Leadership & Staff


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Development Manager

League of Women Voters of New Jersey Board of Directors

Jennifer M. Howard, President

Jennifer M. Howard, MD, MPH is the President of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. She has been a member of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area since 2013 and currently serves on the Leadership Committee. Jennifer is a practicing OB/GYN physician in NYC having also previously practiced in NJ. She has been a Vice President for the African American Parent Support Group, WW-P Regional School district (a parent advocacy organization with over 25 years of addressing racial disparities and educational achievement gaps in African-American students), a preceptor to medical students and residents, a medical volunteer for overseas medical missions and a medical director of a reproductive health organization. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard/Radcliffe, her medical school degree from Howard University’s College of Medicine and her Master’s of Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Iveth P. Mosquera, 1st Vice President

Iveth is Director of PR and Development at Matheny, Peapack, NJ - a nonprofit hospital, school, and social services org. for people with medically complex developmental disabilities. She has been Board Director of the League of Women Voters of NJ since July 2019 and is chair of the Membership committee. Iveth dedicates time to voter education, advocacy, and outreach and serves on the social justice committee and fair districts coalition. Iveth is VP of Latinas United for Political Empowerment (L.U.P.E.) Fund. She joined in 2008 and is co-founder of the Young Latina Leadership Scholarship. LUPE is a nonprofit org. that empowers, educates, and engages Latinas in the areas of civic engagement and leadership development. She earned a MPA from Rutgers SPAA and graduated with honors in 2005. Iveth is a proud mother, wife, and sister born and raised in Newark to Ecuadorian immigrants who taught her the meaning of hard work, integrity, and love.

Deborah McComber, 2nd Vice President

Deborah McComber is a communications consultant specializing in communications strategies for small nonprofits and local businesses with limited resources to meet the challenges of the tech world. She designs and manages websites, social media / email marketing campaigns and public relations strategies for organizations in the Morristown New Jersey area.

For the League of Women Voters of the Morristown Area, Debbie developed a website and social networking campaign and manages both. She brought together local Leagues and provided tech support for shared virtual candidates’ debates. At the state level, Debbie served on the advisory committee to the Fair Districts New Jersey campaign. Debbie represented the League as co-organizer of the NJ Women’s March in Morristown 2018, adult advisor to March for Our Lives Morristown 2018, and webmaster for the NJ Women’s March 2019. She co-organized the NJ Leagues’ RBG Legacy Rally in 2020.

Debbie is a graduate of Wellesley College with a degree in Mathematics and a background in economic research and forecasting. Upon moving to Morristown, she became actively involved in the schools and community, including serving as trustee for the Morris Educational Foundation, administrator for the Whippany River Watershed Action Committee, and communications coordinator for The Presbyterian Church in Morristown.

Lauren McCaskill, Secretary

Lauren McCaskill is CEO of Lauren McCaskill Consulting Group, LLC. Currently, Lauren serves on the Long Branch Board of Education and is a graduate of Emerge New Jersey, a premier national training program geared towards increasing the number of Democratic women leaders in public office. She holds a Bachelor’s in Pre-Law and Africana Studies from Seton Hall University. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she was hand-selected to attend Rutgers University’s Center for Women in Politics NEW Leadership program which encourages young women to enter the political arena. She continues to utilize her training and expertise to be an advocate and respected public figure in her hometown of Long Branch, NJ. Lauren has also worked on various political campaigns ranging from national to municipal races.

Susan Sferas, Treasurer

Susan is Treasurer of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, previously serving as Vice President on the LWVNJ Board and the Development Committee chair. Susan is a past president and has been an active member of her local league, Southern Monmouth County, for over 40 years. She also currently serves as the Treasurer of the Monmouth County ILO. Susan retired from Arch Insurance Company in Jersey City after a 37-year career in the Insurance industry as an Information Technology specialist. Susan grew up in Long Branch, NJ and currently lives in Neptune. She graduated from Monmouth University with a B.S in Education and received an MBA from Monmouth while working in the insurance industry. Susan is also on the board of the Sisterhood at her temple and currently serves as one of the Vice Presidents.

Directors

Jessica Backofen

Jess Backofen is the executive director at The Foundation for University Hospital and is charged with raising funds to support the Hospital’s vulnerable patient community. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jess held leadership roles at the American Cancer Society, Friends of the Children and JDRF International over the past 20 years, building strategic partnerships with philanthropists, corporations, and foundations to scale impact and accelerate mission.   Ms. Backofen graduated from Quinnipiac University with a BS in Health Administration and currently sits on the board of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. 

Lucienne Beard

Lucienne Beard has been involved at the Alice Paul Institute since 1994, first as a volunteer and board member and later as a member of the non-profit’s first professional staff.  From 2000-2007 she was API’s program director, establishing the interpretive story for public visitation at Paulsdale, Alice Paul’s home and a National Historic Landmark in Mt. Laurel, and creating the Alice Paul Leadership Programs for girls. Today those programs serve k-12 students, using the example of successful women leaders from the past and present to teach and inspire today’s young women to pursue leadership into the future.  Beard was the Executive Director at the Alice Paul Institute 2012-2021 where she oversaw the organization’s operations and strategic direction and led efforts to raise awareness of Alice Paul’s life and work and advocate for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Beard has lectured on Alice Paul and her place in women’s history across the country.  Beard co-chaired New Jersey’s statewide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. She serves on the national steering committee of the Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative and as treasurer on the board of directors of the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites, where she is helping to establish the National Votes for Women Trail. Beard formerly served as an officer on the board of directors of Girl Scouts of South Jersey Pines (2001-07), PA Museums (2010-12) and New Century Trust (2009-16). She is a charter member of Kiwanis of Greater Mount Laurel and is an active member of the Mt. Laurel Society of Friends (Quaker) Meeting.  She earned a B.S. in International Affairs from The George Washington University and an M.A. in American History from Rutgers University.  Beard lives in Mt. Laurel NJ with her husband and the world’s friendliest cat.

Jason DeAlessi

Jason DeAlessi is an entrepreneur who works in startups across the media, entertainment, real estate, and hospitality industries. His primary focus is currently with Fuerza Strategy Group, where he serves as Managing Director of the boutique digital and creative consulting firm on its projects with clients across the United States in the political and social justice arenas. Prior to starting his own firm, he worked at NBC News and for a national public affairs firm. Jason studied political science and public health at Johns Hopkins University and Rutgers University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at Rutgers, and previously served as President of his local Board of Education. In his spare time, Jason enjoys training for triathlons and officiating ice hockey.

Janet Fischer-Hughes

Janet Fischer-Hughes' mother was an active volunteer for the League of Women Voters of Dane County, WI and Janet proudly continues in her footsteps as a board member for the League of Women Voters of Camden County.  Janet currently directs LWVCC’s Running & Winning program and Vote411 efforts and enjoys moderating candidate forums and registering voters at naturalization ceremonies.

As principal of the marketing research consultancy, Forward Marketing Insights, Janet helps her clients better understand their consumers to answer their key business questions.  She welcomes the opportunity to apply these skills and experience in her role as a member of the LWVNJ board. Janet lives in Pennsauken with her husband, Bob and dog, Griff.  She serves on the boards of the Friends of the Pennsauken Public Library and the Pennsauken Historical Society and is a member of the Westmont Accordion Club.

Jin Hwang

Jin Hwang is a seasoned in-house counsel with management experience and expertise in several areas of law.  Most recently, Ms. Hwang was Associate General Counsel with Verizon Communications Inc., a Dow 30 company.  Prior to her 16-plus years with Verizon, Ms. Hwang was an attorney with France Télécom (now Orange).  Ms. Hwang is excited to found a startup, which will provide financial counseling, equity and inclusion consulting, and executive coaching.

For decades, Ms. Hwang has been passionate about equity, inclusion, and access for all.  Among various leadership roles in New Jersey and at the national level, Ms. Hwang was honored to serve as the president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association in 2015-2016 to promote advancement in the legal profession and advocate for APIAs in society, including protecting U.S. citizens’ right to vote and be counted. 

Ms. Hwang earned her bachelor’s degree with double majors in Psychology and French Studies with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a law degree from American University’s Washington College of Law.

Natalya Johnson

Natalya Johnson serves as Senior Counsel with Johnson & Johnson. With over a decade of legal experience, she provides counsel on employment law matters and manages employment related litigations. She frequently speaks and writes about employment law, leadership, and diversity in the law. Natalya earned her J.D. from Cornell Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University. Natalya serves as Vice President of the Garden State Bar Association (GSBA) and is President of the Cornell Black Lawyers Alumni Network (CBLAN).  On behalf of CBLAN and the GSBA, Natalya leads fundraising efforts in support of student scholarships.  Committed to pro bono service, Natalya started her legal career as an attorney fellow with Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ).  At VLJ, she helped clients with criminal records address the civil legal barriers that serve as obstacles to successful community reintegration through its criminal record expungement clinic. In 2020, the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law selected Natalya as one of its Professional Lawyers of the Year. Natalya was also recognized as a New Leader of the Bar by the New Jersey Law Journal in its Professional Excellence 2020 Awards.

Lauren F. Nance

Lauren Nance is an active contributor to the business, service, and civic uplift of northern New Jersey. Driven by her passion for efficiency and community, Lauren works exceptionally well with leaders who share her vision and values. She frequently leverages these community connections to help others excel. As a Business Consultant and Certified Meeting Professional, Nance is the Chief Executive Officer of Nance Communications LLC. She is a sharp-shooting business communications leader and strategist, offering extensive knowledge and experience in communications tools and techniques. NanceComm clients and partners include entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and creatives Noncom greatest body of work in service, civic, and leadership engagement is through Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She joined while attending her alma mater, Rutgers University, 31-years ago. Zeta’s impact on social action, community service, and voter education initiatives are of national and local renown. In May 2021, Nance was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of Meeting Professionals International, New Jersey Chapter, as the Director of Education. For over 25 years, Nance has shared her life and love with retired law enforcement officer, Bert Nance, Jr. They have one daughter, Leah, who will attend college this fall to study music therapy.

Henal Patel

Henal Patel is Director of the Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.  

Before joining the Institute, Henal was an associate at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.  Previously, Henal had the honor of serving as a law clerk to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on the New Jersey Supreme Court.  While in law school, Henal was an Eagleton Institute of Politics fellow, participated in the Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and served as an assistant to the Chairman of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission. Henal received her J.D. from the Rutgers University School of Law – Newark and B.A. from Rutgers University.

Timothy A. Priano

Originally from Western New York, Timothy A. Priano and his nine siblings were raised with a sense of pride in their community and a responsibility to contribute towards its success. Priano was raised with a strong work ethic and a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to help others.  

For over forty years, Priano has owned ABTP, an agency representing talent in hair, makeup, photography & styling. Priano has lived in major cities across the country and is now calls New Jersey home. He is an active member of the community as part of the Plainfield Arts Council, Rotarian of the Plainfields, and duCret School of the Arts.  

His upbringing gave him a community-first mindset, which he is proud to bring to his volunteer organization, Queen City Pride. Priano assembles and motivates groups of volunteers to have pride in Plainfield. QCP’s work across the city to clean up public space.

Kelly Shea

Dr. Kelly A. Shea is an associate professor of English/Director of the First-Year Writing Program (and former Writing Center director) at Seton Hall University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate composition and literature courses; trains graduate students as composition instructors; and studies, presents, and publishes on writing, teaching, faculty development, and technology issues - and their intersections. She is a co-leader of the SHU reading-/writing-intensive core proficiency project and works closely with SHU’s Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center on course management systems, virtual instruction platforms, digital humanities tools, and other pedagogy-improvement initiatives. She was a founding member and officer of the League of Women Voters of Warren and West Morris Counties (NJ) and has been actively involved with voter education, voter registration, get-out-the-vote, and other LWV initiatives since 2018. She is also a small business owner in Hackettstown, NJ, and, like her two grown sons, has been a lifelong, attentive voter.

Anne Torre

Anne Torre joined the League of Women Voters when she moved to New Jersey in 1991, hoping to meet congenial people while following in the footsteps of her mother, a longtime League member.  She is currently treasurer of the Greater Red Bank Area League, serves as a League moderator for candidate forums, and is active in the Monmouth County VOTE411 project.  Now retired, Anne worked for over 20 years as a consultant to nonprofits, providing services in the areas of nonprofit governance and fund development.  She has also served on the local Planned Parenthood board and the Rumson Board of Education.  At present, she is a member of the Red Bank Zoning Board and secretary of the Red Bank Library Foundation.

Off Board Positions

Ed Gracely, Budget Committee Chair

Ed has been a member of the League since 1987, serving Camden County League board since 1988 in various roles, including program vice president and president. He is currently bulletin editor, secretary, and webmaster. Ed joined the LWVNJ board in 1997, was Secretary or Secretary/Treasurer until 2015, and is currently Program Vice President. Twenty-two years on the board -- time for a new job! He was a member of the LWVUS Task Force on Election Audits. Ed earned his PhD in Quantitative Psychology (statistics!) from Temple U in 1986 and has been a faculty member at Drexel University College of Medicine since 1981. He was editor the newsletter for the Teaching Statistics in the Health Sciences Section of the American Statistical Association for over 10 years, and volunteers for Statistics Without Borders. Ed served on the Camden County Ethics Commission and the Winslow Township Drug Alliance in the 90's. He is currently on the board of the UN Association of Greater Philadelphia and volunteers at the Philadelphia Flower Show. He enjoys bird watching, jokes, reading historical fiction, languages, and music (especially classical and folk).

Evelyn C. Murphy, Nominating Committee Chair

Evelyn C Murphy, PhD (she/her/hers). Evelyn was appointed to the Nominating Committee in 2019. A member of the LWV of Southern Monmouth County since 2018, she currently serves as its President. Previously she was LWVSMC’s First Vice President, Voters Service Director, and DEI Team Co-Chair. Evelyn is an LWVNJ Certified Moderator, volunteers on the LWVNJ Development Committee, and was a member of the 2021 Convention Planning Committee. She represented LWVSMC as a delegate to LWVUS Convention 2020. In March 2021, she served as an LWVUS Delegate to 65th Annual Session of the UN Committee on the Status of Women.An economist by training, Evelyn began her career in the banking industry working at the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Minneapolis before moving to the nonprofit sector. Today, she works with nonprofits and government agencies as a management consultant. Evelyn holds a BA in Economics from Manhattanville College and a PhD from Michigan State University.

Staff

Jesse Burns, Executive Director

Jesse has been with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey since 2007, leading the organization for the last five years. During that time, the League has strengthened its position as a critical, influential, and trusted voting rights and civic engagement organization, educating hundreds of thousands of voters about important election and advancing equitable policy reforms. Under Jesse’s leadership, the organization has added several new chapters, tripled its staff, and has been instrumental in passing several pieces of voting rights legislation including online voter registration, automatic voter registration, an end to prison-based gerrymandering, in-person early voting, and rights restoration for people on parole and probation. Jesse holds a Bachelors degree in English from Dickinson College, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from Drew University.

Philip Hensley, Democracy Policy Analyst

Philip uses his campaign experience, policy chops and redistricting expertise to support the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s advocacy campaigns. Prior to joining LWVNJ, he managed campaigns for Congress and local and state offices, and helped lead student voting outreach efforts with the Campus Vote Project in Pennsylvania.  Philip earned a Bachelors degree in Political Science from McGill University in Montréal, Québec, Canada.

Assatta Mann, Community Organizer

A lifelong resident of the city of Passaic, Assatta earned a degree in Political Science from Rutgers University –Newark. Before joining the League, Assatta worked on electoral campaigns where she focused on forming powerful coalitions between grassroots community organizations and turning out key voting constituencies. Assatta is focused on mobilizing League members, volunteers, and community partners around an organizing strategy that builds lasting power to secure legislative and policy wins.

Melissa Marks, Community Organizer

Melissa grew up in New York and graduated from Lehigh University in 2017 where she studied the environment, political science, and business. After graduating she worked in environmental advocacy with Clean Water Action. As Canvass Director she was able to develop future activists and fight for environmental protections. In her new role as a Community Organizer at LWVNJ, Melissa is excited to expand her impact by educating residents and advancing representative policies.

Fatima Munshi, Development Associate

Fatima supports the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s long-term vision of building power for the next generation of women leaders and voting rights activists. Fatima works to advance the League’s fundraising goals and connect New Jersey voters with the League’s mission. She holds four years of experience serving in diverse roles across the social impact sector. Fatima earned her undergraduate degree in Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG) from American University in Washington, D.C.

Pat Thompson, Office Manager

Pat Thompson has been the Office Manager for the League of Women Voters of New Jersey for fifteen years. In that capacity, Pat keeps the League’s daily operations running by being the first point of contact for all phone and email inquiries, maintaining the state’s member roster and database, and coordinating the assignments of moderators for candidate forums across the state. Pat also interacts extensively with all local Leagues, providing technical assistance and guidance to local leaders. Pat spent over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, taught exercise classes at the local YMCA and was the caretaker of an old Victorian building.She enjoys walking, movies and her neighborhood book club.