Young Elected Officials Panel

Antwan McClellan

Assemblyman, 1st District

A lifelong resident of Cape May County, Antwan was born and raised in Ocean City and is the youngest of six siblings. He went on to graduate from Ocean City High School in 1993. He later attended both Virginia State University and Old Dominion University. Antwan served as a member of the Ocean City Board of Education from 2010-2012 and as a member of the Ocean City Council from 2012-2020. Antwan was sworn into the New Jersey State Assembly on January 14, 2020 as the first African American to ever represent the First Legislative District.

No stranger to public service, Antwan is very involved as a volunteer in his community. He has been coaching 7th and 8th grade girls basketball in Ocean City since 2012, was coach for the Field of Dreams, teaching disabled children to play baseball, and is the founder and organizer of the annual Shiloh Baptist Church Basketball Tournament, which started in 2000 to benefit kids graduating from Ocean City High School. He also is the current Chairman of the Ocean City High School Sports Hall of Fame and former member of the Ocean City Historical Museum.

Prior to his current role as the Personnel Director/Confidential Assistant/Public Information Officer for the Cape May County Sheriff’s office, Antwan worked in the Cape May County Purchasing Department, where he earned his certification as a Registered Public Purchasing Specialist. Prior to that, he worked as a paralegal with the firm of Tenaglia, Fritz, & Hunt, PA for ten years and was a slot supervisor at the Sands Casino for ten years.

Amy Gatto

Freeholder, Atlantic County

Amy Gatto, 37, was first elected to the Hamilton Township Committee in 2007 at the age of 24 and at 29 years old, became the youngest and only the third woman to hold the office of Mayor in the Township’s several hundred year history. In 2019, Freeholder Gatto was proudly selected to serve as the first female to Chair the Board of Freeholders in its 182 year history. Despite the tough times facing our region, during Gatto’s tenure on Township Committee, the governing body was able to eliminate their $2.4 million structural deficit by encouraging economic development and making government more efficient as well as pay down millions in municipal debt without raising taxes several years following. She was honored to be elected to the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2016.

A lifelong resident of Mays Landing, Gatto graduated from Oakcrest High School in 2000. She attended Widener University in Chester, PA, graduating in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in French. Following graduation, Gatto committed herself to public service, becoming a graduate of the Christine Todd Whitman Excellence in Public Service Series and becoming an elected member of the local school board in 2005. She also went to work for PECO Energy, an Exelon Company, in Philadelphia, PA as an Executive Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer.

In 2008, Gatto was honored as one of Atlantic City Weekly’s “Top 40 Under 40”. As her career progressed, she went to work as a Project Manager and Manager of Service Operations at AtlantiCare in Hammonton, NJ, and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ in Mount Laurel, NJ. Currently, she serves as a Lead Manager in Service Operations for AXA, a financial services company.

Gatto is proud to be the daughter of Dr. Jeri-Lynn Vernon, principal of Absegami HS and lifelong educator who currently resides in Galloway, NJ with her husband Walter Vernon, retired Army Major; and Bill Gatto, retired union Laborer, Local 172 and 40 year employee of the Atlantic City Race Course, who currently resides in Absecon, NJ and honors the memory of his late wife Maryann. She has one brother, Billy Gatto.

Gatto has long battled Crohn’s Disease and is an active advocate for the disease. She is a proud member of the Italian American Service Organization, UNICO – Greater Atlantic City Chapter. She has also organized and participated in many community service initiatives including “Rock-N-Vote;” Martin Luther King, Jr. “Day of Service;” public speaker for local high school and college assemblies; member, OHS 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee; member, Township’s 200th Anniversary Celebration Committee; fundraiser for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, MS WALK, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Hamilton Township PAL, HERO Campaign, Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation and she fondly volunteers at various events at area schools and local organizations.

Chris Sobieski

Deputy Mayor, East Amwell Township

Chris Sobieski, age 26, serves as the Deputy Mayor of East Amwell Township, located in southern Hunterdon County. In addition to his official duties, Chris also attends Seton Hall University’s School of Law and is set to graduate in May of this year. He also works as a Zoning Officer for a municipality in Pennsylvania. As a descendant of Polish immigrants, Chris has a profound respect and appreciation for America’s founding principles. When he’s not busy working, studying, or carrying out his official duties, Chris can be found practicing guitar or playing with his dog, Sasha.

Brian Thomas

Committeeman, Neptune City

Brian is a newly elected Councilman for the Borough of Neptune City (Monmouth) whose hard-fought election helped regain control of the governing body. He serves as the Chair of the Administration & Finance Committee and Vice Chair of the Special Services Committee.

Recently, he was appointed as a member of the NJ League of Municipalities Legislative Committee and has taken a seat on their Tax & Finance Committee.

He brings with him to his elected position years valued experience gained while working in multiple levels of both State Government and the nonprofit sector. Currently, he is the director of legislation and policy for Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger (LD13) after leaving as the executive director for Citizens for Accountable Taxation nonprofit.

Previously, he has served as a Senior Regional Director under former Governor Chris Christie. He worked to not only maintain, but cultivate relationships with elected officials across the State acting as their immediate liaison to the office. Brian was also entrusted to oversee interactions with constituent groups and interested stakeholders as well as special projects such as the Reach NJ anti-addiction campaign. In 2018, he was appointed as a Commissioner to the Asbury Park Housing Authority by the Governor.

Previously, Brian was the Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Constituent Relations for New Jersey’s 11th Legislative District. From 2012 to 2015, he supervised disaster recovery efforts in the district as a result of Superstorm Sandy. To accomplish this undertaking he worked closely with residents, orchestrated community outreach events, and developed a network of key nonprofit, state, local, and federal officials (e.g. NJDCA, FEMA, & HUD).

He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy (’11) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Legal Studies (‘07) from Monmouth University. Brian is a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society and the International Political Science Association. He was awarded the Tom Crane Community Service Award for his work with the Big Brother Big Sister Organization and co-founding Project B.A.M. a mentoring program that received recognition from the United Nations. He maintains his passion for mentoring of youths today.

Brian is a lifelong resident of Monmouth County having attended Neptune High School. He lives in Neptune City with his wife Kate and their dog Aggie.

Jesse Kurtz

6th Ward Councilman, Atlantic City

Jesse was born, raised, and is now raising a family as an Atlantic City homeowner. He is a husband to Cara and the father of seven children. Jesse is a technology professional, and has experience in the casino industry, the manufacturing sector, the tourism industry, and higher education. He has been involved with many Atlantic City community organizations.

Jesse was re-elected to his second term as Councilman of Atlantic City’s 6th Ward, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1. He is working hard to be a visible and responsive Councilman. He is an advocate for lower taxes, cleaner streets, and safer neighborhoods. These priorities will aid in the restoration of affordability, vibrancy, transparency, and economic vitality so needed by Atlantic City and its government.

Jesse is committed to fulfilling the promise of Atlantic City. He articulates a vision of Atlantic City that draws on its past as the “Queen of Resorts” and proposes ideas that can re-position Atlantic City as the premier destination resort on the East Coast and give more opportunities for city residents to prosper.

Sarah Neibart

Mayor, Mendham Township

Sarah Neibart is the Founder and President of Citizens for Accountable Taxation, Inc. She is also a Republican political and public affairs professional. She most recently worked as Deputy Campaign Manager for Bob Hugin’s Campaign for the United State Senate. Before that, Ms. Neibart served as the Statewide Political Director for Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadgano’s Campaign for Governor. In 2016, Sarah was the Campaign Manager for Scott Garrett for Congress and the National Ballot Access Director for the Chris Christie for President Campaign.

In March 2018, Ms. Neibart entered public service when she was appointed to her municipality’s Township Committee. In November 2018, Sarah was re-elected to the Township Committee and voted Deputy Mayor in January 2019.

Sarah graduated from the University of Wisconsin Honors Program with a B.S. in Political Science and a Certificate in Middle Eastern Studies. Sarah speaks English, Arabic and Hebrew and has spent significant time living and traveling around the Middle East. She currently resides in Mendham Township with her husband Josh Barer and their six pet pigs.

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