On April 27 in Monroe Township, AFT New Jersey held its 2024 Convention, during which Jennifer S. Higgins was elected to be the next state federation president.

Higgins will begin her two-year term on July 1, succeeding the retiring Donna M. Chiera, who has been AFTNJ president since 2011.

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the next president of AFTNJ,” said Higgins, currently the state federation’s treasurer. “I look forward to working with all of our locals to build on the success and power achieved during Donna’s tenure and to make AFT New Jersey’s presence in the state known by all, from North to South and East to West.”

“Stepping down brings mixed emotions, but knowing Jennifer will be the next leader to continue this journey brings me great comfort,” Chiera said. “I have no doubt that under her leadership, the organization will grow and thrive. I want to congratulate Jen but also the AFTNJ delegates for making the choice to elect someone with her knowledge and experience who’s ready to go on day one.”

Delegates from 19 AFTNJ locals cast their votes for AFTNJ president, executive officers and vice presidents in their higher education and PreK-12 divisions, all of which are two-year terms. The other winners were:

• Josephine Nagle — Recording secretary
• Patricia Paradiso — Treasurer
• Susanna Tardi — Executive vice president, higher education
• Silvia Pereira — Executive vice president, PreK-12

• Elaine Bobrove
• James Castiglione
• Lynne Cummins
• Tim Haresign
• Laureen LeFever
• Nancy Merrill
• Christine O’Connell
• Robert Russo
• Darlene Smith
• Bill Sullivan
• Todd Vachon
• Leonard Winogora

• Michael Backo
• Nelson Baiza
• Suzanne Carey
• Timothy Carr
• John Cunha
• Teri Hammond
• Michael Iovino
• Robin Pinckney-St. John
• Ryan Sandor
• Josiah Santamaria
• Laurie Troiano
• Leslie Velez

Patricia Campos-Medina and U.S. Congressman Andy Kim, candidates for U.S. Senate, were featured speakers during the companion Legislative Conference. They were preceded by Tammy Murphy, New Jersey’s First Lady, who talked about the investments in education made by the Murphy administration, specifically in the fiscal year 2025 budget. She also paid tribute to Chiera, as did two other notable speakers.

“AFT New Jersey and HPAE are fundamental powerhouses in this state now because of all of what you have done and what Donna Chiera has done,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten as part of her nearly 30-minute address, which also covered what’s at stake in the upcoming presidential election.

During his wife’s presentation, an unscheduled Gov. Phil Murphy appeared at the back of the room, made his way to the front, sat next to Chiera, then joined her onstage.

“Donna has been an extraordinary leader of this organization,” he said. “She has spoken truth to power. She’s been a great ally, but she is not shy from standing up and saying, ‘You know what, this is not working.’ … She has been there day in and day out as a fierce advocate for this organization. … I know we’re going to stay close to you as friends, but we’re going to miss you as the leader of this extraordinary union, and you have our eternal thanks for everything you’ve done.”

TOP: AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera and her elected successor, AFTNJ Treasurer Jennifer S. Higgins, on April 27 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Monroe Township.

ABOVE: N.J. First Lady Tammy Murphy, Gov. Phil Murphy, AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera and AFT President Randi Weingarten on April 27. (Photos by Chris M. Junior)

View the AFTNJ 2024 Convention and Legislative Conference photo gallery here.

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