Celeste Riley

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Celeste Riley
Cumberland County Clerk
Assumed office
January 1, 2015
Preceded byGloria Noto
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 3rd district
In office
March 19, 2009 – January 1, 2015
Serving with John J. Burzichelli
Preceded byDouglas H. Fisher
Succeeded byAdam Taliaferro
Personal details
Born (1960-02-04) February 4, 1960 (age 62)
Cumberland County, New Jersey
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseRichard Dawson
ResidenceBridgeton, New Jersey
Alma materLa Salle University (B.A.)
Drexel University (M.S.)
WebsiteLegislative web page

Celeste M. Riley (born February 4, 1960) is an American Democratic Party politician, who currently serves as the Clerk of Cumberland County, New Jersey. She previously served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 2009 to 2015, where she represented the 3rd legislative district. Riley is the first woman to represent this district in the New Jersey Legislature.

Personal background[edit]

Riley is the daughter of Joseph J. Riley Sr., a physician who served on the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders in the 1970s and ran unsuccessfully for the General Assembly in 1993. Her brother Joseph Jr. served one term on the Cumberland County Freeholder Board from 2007 to 2009.[1][2]

Riley graduated from Cumberland Regional High School, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from La Salle University and a Master's degree from Drexel University in arts administration.[3] She later attended Cumberland County College where she received qualifications to teach computer technology.[2] She taught for the Greenwich-Stow Creek Partnership Schools in Greenwich Township from 2001 to 2014.[4]

Riley is a resident of Bridgeton, and is a member of the parish of The Holy Cross where she cantors. She is a member of Soroptimists International of Cumberland County, an organization devoted to fundraising for various woman's issues and scholarships. In April 2012, Riley was awarded the "Love Shouldn't Hurt" award from the I'm Free Mnistries, a Project of Gererations, Inc. [1] In 2011, Salem County Woman's Center recognized Assemblywoman Riley as "Person of the Year" for her efforts in support of victims of domestic violence.[5]

First elected to the Bridgeton City Council in 2006, she later became City Council President. While on council she helped create the community pride program Building a Better Bridgeton (B3).[3] She has two daughters from her first marriage, she is now married to Richard Dawson and has three stepdaughters.[2]

Assembly career[edit]

In March 2009, 3rd District Assemblyman Douglas H. Fisher was appointed to head the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Riley was chosen among a special convention of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem county Democrats to replace him in the Assembly. She was sworn in on March 19, 2009 becoming the first woman to represent the district.[1]

In her final term in the Assembly, Riley served as Chair of the Higher Education Committee and was a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the Regulated Professions Committee.[4]

Riley sponsored legislation (A-1491) that tightens restrictions on repeat domestic violence offenders by raising bail requirements.[6] She also sponsored A1561, which creates a diversionary program designed to educate teens on the dangers of "sexting" instead of automatically criminalizing the behavior.[7]

Riley sponsored legislation such as, A-3063 and A-3064 that would enhance the State's farm winery industry and could bring more tourism to the area.[8]

The Assemblywoman sponsored legislation that would have increased State support during State Fiscal Year 2011 for the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled Program, the Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program and the Homestead Property Tax Rebate/Credit program. Assemblywoman Riley has passed legislation that protects assisted living residents from eviction for using Medicaid, after reports from the state Office of the Public Advocate indicated that certain facilities were evicting patients after they exhausted their personal finances and were eligible for Medicaid, in favor of private-pay patients.[9]

In New Jersey, it is no longer legal for employers to specify in their job ads that unemployed persons will not be considered. Assemblywoman Riley was a primary sponsor in legislation that bans overt discrimination against the jobless in print or online was signed into law March 29, 2011, by Gov. Chris Christie and is the first legislation of its kind in the United States. Employers would face a penalty of $1,000 for the first offense and $5,000 for subsequent offenses.[10]

In recognition of the importance of the American Red Cross, she was the primary sponsor of legislation, signed by Gov. Christie, that designates March as "American Red Cross" month for the State of New Jersey.[11]

In the 2011 apportionment based on the results of the 2010 United States census, Dominick DiCicco was moved from the 4th Legislative District into District 3. John J. Burzichelli (with 25,172 votes) and Riley (23,960) won re-election, defeating DiCicco (20,268) and his running mate Bob Villare (20,528)[12] DiCicco's loss made his seat the only gain by the Democrats in the Assembly in the 2011 election cycle.[13]

District 3[edit]

Each of the forty districts in the New Jersey Legislature has one representative in the New Jersey Senate and two members in the New Jersey General Assembly. The other representatives from the 3rd District during the time she was in the Assembly were:

County Clerk[edit]

In 2014, Riley challenged incumbent Republican Cumberland County Clerk Gloria Noto, a position she held for 20 years.[2] Riley won the race defeating Noto by two percentage points.[14] As a result of her win, Riley resigned her teaching and Assembly positions. Her term is for five years.[3]


  1. ^ a b Graber, Trish G. (March 17, 2009). "Riley fills Fisher's seat in Assembly". Gloucester County Times. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Smith, Joseph P. (October 28, 2014). "Clerk's race pits GOP's Noto and Democrat Riley". The Daily Journal. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "County Clerk: Celeste M. Riley". Cumberland County, New Jersey Clerk’s Office. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley (D)". New Jersey Legislature. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
  5. ^ Staff. "Salem County Women's Services to honor Assemblywoman Celeste Riley", Today's Sunbeam, October 8, 2011. Accessed October 16, 2011.
  6. ^ Arrue, Karina L. "3 bills to help victims of domestic violence", The Jersey Journal, October 18, 2010. Accessed June 19, 2011. "A-1491, sponsored by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, D-Salem, imposes tougher bail restrictions on persons charged with violating domestic violence restraining orders."
  7. ^ Pritchett, Kristina. "New legislation aims to replace criminal charges with counseling in cases of teen sexting", Gloucester County Times, June 13, 2011. Accessed October 11, 2011. "Juveniles caught sending sexually explicit photographs via their cell phones would not face criminal prosecution but rather intense education on the ramifications under a bill sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Celeste Riley and Valerie Vainieri Huttle and advanced by a Senate Panel on Monday."
  8. ^ Connolly, Matt. "New Jersey wineries see advantages in bills that would let them make more and sell more widely", The Times, August 16, 2010. Accessed June 19, 2011.
  9. ^ via Associated Press. "Assisted-living bill advancing in NJ Legislature", The Trentonian, November 28, 2010. Accessed June 19, 2011.
  10. ^ Shipkowski, Bruce via Associated Press. "NJ employers can't discriminate against unemployed", Bloomberg Businessweek, April 25, 2011. Accessed June 19, 2011. "The bill prohibits employers from publishing job advertisements -- in print or online -- that state that unemployed individuals can't apply for the position. Proponents say the measure, which may be the first of its kind in the United States, addresses a growing national problem. 'This law is very simply the right thing to do for thousands of New Jerseyans who, through no fault of their own, found themselves without a job in recent years,' said Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, D- Bridgeton, who was among the bill's primary sponsors in that chamber.
  11. ^ Staff. "Riley measure would designate March as 'American Red Cross Month' in New Jersey each year", Today's Sunbeam, March 8, 2011. Accessed June 19, 2011. "“The American Red Cross serves an essential role in our state,” said Riley.“When a disaster strikes, the Red Cross is there to provide life-saving blood, first aid, and the comfort of a helping hand. It is easy to forget how important the Red Cross is until a disaster strikes. Setting aside each March as ‘American Red Cross Month’ will hopefully remind everyone about the truly extraordinary work that this organization provides.”"
  12. ^ Official List Candidate Returns for General Assembly For November 2011 General Election[permanent dead link], New Jersey Department of State, December 6, 2011. Accessed December 12, 2011.
  13. ^ Staff. "N.J. legislative elections results: Democrats fend off GOP funding, Christie campaigning", The Star-Ledger, November 9, 2011. Accessed December 12, 2011. "The Democrats’ sole gain came thanks to redistricting. Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco (R-Gloucester), the only Republican to win a Democrat-held seat two years ago, was shifted into a district with two Democratic incumbents and immediately faced an uphill battle to stay in the Legislature."
  14. ^ "Cumberland County General - November 4, 2014 OFFICIAL RESULTS". Cumberland County, New Jersey Clerk’s Office. Retrieved September 29, 2015.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gloria Noto
Cumberland County Clerk
January 2, 2015 – present
Succeeded by
New Jersey General Assembly
Preceded by Member of the New Jersey General Assembly for the 3rd District
March 19, 2009 – January 2, 2015
With: John Burzichelli
Succeeded by