Laughter and applause echoed off the marble walls as friends, family members, colleagues and well-wishers came to the Conrad Rotunda of the historic Brennan Court House on March 23 to help honor this year’s group of women in public service and government.
For more than a decade, Hudson County has set aside a day in March, Women’s History Month, to recognize and acknowledge women of achievement from numerous generations. While the numbers vary from year to year, the women selected are those who have made a difference in their community.
The Hudson County Women’s History Month committee is charged with coordinating a search process that includes soliciting nominations from community leaders and public officials.
The event honored women of achievement from throughout Hudson County in an effort to make them more visible to the general public
Each honoree received a County of Hudson Citation and a Hudson County Women’s History Month medallion.
Freeholder Caridad Rodriguez, currently the only female member of the Hudson County Board of Freeholders, oversaw the ceremonies, introducing each of 17 women selected to be honored this year.
“I am honored to be a part of this and recognize these outstanding women,” Rodriguez said. “These women made a real difference in our community.”
County Executive Tom DeGise reflected on contemporary national politics, noting that issues women fought to attain over the last century are once more being threatened.
“We thought we had fought for those things and won, and we’re fighting for them again,” he said.
Women of distinction
Included in the ceremony was the 2016 Willie Flood Youth Community Service Award which was given to Bintia Sakho of Jersey City.
Sakho, who moved to Guinea in West Africa when three months old and did not return until a sophomore in high school, managed to get the 11th highest grade point average at Ferris High School despite learning English as a third language.
Honored as a woman of distinction was Cailin Brodel of Bayonne, the first female firefighter in the history of Bayonne.
Janet Castro of North Bergen, a state licensed Health Officer, is the first woman in North Bergen history to serve as health director.
Annette Chaparro of Hoboken was elected to the state Assembly for the 33rd District this year. She previously served as board secretary to the Hoboken Planning and Zoning Boards and as a member of the Hoboken Rent Control Board.
Carol Jean Doyle has served as a Kearny Town Council member for 18 years. Eileen Eckel has represented the 3rd Ward on the Kearny council since 2005. She is also a middle school teacher in Fair Lawn.
Kathy Gohde of Weehawken has been an active member in school parent teacher organizations, a Brownie leader, a director for senior city programs and a member of the Advisory Council Board for the Hudson County Office on Aging, and has been involved a number of charitable programs.
Active in county arts and cultural affairs, Meredith Lippman of Hoboken has been very involved in Hoboken arts, and has been recognized for her ability to build a community in Hoboken and elsewhere.
Susan McCurrie has served as a 4th Ward councilwoman in Kearny since 2004. She helped develop Kearny’s farmer’s market and is deeply involved with that town’s various environmental programs.
Benita Caridad Parets of West New York was born in Havana, Cuba in 1957. Her family migrated to the United States in 1959. An employee of West New York, she has worked as director of Senior Affairs. She is very involved with the ASPCA.
Secaucus Councilwoman Susan Pirro is deeply involved with the Secaucus Animal Shelter and she also volunteers for the Secaucus Youth Alliance. She is known as a tireless advocate for animal protection and care as a member of the Friends of the Secaucus Animal Shelter.
As president of the Hoboken Public Education Foundation, Shirael Pollack is seen as a staunch supporter of public schools. But she is also a practicing pediatric physical therapist who owns and operates Watch Me Grow, a therapy center for children of all ages with two locations in Manhattan.
Marilyn Rivera of Hoboken is a digital marketing professional, small business owner, community activist, and presently serves as Chief of Staff to Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano. She is also chief executive officers of a public relations firm.
Leila Sadeghi, PH.D. is executive director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City.
Michele Sorvino of Jersey City began a career in sonography in 1995 at Atlantic Health Systems and has been employed there for 20 years. She has recently furthered her medical career by expanding her expertise in fetal echocardiography. She is very active in autism research and serves as executive director of the Golden Door International Film Festival (GDIFF) of Jersey City.
Esther Suarez of Secaucus became the first female Hudson County prosecutor last year. Prior to that she was a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, presiding over and civil family matters in both Hudson and Passaic Counties. Before going on the bench, Prosecutor Suarez served as Bergen County Counsel, corporation counsel to the City of Hoboken and Counsel to the Union City Housing Authority.
Guttenberg’s Rebecca Vasquez has served numerous terms on the town’s Board of Education and has been the body’s president since 2011. Over the past few years she has been intimately engaged with the town administration in moving forward a challenging project to expand the existing Anna L. Klein School with an addition that will address overcrowded conditions.
Joan Woods has worked for the town of Harrison for 31 years. She currently serves in the mayor’s office as his administrative clerk, where she oversees social programs and senior services for the residents of Harrison.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.