The New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County hosted a packed house Saturday night at their first Ethical Leadership Awards Gala.
The organization, which was founded to promote progressive policy, ideals, and values, recognized elected officials in Union County who exemplified good ethics and morals while in office. This year’s recipients of the award were Dahlia Vertreese, Mayor of Hillside, and Carlos Cedeno, Councilman from Elizabeth.
Sue Altman of the NJ Working Families Alliance was honored as the Progressive Champion of the year for her tireless work advocating for progressive ideals throughout the state.
“The honorees take it upon themselves to serve the public interest every day and give us a testament that civic duty begins in each one of us first and then extends to our communities,” noted Mira Antoun, one of the NJPDUC founders. “The inspiration, conviction, and acceptance of this duty look different for every person, but whether it is volunteering on a campaign, sharing existing public resources, or advocating for more transparency and ethics in our governmental processes, the result is a government that is more responsive to its constituents.”
The crowd was a veritable who’s who of elected officials, political activists, and campaign specialists. Aside from Sue Altman, Mayor Vertreese and Councilman Cedeno, others in attendance included NJ Senate candidate Larry Hamm, NJ Congressional District 8 candidate Hector Oseguera, and Plainfield Council member Sean Mckenna. Former Fanwood Councilman Jack Molenaar and Scotch Plains Democratic County Committee members Sean Smith and Brett Pugach, who are all also NJPDUC founding members, were also present.
Jason Krychiw, NJPDUC founding member and Vice Chairperson, opened the event praising the award recipients and attendees for standing up to political pressures and being ethical in a state where those things are often frowned upon in politics.
“The people in this room are servant leaders, not self-serving leaders. They do things the right way, not the easy way. They show courage in the face of what is unjust, they don’t just go along to get along,” Krychiw said. “As long as people like that exist, we are closer and closer to making real, sustainable change in Union County and beyond.”
Jonathan Gibson, another NJPDUC founding member, closed out the night by putting those that play “political games” on notice. “What makes us able to win, what makes our movement capable of changing our world, to disrupt corruption, to breakdown the broken politics that divides us is when we say, ‘we see the game, we do not like this game, and we are not playing your game!”
Global Grace Café, an organization made up of immigrants, refugees, and asylees that have recently settled in the US, prepared food inspired by their home cultures for the event. All leftover food was donated to the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless.