NJ 11th for Change executive director takes leading NJ Democrats role

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Saily Avelenda, executive director of the grassroots organization NJ 11th for Change, is taking on a new role: executive director of the NJ Democratic State Committee. She is replacing Kevin Olasanoye in that position.

Under Avelenda’s leadership, NJ 11th for Change grew to more than 8,000 members. During the 2018 election, the group’s volunteers contacted more than 120,000 voters, helping Mikie Sherrill’s successful run for the CD11 congressional seat. The 11th Congressional District includes parts of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties. Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Livingston, North Caldwell, Nutley, Roseland, Verona and West Caldwell are in the 11th, while Bloomfield, Montclair and West Orange are in the 11th and 10th.

In 2019, Avelenda moved the group into statewide prominence, cultivating relationships across New Jersey and co-founding #TakeBackNJ, a coalition of grassroots organizations intent on rooting out corruption within N.J. state government.

In late 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy tapped Avelenda to run the Currie-Schaffer campaign for chairperson of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. The campaign concluded successfully on Jan. 11, with the re-election of John Currie as chairman and Peg Schaffer as vice chairwoman.

Shortly thereafter, Avelenda was asked to serve as executive director of the NJ Democratic State Committee.

“As the Democratic Party in New Jersey continues to lead our nation in promoting progressive policies, it is imperative we have leaders at the helm with a deep connection to the grassroots advocates who are at the forefront of so many issues,” Murphy said. “Saily Avelenda has time and time again proven herself to be an exemplary leader with the determination we need to push our party forward. I am incredibly proud to welcome her into this new position at the NJ Democratic State Committee and look forward to working together to continue the progress we have already made in building a stronger and fairer New Jersey.”

“As our country continues to grapple with a president eager to dismantle the very rights our nation was founded on, now more than ever we must take a stand for our communities,” Avelenda said. “This is the cause I have been most passionate about, but for us to accomplish this in every corner of our state, we need to work collaboratively with Democrats, grassroots leaders and progressive advocates. I am honored to be given the opportunity to work alongside Chairman Currie, Vice Chairwoman Schaffer and Gov. Murphy to continue raising voices and fighting for meaningful change not just in New Jersey, but throughout our entire country.”

Replacing Avelenda in NJ 11th for Change will be new Co-executive Directors Judy Kelly and Mara Novak, former field director and political director, respectively.

“I believe strongly that every organization needs fresh leadership, fresh eyes and new perspectives from time to time,” Avelenda said, adding that Kelly and Novak “know what we are about and where we want to go, and I support their leadership 110 percent.”