essex county commissioners hold inaugural asian american pacific islander heritage month event

The Essex County Board of Commissioners 2022 AAPI Heritage Month Event. Pictured from left to right are Allison Kim (representative for honoree Jeannie Kwon), Allison Ladd, Vineeta Khanna, Commissioner Patricia Sebold, Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson, Commissioner Brendan W. Gill, Toral Patel, Commissioner Tyshammie L. Cooper, and Mengxing Perez. (PHOTO BY LLOYD HOMES)


(Newark, NJ) –  On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its inaugural Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Event. This event will be held yearly to honor Asian and Pacific Islander Americans for their unique contributions to the community, the County of Essex, and the State of New Jersey.

This year, the Board recognized: Allison Ladd, Deputy Mayor and Director of Economic and Housing Development of Newark; Vineeta Khanna of Livingston, Vice President of the Livingston Board of Education; Jeannie Kwon of South Orange, Vice President for Stations, Capital Delivery at Amtrak; Toral Patel, Co-Chair of the South Asian American Caucus; and Mengxing Perez, Special Education Teacher at Park Elementary School

Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson began the program with opening remarks speaking to the diversity of Essex County, the sense of pride the Board felt in officially recognizing the AAPI community on a yearly basis, and the longstanding impact of the AAPI residents in Essex County and throughout society. “Our Board has made a point to celebrate the diversity of Essex County by holding yearly ceremonies where we honor individuals from various ethnic groups, and highlight the importance of their contribution.” President Richardson stated. “The AAPI Community has always had a profound effect on Essex County, and we will now look forward to this yearly event.”

Allison Ladd, presented by Commissioner President Wayne Richardson, is the Deputy Mayor of the City of Newark, and the Director of Economic Housing and Development. Under her leadership, she has focused on implementing Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s equitable growth strategy – harnessing the many billions of dollars of new investment in Newark to create opportunities for all residents and businesses. She also oversees the city’s new Equitable Growth Commission and is Board Chair of Invest Newark, the quasi-governmental organization charged with strengthening Newark’s small businesses, implementing the city’s new land bank and operating the nation’s fastest broadband fiber network.

Vineeta Khanna, presented by Commissioner Patricia Sebold, is the Vice President of the Livingston Board of Education, and feels a great sense of humility in being the first person of Indian American descent to be elected to public office in Livingston. She individually conceptualized and executed the very first Livingston Public Schools multicultural event in Harrison Elementary School, and the event has since spread to all the schools in the district. Additionally, she hosted a very popular radio program for 16-years on WWTR 1170 AM where she engaged listeners on social issues. Motivated by her passion for public speaking, and for the personality development of her students, she founded Orator Academy where she teaches students to communicate with confidence and conviction.

Jeannie Kwon, presented by Commissioner Brendan Gill, is the Vice President for Stations/Program Delivery at Amtrak, where she is overseeing the rebuild of major stations including New York Penn Station, Chicago and Washington D.C. She also serves on the Board of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) chapter of New Jersey and on the Board of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition. Previously, she was the Chief Administrative Officer for New Jersey Transit, where she was the executive in charge of Strategy and Planning, Human Resources, Contracting and Purchasing, and the Office of Business Development for Civil Rights, Diversity Initiatives, Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action. She also served as the Executive Sponsor of New Jersey Transit’s first Black and African American Employee Resource Group. Unfortunately, Ms. Kwon was unable to attend the event, but her representative Allison Kim accepted the Board’s commendation on her behalf.

Toral Patel, presented by Commissioner Tyshammie Cooper, is a proud second generation Indian American born and raised in New Jersey. She has been involved in local, state and federal politics for almost 20-years. As the Deputy Director of Ethnic & Minority Affairs under Governor James E. McGreevey, she helped build this newly created office which is dedicated to harnessing the strengths, needs and ideas of the diverse communities across the Garden State. Since leaving the Governor’s office, she has built a career in public affairs and healthcare communications, working for a number of communication strategy firms before joining the Global Corporate Affairs team at Johnson & Johnson. Over the years, she has leveraged her grassroots advocacy and political skills to add value to the political system by running campaigns, educating underserved and new communities on the critical issues that are relevant to them, promoting civic involvement, and mentoring the next generation of civic leaders.

Mengxing Perez, presented by Commissioner President Wayne Richardson, is a special education teacher at Park Elementary School in Newark where she educates children with special needs from Pre-K to second grade. She works intensively with her students, their families, and the school’s student support team to ensure that her students achieve and excel, despite the significant obstacles posed by their impairments and disabilities. She enjoys building a warm, positive relationship with her students and their families and believes true caring promotes better learning. She is also a classical music aficionado who has played the piano from age 6, and enjoys studying Chinese calligraphy and art. To celebrate these aspects of her culture – and to encourage students to embrace their own cultures – she incorporates themes of classical music and Chinese art into her lessons.

Pastor James Kang of First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church in Newark delivered prayers during the occasion, and the audience was captivated by the musical talents of June Xia and her daughter Eva Qin.

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For Additional Information – Contact:
Kyalo Mulumba, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5695 (fax)
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Board of County Commissioners,
County of Essex
465 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.,
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Newark, New Jersey 07102