Home>Articles>Dover school board to swear in one of state’s first openly trans elected officials

Daniella Mendez, a member of the Dover school board and one of the state's first openly trans elected official, votes for herself in November 2021. (Photo: Daniella Mendez).

Dover school board to swear in one of state’s first openly trans elected officials

Daniella Mendez, elected unopposed in November, takes office tomorrow

By Joey Fox, January 03 2022 11:51 am

Daniella Mendez, a transgender woman who says she is the first openly transgender elected official in Morris County history and one of the first in state history, will be sworn in tomorrow to a seat on the Dover Board of Education after winning unopposed in November.

“Once sworn in, I will be a leader and a voice for all students, including the over 55,000 LGBTQ+ identifying youth in our New Jersey school system,” Mendez said of her victory. “I look forward to contributing to the healthy working relationships between the board, the district, and our community.”

Mendez also made sure to highlight the accepting community in Dover, her adopted hometown in Morris County where she moved several years ago.

“I have found Dover to be the exception in a world of discrimination and injustice,” she said. “The Dover community is one that is based in love, regardless of our differences. Thank you Dover neighbors for making this historic election.”

Mendez first rose to a different sort of prominence in 2016, when she won the Miss Gay New Jersey pageant. Last year, she was elected to one of three seats on the Dover Board of Education alongside Scott Miller and Tia Nutting; while board of education seats are nonpartisan, Dover is a heavily Democratic town.

At least one other openly transgender person, Maplewood’s Shannon Cuttle, currently serves on an elected school board, while a small number of others have made waves in the New Jersey political arena in recent years; most notably, Jennifer Williams and Jade Kohut serve as GOP municipal chairs in Trenton and Jefferson, respectively, though neither holds elected office.

New Jersey has at least 26 LGBTQ+ elected officials in total, according to a database compiled by the Victory Institute, most of them concentrated in local offices. Among the most prominent are Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora and Union County Commissioner Rebecca Williams; joining them next week will be Assemblyman-elect Don Guardian (R-Atlantic City), who will become the legislature’s only gay member.

This story was updated at 11:09 a.m. on January 5 to include details about Shannon Cuttle, another openly trans school board member.

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