Lori Ciesla is slated to become the first woman in 22 years to lead the Warren County Board of Commissioners when county government reorganizes in January.
A former Lopatcong council president, Ciesla was elected to the freeholder board in 2020 after Richard Gardner declined to seek a seventh term. She won the Republican primary with 85% of the vote against Ted Tomaszewski, and then defeated Democrat Theresa Bender Chapman by 12,348 votes, 60%-39%, in the general election.
She is expected to seek re-election to a second term this year.
The last woman to lead county government in Warren was Democrat Ann Stone, who held the post in 2000 and then lost her seat to Republican Michael Doherty. Doherty would go on to serve as an assemblyman and state senator before winning election as the Warren County Surrogate in November.
For a period of six years beginning in 1995, the freeholder director post was occupied by a woman: Republican Susan Dickey in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999, and Stone in 1997 and 2000.
Ciesla is a strong political ally of State Sen. Douglas Steinhardt (R-Lopatcong), the longtime Warren County GOP chairman. In 2020, she became the treasurer of Lead Right, a super PAC formed by Steinhardt as he was testing the waters for a gubernatorial bid.
She served as a commissioner of the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.
In 2014, Ciesla mounted an independent bid for mayor after Tom McKay beat the organization choice in a GOP primary to succeed Steinhardt, who didn’t seek re-election. McKay was later censured by the council after an alleged harassment issue.