we will celebrate the accomplishments made by the three great women we honor today.  You deserve this day.  You have earned it."

Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold (right) presents the Board's award to Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey of South Orange was sworn-in to fill an unexpired term as Assemblywoman for the 27th District on November 6, 2007, and was elected to 3 consecutive full terms in 2007, 2009 and 2011.  She serves as Vice-Chair of the Housing and Local Government Committee, as a member of the Education Committee, and has sponsored numerous bills enacted into law regarding the prevention and treatment of traumatic brain injuries among student athletes, the creation of the TBI Task Force, the NJ HERO Act, the Mortgage Stabilization & Relief Act, the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Act, and to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey; she is also the prime sponsor of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the Inter-District Public School Choice Law, and legislation to enhance penalties for hate crimes. 

Assemblywoman Jasey is widely recognized as a leader in the area of education and previously served 3 terms on the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education.  Two of her most recent bills, a Vet Teach program designed to attract veterans to the profession, and a PMI/PSI program to address a shortage of math and science teachers, passed both chambers unanimously and await the Governor's signature to become law.  She is also actively pursuing the goal of restoring funding for women's health and to refocus emphasis on prevention, and to find ways to benefit older suburbs, create affordable housing, improve aging infrastructure and revitalize downtowns.

Assemblywoman Jasey earned her B.A. from Barnard College at Columbia University and her Master's degree from the Pace University School of Nursing.  She is married to Neil Jasey, Esq., and is the proud mother of 3 adult children and the loving grandmother of 2.

Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold introduced her honoree by saying, “I was really thrilled when Mila was first sworn-in as Assemblywoman because there were so many things I had in common with her."  She explained that having taught English for 30 years, she shared a passion for education with the Assemblywoman, whose sister and daughter are teachers, and that they both served on boards of education.  Freeholder Sebold also recounted that while she was recovering from a traumatic brain injury four years ago at Kessler Institute in West Orange, she met Assemblywoman Jasey's son, Dr. Neil Jasey, who was the Director of Traumatic Brain Injury Services.  “So, as you can see, we are connected in so many ways, and it gives me such pleasure to honor her today." 

Assemblywoman Jasey accepted her award by saying, “I accept this very humbly on behalf of all the women in my life who are always there to be supportive, to be encouraging, and to say ‘of course you can do it!', and then to help me do whatever it is I choose to do."  “Without them", she said, “I would not be here today."  She especially thanked her mother, Pauline Oden, who raised two daughters and nine sons.

Former Newark Councilwoman Marie L. Villani of Verona (left) accepts the Board's award from Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson of Newark.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Marie L. Villani,currently of Verona, was born in Newark and served as an At-Large Councilwoman for the City of Newark for more than 20 years.  She advocated for eye screening for preschool children, was vocal against family incest and was in the forefront of promoting racial and political harmony during a tumultuous time of change in Newark city government, while serving as the only female member of the Council. 

Ms. Villani has contributed to a myriad of charitable causes including Cardiac House for Children in East Orange, the Multiple Sclerosis Board, the Burn Center of Saint Barnabas Hospital and the United Hospital's Children's Board.  She has supported Integrity House for more than 3 decades and continues to be very active in fundraising for the agency.  Ms. Villani was one of only thirteen women who attended the signing of the bill for the Committee of Italian Migration at the invitation of President Lyndon B. Johnson and, at the request of the government of Italy, hosted an event for servicemen serving on the tall ship Vespucci during Operation Sail in 1976.  Ms. Villani was also well-known in the field of fashion and decorating and was the proprietor of the House of Juliano in South Orange.  She currently resides in Verona, is the proud mother of 3 adult children and the loving grandmother of 4.

“Today I am so proud to honor Marie Villani because it is certainly overdue", said Freeholder President Watson.  “We should have honored you years ago!"  Freeholder Watson explained that she and Ms. Villani share a long history that dates back to when, as a vocal community activist, she would often appear before the Newark Municipal Council to talk about the community, and especially children, “and I knew I could always depend on Marie to listen to what I had to say."  “Marie has a heart of gold; it's never about Marie, but rather about what she can do to help others." 

In her remarks, Ms. Villani recounted her days in the field of fashion and design, and about the abrupt change of course in her life took when she was appointed to complete the term of her husband, Council President Ralph Villani, who was battling cancer.  “I had no idea what politics was all about… I was a novice."  But, as she explained, she learned fast during that first year, 1973, when she was faced with the issue of Mayor Ken Gibson's nomination of Edward L. Kerr as Newark's first African-American Police Director.  After casting the deciding vote for Director Kerr, she returned to her North Ward home that night to find bullet holes in her windows and her tires slashed.  “We did what we had to do, and kept it quiet…we didn't want the rest of the city to know the hell we went through during those days", which were dominated by Anthony Imperiale and terrible racial conflict.  “We turned it around."

The Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, earned her B.A. from Vassar College and worked as an economist before becoming a researcher, writer and reporter for Time Magazine.  She then earned a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, an MBA and a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Paul's College, and studied abroad at the Goethe Institute, the University of Vienna and the Bossey Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland. 

Canon Wilson was National President of the Union of Black Episcopalians, President of Province VI of the Episcopal Church, has served on corporate, non-profit, interfaith, secular and church boards, and was appointed to the Minnesota Department of Health & Human Services Board of Governors of State Operated Services by Governor Jesse Ventura. 

She currently serves as Rector of St. Andrew and Holy Communion Episcopal Church in South Orange and is a member of the Diocesan Council, The Good Liturgy Committee and The Commission on Ministry, is a Co-President of the South Orange/Maplewood Clergy Association, a board member of the South Mountain YMCA, and a member of the Newark Diocese's Task Force on Reparations.

In introducing her honoree, Freeholder Clark noted that she became the first black female, worldwide, to be appointed the rector of an Episcopal church when she was so appointed at St. Mark's in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  “She's a woman for all seasons…she's a risk-taker, a visionary, a community organizer, a bridge-builder, a mentor, relational leader, conflict manager, and a vocational and life coach, and those are just a few of the adjectives used to describe her."

Canon Wilson thanked the female members of the Freeholder Board and said she stands “…on the shoulders of so very many women who've come before us… whose sacrifices make it possible for us to dream big dreams, and to be anything we want to be."  She went on to say that she accepted the Board's honor on behalf “… of all those unnamed ‘sheroes' who have walked paths, and cut paths, so we can be where we are today."  “So I go back to my seat with humility, and I pray I can continue, along with you, to make a difference in our community, to make a difference in our world, and especially in the lives of her children, who are so much at risk."

Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson, Rector of St. Andrew & Holy Communion Episcopal Church of South Orange (left) accepts the Board's award from Freeholder Carol Y. Clark of East Orange. 
(Photo by Glen Frieson)

In addition to Freeholders Watson, Sebold and Clark, the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders includes Freeholders D. Bilal Beasley of Irvington, Rolando Bobadilla of Newark, Brendan W. Gill of Montclair, Rufus I. Johnson of Newark, Leonard M. Luciano of West Caldwell and Donald M. Payne, Jr., of Newark.

The program was attended by a crowd of approximately 100, which included County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., Assembly Speaker/Assistant County Administrator Sheila Y. Oliver, State Senator Nia Gill and Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin of the 34th Legislative District, Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura and County Clerk Christopher Durkin, among many others.

The honorees and their guests were invited to a reception hosted by the Board at the conclusion of the program.  Musical entertainment was provided by Ethel Pope, the Music Director for Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church in East Orange, and the opening and closing prayers were offered by the Reverend Dr. Jean Cole-Baltram of Newark's Hopewell Baptist Church.

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For Additional Information:
Gary Kroessig, Public Information
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5696 (fax)
gkroessig@freeholders.essexcountynj.org

 

 

Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695