Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. (second from left) presented retired Essex County Register Larrie West Stalks (seated) with the Essex County Coretta Scott King Leadership Award and Essex County Register and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman to Philip Thigpen (center) with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award during the 10thAnnual Essex County African American History Month Celebration on Monday, February 25th. With them are (from left) Calvin West, Ms. Stalks’ brother, and members of Mr. Thigpen’s family, his granddaughter Amanda, wife Ernestine and son Rick. Credits: Glen Frieson
Essex County Celebrates African American Heritage
Friday, March 1, 2013 • 4:39pm
NEWARK, NJ - For the tenth year, the office of the Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. hosted the African American History Month Celebration. Monday’s event included a presentation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award to Philip Thigpen, Essex County Register and Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee, and the Coretta Scott King Leadership Award to Larrie West Stalks, retired Essex County Register.
“African American History Month is a special time of the year when we highlight the many contributions and achievements African Americans have made to our culture, economy and daily lives throughout our history,” DiVincenzo said. “Phil Thigpen and Larrie West Stalks are role models who have dedicated their professional lives to public service and have made a significant impact on influencing government policies and improving the quality of life in their communities and throughout the State.”.
The invocation was invoked by the pastor of Irvington’s Christian Love Baptist Church, Rev. Ronald B. Christian. Later, under the direction of their teacher Scott Cumberbatch, a chorale group from Arts High School in Newark, sang the anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and performed several other musical piece.
The county officials made it clear that both honorees have made significant public service contributions to the community; expressing that their dedication “truly captures the dignity and determination of the King family.”
“I want to thank the County Executive for recognizing me with the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award, but today I accept this award on behalf of the employees in the Register’s Office that work hard and do an excellent job every day,” said Mr. Thigpen.
Stalks served her fourth term as the only African-American County Officer in the state of New Jersey. She also served as Director of Health and Welfare and Executive Secretary of the Newark Central Planning Board, becoming the first African American appointed department head and cabinet member in the history of Newark municipal government.
“Thank you very much for this award. I really appreciate it,” said Stalks.
Additional greetings and congratulatory remarks were also made by Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson, Former Essex County Democratic Chair Ray Durkin, North Ward Democratic Chair Fran Adubato, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin and Catherine Willis of East Orange.
The African American History Month Celebration is the part of a year-long cultural series created by County Executive DiVincenzo to highlight Essex County’s diversity. Other cultural celebrations highlight Irish, Italian, Jewish, Latino and Portuguese heritage and Women’s history.
From Left: Calvin West, Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. (standing) , Larrie West Stalks (seated) , Philip Thigpen, his granddaughter Amanda, wife Ernestine and son Rick. Credit: Glen Frieson
Anthony Puglisi, from the Office of the County Executive, earlier released this information:
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. hosted the Tenth Annual Essex County African American History Month Celebration on Monday, February 25th. During the celebration, the County Executive presented the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award to Philip Thigpen, Essex County Register and Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee, and the Coretta Scott King Leadership Award to Larrie West Stalks, retired Essex County Register.
Philip Thigpen was elected in 2009 to serve as Essex County Register and lead the Essex County Office of Register of Deeds and Mortgages in Essex County. Mr. Thigpen also serves as Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee, a position he was first elected to in 2001 and to which he has been re-elected three times. A party chairman, he coordinates elections and Democratic Party-related activities in Essex County’s 22 municipalities, selects candidates to run for county and state elective offices, and manages the Committee’s budget and fundraising activities.
Mr. Thigpen has also served as Essex County Freeholder and Councilman in East Orange. While serving as Director of the Essex County Department of Planning and Economic Development, he was responsible for the development and implementation of fiscal and administrative policy in issues such as economic and physical planning and solid waste disposal.
From 1980 to 1987, he was Vice President of Urban Data Systems, Inc. in Newark, a computer forms manufacturer. His responsibilities included sales and acquisition of raw material related to the production of computer forms. Prior to joining Urban Data Systems, Inc., Mr. Thigpen was Executive Vice President of Leon N. Weiner & Associates, Inc., a real estate development firm based in Wilmington, DE, where he ran a joint venture with Campbell Soup and RCA to develop low- and moderate-income multi-family properties in the East and Midwest. He was a member of the National Association of Homebuilders and was Chairman of its Affirmative Action Committee.
Mr. Thigpen has served on numerous boards, commissions and committees. Most notable are serving as President of the Electoral College in the presidential election in 2012 and as a member in the 1996 presidential election. He also was a member of the 2012 Congressional Redistricting Commission, the State Democratic Committee, was appointed to the NJ Health Care Administration Board and is a former member of the Charter Study Commission, which recommended Essex County institute a County Executive-led government.
Mr. Thigpen received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Seton Hall University, earned a Master’s Degree from St. Louis University and was an Urban Fellow at Rutgers University. He had a stand out athletic career in high school and college. At Seton Hall Prep, Mr. Thigpen was a two-time national champion in the 880-yard run and, at Seton Hall University he was a national champion in the half-mile and a three-time national champion in the 1,000 yard run. In recognition of his stellar athletic accomplishments, he was inducted into both the Seton Hall Prep and Seton Hall University Athletic Halls of Fame, where he also served as Vice President of the University’s Alumni Association. Mr. Thigpen is married and has three sons.
Larrie West Stalks was elected to the Office of the Essex County Register of Deeds and Mortgages in 1974, and she successfully served four consecutive five-year terms. She served her fourth term as the only African-American Constitutional Officer on the County level in New Jersey. Mrs. Stalks also served as Director of Health and Welfare and Executive Secretary of the Newark Central Planning Board, where she became the first African American appointed department head and cabinet member in the history of Newark municipal government. In 1984, Mrs. Stalks achieved another first, when she was elected President of the County Officers of the State of New Jersey. Following her election, she assumed membership on the National Association of County Officer’s (NACO) Human Services Steering Committee. At the 57th NACO Conference, Mrs. Stalks was appointed to the Board of Director’s of NACO. This at-large appointment was on a board that represented 48 states with County Government.
During the 20 years she worked for municipal government, she initiated, developed and supervised federally funded anti-poverty programs and instituted Newark’s first mobile health unit program, which served as a national model. She also founded the Municipal Career Women of Newark. Through this organization, she became a mentor for numerous women who worked for Newark City Government. Mrs. Stalks committed her entire career to improving the quality of life for disadvantaged people, and spearheaded the development of 426 units of affordable housing and a shopping mall. She also chaired the Long Range Planning Advisory Budget Committee for St. Michael’s Hospital.
Mrs. Stalks has an extensive list of civic activities, professional affiliations, political involvement and numerous awards and honors reflect her credentials, professional experience and dedication to civic causes. Her home at 41 Rector Street in Newark was affectionately referred to as “The House for Democrats.” This was the location where many people who are in political office today received their initial tutoring. Born and raised in Newark, Mrs. Stalks has resided in the Village of South Orange Township for the past 40 years. She proudly says, “I am Newark first!”
For further information:
County Executive: Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Newark, NJ 07102