Penns Grove, NJ, swears in first woman mayor

LaDaena Thomas.
Photo credit Courtesy of Mayor-Elect LaDaena Thomas Facebook Page
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Borough of Penns Grove in New Jersey swore in its first woman mayor Wednesday. LaDaena Thomas unseated a longtime incumbent to also become the first African American woman to ever be elected mayor in Salem County. 

Thomas made history on New Year's Day as she was sworn in as Mayor of Penns Grove, a 5,000-resident borough of New Jersey's Salem County. 

Running as an independent, Thomas defeated 16-year incumbent Democrat John Washington.

"Remember when it comes to politics, I may be new, but I am not naive," she said to a crowd.

Washington sued Thomas, challenging her residency in the borough and she won. 

Thomas grew up in Penns Grove and owned a beauty supply store and hair salon before moving to California in 2005. There, she met her husband, and they returned to the borough in 2018. 

She says abandoned properties and slowed growth inspired her to step up and lead. 

"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," she said. 

The election was very contentious, with battles fought on social media. Thomas ran on issues related to economic development, crime reduction and improving education.