Salena Carroll Lesniak, a well-liked and prominent social justice activist, has died.
She was 43 and died at her shore home in Ocean County.
She was the wife of former State Sen. Raymond Lesniak. The two were partners for two decades before marrying in 2018.
Lesniak held numerous government posts, including the chairmanship of the New Jersey Civil Rights Commission. She played an active role in New Jersey politics.
“Salena was a class act and, along with Ray, a tireless advocate for countless New Jerseyans who needed a champion,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “If a life is to be measured by the positive impact it had on others, Salena led a full life, indeed. Tammy and I send our warmest thoughts to Senator Lesniak and all who held Salena dear.”
She headed the Bureau of Domestic Preparedness in Union County’s Office of Emergency Management, and was the special assistant to the Union County Manager. She spent nineteen years working for Union County, fifteen of them in the areas of public safety and emergency management.
“She was a kind and intelligent young woman who will be greatly missed,” said Andrew Moran, the Union County public safety director.
Democratic State Chairman John Currie offered his condolences.
“A highly regarded activist and change maker, Salena partnered with Ray and fellow advocates on many causes they both cared about deeply, from LGBTQ rights to treatment of animals to protecting our environment,” said Currie. “Rest in Peace Salena Lesniak.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney called Lesniak’s passing a “terrible loss.”
“Raymond and Salena were a loving couple with a shared passion and commitment for justice, equality and human rights,” said Sweeney. “Salena was a selfless woman who made a real and lasting impact on the lives of so many people in countless ways. Salena will remain with us in our hearts and minds.”
State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) called the news of Lesniak’s passing “truly heartbreaking.”
“I have known Salena for more years than I care to count and have always admired her dedication to helping others,” said Cryan. “Not only have I always considered her a friend, I also had the privilege to work with her as sheriff when she worked at the Office of Emergency Management and her performance was always second to none. My family and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to Ray in this time of tremendous grief and sorrow. Salena will be missed by those who knew her and by all those she helped through the years.”
Additional details to follow.
This story has been updated to include additional comment.