Fair Haven Boasts Gender Parity on Borough Council

January 16, 2019
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Councilwoman Jacqueline Rice is sworn in by judge Peter Lucas at Fair Haven’s reorganization meeting. Photo by Chris Rotolo

By Chris Rotolo | crotolo@tworivertimes.com

FAIR HAVEN – For the first time in memory, the Borough Council will be comprised of three men and three women. At the Jan. 7 reorganization meeting, some called it unprecedented.

Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli said Fair Haven has had female mayors in the past, but never has the Borough Council been equally balanced with male and female representation.

“I think my police chief (Joseph McGovern) put it very well the other day, because we also have a relatively diverse police force. He said ‘our strength is derived from our diversity,’ ” said Lucarelli in a post-reorganization interview with The Two River Times. “We’re very excited about this and what different perspectives and opinions in the governing process can mean for our community.”

A Republican ticket featuring James P. Banahan and Elizabeth Koch, who were elected to serve full three-year terms, and Jaqueline Rice, who was voted into a one-year unexpired term, swept November’s general election. The trio won seats next to council president Jonathan Peters, Christopher Rodriguez and Susan A. Sorensen, giving parity to the governing body.

“You could really sense it tonight that there’s something special about this group,” said Lucarelli, who was sworn into his second mayoral term during Monday’s reorganization, a role he’s served since being appointed in 2012. “I think our debates will be a little bit more spirited and diverse opinions will be heard, which is a great thing.”

While Sorensen is in her third Borough Council term, and Koch was appointed to the governing body in November 2017, Rice is a newcomer to the political arena, though it’s her work with the Junior League of Monmouth County she said has prepared her for her new role.

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“Being part of this council is something I’ve really wanted to do for a few years now. I think women are poised to play a big role in politics these days. Being part of the Junior League has certainly shown me that,” Rice said of the Rumson-based organization, which is committed to promoting volunteerism and developing the potential of women in an effort to improve the community.

Rice is also a member of the steering committee for the Running and Winning Workshop, an annual event presented in April by the League of Women Voters designed to educate high school junior girls about the importance of women affecting positive change by running for elected office.

This past year was Rice’s fifth as guiding leader of the educational workshop initiative and she said the experience prompted her to be a bigger part of the movement.

“This is what I’ve been doing and teaching young women for years, so I thought it was time to be more of an example. I hope everyone on this ground-breaking council can be an example,” Rice said.

Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-13) is the Chair Elect for the National Foundation for Women Legislators, and called the history-making council “fantastic.”

“Fair Haven’s council is an example that shows the encouraging path our society is on,” DiMaso said in a Jan. 9 interview with The Two River Times. “Men and women both have a worthwhile voice and both deserve to be heard.”

This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.

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