WEC 2019 Awards Dinner


Marie Blistan
Marie BlistanPresident, New Jersey Education Association

Marie Blistan, a high school special education resource center teacher in Washington Township public schools, is the President of the New Jersey Education Association. Blistan previously served as NJEA’s vice president and secretary-treasurer. She was elected to a two-year term as president effective Sept. 1, 2017 and was re- elected to serve as president from September 2019 until August 31, 2021.

No stranger partnering with like-minded advocates, the effects of Blistan’s leadership resonates in classrooms throughout New Jersey. As one of three founding members the Healthy Schools Now Coalition, she helped spearhead efforts that led the School Development Authority to release funds that would go directly to public schools.

Active in NJEA since early in her career, Blistan served as president of the Gloucester County Education Association. She has held numerous county committee positions and successfully spearheaded opposition to an involuntary pilot program to consolidate all of Gloucester County’s school districts. She was an NJEA consultant in the UniServ and Professional Development and Instructional Issues divisions.

Blistan co-founded and was the chair of the Gloucester County Education Commission, where she created a positive forum for NJEA members to meet with legislators on selected topics that affect both members and public education. Blistan has held numerous leadership positions in two local associations and was the 1987 Somerdale and Camden County Teacher of the Year.

During her term as vice president, Blistan was the lead officer in establishing NJEA’s Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund and is proud to be a part of the Sandy Ground Project—a joint venture with the New Jersey’s Firefighters’ Association that resulted in 11 playgrounds being built throughout the state of New Jersey.

Additionally, in 2013, Blistan worked with other public sector worker unions to help pass the historic constitutional amendment on New Jersey’s minimum

wage, was recognized in both 2014 and 2016 by the NAACP, and was the 2015 recipient of the NJ State Democratic Committee’s Jefferson Jackson Award.

Blistan’s focus as NJEA president remains for NJEA and all its members—certificated, support professionals, retired, and student members— to continue to take the lead on the discussion of New Jersey’s education progress in order to provide the best experience possible for all public school children. Blistan was a founding member of the New Jersey Labor Management Collaborative and helped lead a statewide effort to pass teacher leadership legislation.

Unafraid to enter the political arena to fight on behalf of educators and children alike, Blistan was ranked 21st out of 100 of the state’s most influential leaders on 2018 Insider’s NJ’s “Power 100 List” and 13th out of 100 on the New Jersey Globe’s 2018 Power List. Blistan was further honored by Kidsbridge with its 2018 Humanitarian Award for her work as teacher of students with special needs in Washington Township (Gloucester Co.) and her dedication to the wellbeing of children and all New Jersey families. In 2019, Blistan was awarded the Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Award, which recognizes women, from the state of New Jersey, who promote equal rights for all and champion the rights of women, families, and children, by US. Senator Robert Menendez.

A graduate of Glassboro State College (now Rowan University,) Blistan earned a Master’s degree in reading. She and her husband Bob, a retired high school special education teacher in Washington Township, live in Harrisonville. She has two sons, a daughter, and three grandchildren. Blistan has taught in New Jersey for 35 years.

Luke Gordon
Luke GordonStaff Representative, United Steelworkers

Luke H. Gordon first became a Union member when he went to work at Service Die Cutting in lower Manhattan in 1977. Luke has been a Staff Representative of the United Steelworkers (USW) for the past fourteen years.

Previously, he was an International Representative with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union (PACE), until that union merged with the United Steelworkers of America in 2005. PACE itself was the result of a merger between the United Paperworkers and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, in 1999. Luke had been an International Representative with the Paperworkers since 1985.

As Staff Representative with the USW, Luke represents over 2,400 union members in New York and New Jersey in a variety of industries, ranging from General Manufacturing, Paper & Printing, Pharmaceuticals, Steel and Construction Materials, and Industrial Maintenance in over 38 different bargaining units. He also has had considerable experience working with and bargaining for units in the Health Care Industry, Primary Paper Mills, Chemical Industry and Public Sector, and Service Workers.

He has served on the Board of the NJ Work Environment Council (WEC) for the last eight years, and also is on the Steering Committee of Jersey Renews. Luke has served on the Mt. Sinai-Selikoff Occupational Health Clinical Center Advisory Board since it was created and the Lower Hudson Valley Advisory Board since 1995.

In his off hours, he is very active in Freemasonry, and has previously served as Chair of the Warwick NY Town Democratic Committee. He enjoys combining travel and photography, and his work has been published in a variety of books and magazines.

Luke grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended the State University of NY at New Paltz, SUNY Empire State College, the National Labor College and the Cornell University – New York State School of Industrial & Labor Relations. He lives in Warwick, NY and is married to Lucinda Fleming, the Chair of the Business Department at SUNY Orange. They have two daughters, Amelia and Sarah, and two grand-sons, James III and Nicholas, as well as three attention-starved cats.

Brandon McKoy
Brandon McKoyPresident, New Jersey Policy Perspective

Brandon McKoy, President, is the chief executive of NJPP and leads the organization’s efforts in shaping policy debates to advance economic justice for the many, not a chosen few. Prior to being named President of NJPP in February 2019, Brandon served as NJPP’s Director of Government and Public Affairs, where he designed and implemented the organization’s outreach, advocacy, and government relations activities. He also produces timely, credible and accessible research and analysis on issues including, but not limited to, economic security, the social safety net and economic opportunity.

Brandon’s research interests include: state tax policy, the minimum wage, paid sick leave, the earned income tax credit, urban planning and criminal justice.

Before joining NJPP in August 2014 as a national fellow under the State Priorities Partnership’s and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ state policy fellowship program, Brandon worked as a Program Associate at The Fund for New Jersey, where he assisted in grantmaking on public policy issues that particularly affect low-income and minority populations in New Jersey. He also worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA at HANDS, Inc., a community development corporation in New Jersey, where he worked to mitigate the negative impact of foreclosures and increase citizen participation in local decision-making.

Brandon formerly served as the Deputy Chapter Director of New Leaders Council – New Jersey and is an alumnus of the 2013 fellows class. He currently serves on the board of the New Jersey Work Environment Council, Shelterforce and the I Am Trenton Community Foundation. He received a MA in City & Regional Planning and Policy Development from Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and holds a BS degree in Social Psychology from The College of New Jersey.”

Doug O’Malley
Doug O’MalleyDirector, Environment New Jersey

Doug O’Malley is director of Environment New Jersey, representing more than 20,000 dues-paying citizen members. Doug has worked on multiple environmental issue fronts over the last 18 years in Trenton.

His work has focused on campaigns to fast-track New Jersey’s clean energy economy via off-shore wind, solar and energy efficiency programs, to keep New Jersey in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program and expand clean hybrid, low-emission and electric vehicles across the state.

He has also led campaigns focused on New Jersey’s drinking water quality and protection of the state’s watershed lands, including the Pinelands and Highlands. He currently serves on the board of the Work Environment Council, Environment America and the Environmental Endowment of New Jersey and is the president of ChargEVC, a broad-based state electric vehicle coalition, and is co-founder of the Jersey Renews clean energy and climate coalition. He was recognized by EPA Region II with an Environmental Quality Award in 2012. He graduated from Harvard University in 2001, and he is based out of Trenton.

Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth SmithExecutive Director, Statewide Education Organizing Committee

Elizabeth “Liz” Smith is the Executive Director of the Statewide Education Organizing Committee (SEOC). SEOC is a grassroots organization with a mission to educate and organize parents, students and community members to address issues of educational equity and improving student outcomes. She had been involved in the organization as a volunteer, member and Board member before assuming the role as Executive Director.

Her community organizing career began when she served as a co-facilitator for a Smart Growth School Project in Plainfield. She later became an organizer for the West End Community Revitalization Project in Plainfield directed by Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She went on to serve as an organizer for the community organization – Plainfield Organization for West End Revitalization.

Liz is a member of the Healthy Schools Now Coalition, Steering Committee, the Our Children Our Schools Coalition and nationally the Dignity in Schools Campaign to end school pushout. Liz has served on the Financial Aid Committee of Girl Scouts of Washington Rock Council. She held several positions including that of the Service Unit Manager for the Plainfield Community Girl Scouts of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey Council; she remains involved in the Girl Scout Organization. Liz is active in her church community and at Landmark Worldwide.

Liz worked as a compliance analyst in the health insurance industry for many years before staying at home to raise her daughter.

She holds a BA in Political Science and African American History, from Wellesley College.

Liz joined the NJWEC Board in 2014.


Yolanda Hernandez
Yolanda Hernandez

Yolanda Hernández is a parent activist and the founder of Unidos por Escuelas Dignas, a New Brunswick parent advocacy group. She was born in Mexico in 1987, and immigrated to the US in 2006. She is married with three young children. Her oldest son, who is starting second grade, was the reason why she began to ask why children are forced to study in hot, unhealthy classrooms. What she learned was devastating, and led her to form the campaign that became Unidos por Escuelas Dignas in September 2018.

Kason Little
Kason Little

Kason Little of Elizabeth, NJ serves as the youngest Community Leader in Elizabeth’s history. Ever since the age 12, Kason has been an active and involved leader, activist and “rising star”. During the beginning of his high school career, he took the initiative in serving the Elizabeth School System as a Student Advocate to his peers, parents and the entire community. Kason has always aided and assisted the community whenever problems arises or to be an empowering voice of change.

Kason is known in his community as someone who stands up for Truth and Justice.

Kason will be attending Berkeley College as a freshman in the fall majoring in Legal Studies/ Civil Litigation and in four years from now, it is his goal to attend Seton Hall Law school to obtain his J.D.

At 19 years of age, Kason is currently the youngest candidate running for Commissioner of the Elizabeth Board of Education to further his advocacy for the community and to give back to the city he loves and adores.

Kason believes without having a goal in life it’s difficult to score. The four steps to accomplish his goals are to; plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed positively, and to pursue persistently.