Penns Grove swears in first African American woman mayor

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 Mayor LaDaena Thomas (Facebook photo)
By Bradford Mason
Managing Editor

LaDaena Thomas made history on New Year's Day being sworn in as the first woman to serve as mayor of Penns Grove. She is also the African American woman elected mayor in Salem County.

In November, Thomas ran as an independent beating 16-year incumbent Democrat John Washington. Reports indicate the election was not without controversy. Raising questions about her residency in Penns Grove, Washington sued Thomas. She moved back to the borough in 2018, where she grew up, after spending 13 living in California which did qualify her to be a candidate.

Penns Grove has a population of just over 4,800 with Blacks making up 32 percent of the population.

"Remember when it comes to politics, I may be new, but I am not naive," she said in one report. "With the election victory, we showed Salem County, New Jersey, and the entire United States of America that our ethnicity, religion or income level do not divide us."

Thomas said in her first year, she wants to bring development and do away with abandoned properties in the borough. She also wants to fix streets and begin the redevelopment process for the waterfront.

“I’m excited about this opportunity," she said in an interview. "I believe that I’m going to do very well. I have the support of the community, I have the support of the residents, I have the support of other officials, other elected officials. I’m just excited about bringing about a new Penns Grove.”

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