15 Feb ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO HOSTS 14th ANNUAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss Receives the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award Horizon BCBSNJ Government Affairs Manager Sarah E. Jones Receives the Coretta Scott King Leadership Award
Newark, NJ – On Wednesday, February 15th, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. hosted the 14th Annual African American History Month Celebration at the Essex County Hall of Records. During the ceremony, the County Executive presented the Annual Essex County Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award to the Honorable Tony Vauss, Mayor of Irvington, and the Coretta Scott King Leadership Award to Sarah Jones, Government Affairs Manager with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ. Both honorees have made significant contributions to the community and their dedication truly captures the dignity and determination of the King family.
“African American History Month is a special time of the year when we highlight the many contributions and achievements African Americans have made to our culture, economy and daily lives throughout our history,” DiVincenzo said. “Mayor Tony Vauss and Sarah Jones are role models who have dedicated their professional lives to public service and have made a significant impact on influencing government policies and improving the quality of life in their communities and throughout the State,” he added.
Tony Vauss was elected Mayor of Irvington in 2014. Under his leadership, the vacant properties, such as the former site of Irvington General Hospital, are being redeveloped, unsafe buildings are being demolished, addressing crime has become a priority, roads are being repaved and the Chris Gatling Center was remodeled.
Prior to being elected Mayor, Vauss was the Assistant to the Director in the Township’s Department of Neighborhood Services. In addition, he served three terms on the Irvington Board of Education, including three years as President and three years as Vice President. His political career started as a volunteer in 2004 working with his mentor, the late D. Bilal Beasley, who was an Essex County Freeholder, Irvington Council member and Chair of the Irvington Democratic Committee. Vauss also is the standard bearer of the Tony Vauss Civic Association, which offers a variety of community activities, including adult basketball, programming for senior citizens and children, and humanitarian meals for the less fortunate in the Irvington community.
Vauss is a member of the Martin Luther King Heritage Committee, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the NAACP. A product of the Irvington Public School System, he attended Grove Street School, Myrtle Avenue School and Irvington High School.
“I would like to thank the County Executive for this prestigious award, but this is not about me. It is always about a team effort. Our Municipal Council works together in Irvington because we are here to do the people’s work,” said Vauss. “Without my mentors, Freeholder Lebby Jones and the late D. Bilal Beasley, none of this would be possible. They taught me the importance of being prepared to serve and working as a team,” he added.
Sarah E. Jones, a resident of South Orange, currently serves as Government Affairs Manager with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, where she represents Horizon BCBSNJ before the New Jersey Legislature and various New Jersey departments and agencies, and supports government affairs advocacy efforts at the federal level with New Jersey’s congressional delegation. Prior to that, she was Government Affairs Director with Cablevision.
Public service is part of Jones’ resume. She was the District Director for Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr., Senior Counsel in the Operations Department of the Newark Housing Authority and Essex County Field Representative with Congressman Bill Pascrell. She also was an Associate Counsel with Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley.
“It is so great to be here today because this is family to me. I grew up in this complex. I’m so thankful for my parents and family for their support. Sitting in my mom’s chair and watching her take the bench as a judge let me know that all things are possible as a black woman. I thank my father for giving me that mental toughness and instilling in me the importance of letting your work speak for itself,” said Jones. “I am thankful to the County Executive for being an example and role model for me and it is truly an honor to be recognized by him and the County of Essex,” she added.
The invocation was given by Bishop Jethro C. James, Jr., Senior Pastor of Paradise Baptist Church in Newark. Entertainment was provided by the Arts High School Choir under the direction of Scott Cumberbatch.
The African American History Month Celebration is the part of a year-long cultural series created by County Executive DiVincenzo to highlight Essex County’s diversity. Other cultural celebrations highlight Irish, Italian, Jewish, Latino and Portuguese heritage and Women’s history.