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Executive Team

Meet Our Executive Committee: Text
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Deana Luchs


This year, 2021, marks Deana’s second term as the JFK Club President. Prior to 2020, she served the organization as the corresponding secretary. She is a lifelong Democrat who was raised in Passaic, NJ. Her late father established and organized the Passaic County Clerk’s union.  Politics runs in her blood. She was brought up to cherish Democratic values such as caring for those who have less, helping those in need, and believing in the greater good.  Following in his footsteps, she was the president of her local education association for several years. Then in retirement, she was the president of her condominium association and a member of the Community Associations Institute of NJ Board of Directors. 

Prior to retiring, she was a speech-language pathologist across the private and public sectors. She is married to Bob, also a JFK Club member. Together they raised three children and have five grandchildren and a new puppy. Presently, Deana serves on the Franklin Township Open Space Advisory Committee and the Somerset County Advisory Council on Disability Issues.  Volunteerism and service are important to her and her involvement in the JFK Club is one of the most rewarding decisions she has made. She is honored and proud to serve as your president.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Deana

Richard F. Rodgers

1st Vice President

Richard F. Rodgers is a seasoned communications executive having served in both the private marketplace and public sector. He presently serves as Principal Consultant, RFR Solutions.  In addition, his leadership profile in Franklin Twp., NJ, includes the JFK Democratic Club. Also on the municipal level, he currently serves as a District Committeeman (District #23) within the leadership of the Franklin Township Democratic Party. 

On the county level (Somerset County, NJ) Rich is proud to serve as Regional Vice Chair of the Democratic Party, embodied within the leadership of the Somerset County Democratic Committee (SCDC) representing the Southeast region of the County. 

It is also worth noting that in 2020, Rich has been pleased to offer his campaign expertise as a volunteer field organizer to the Biden for President Campaign. His service began within the Primary and Hawkeye State of Iowa, to the Silver State of Nevada, and then to the Palmetto State and victory of the South Carolina Primary. Due to the national pandemic, Rich engaged in grassroots campaigning and organizing in the digital world leading up to Election Day, November 3, 2020.  More recently, he continued to serve in a volunteer capacity in the special runoff-election of the U.S. Senate Campaign in Georgia; whereas both Democratic candidates were elected and have flipped the U.S. Senate to Democratic control and majority effective January 20, 2021, when Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris was sworn into office.

Rich holds a master’s degree in strategic communication & leadership from Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ and currently resides in Franklin Twp., NJ.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Rich
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Arnold W. Schmidt

2nd Vice President

Arnie has a BS in environmental science and was a New Jersey Licensed Registered Environmental Health Specialist.  In 2018, after 30 years, he retired from his Union County position where he coordinated and supervised the County’s Environmental Compliance and Enforcement programs enforcing NJ environmental regulations.  In 1983 he moved to Franklin from NY. 

Due to an issue in his neighborhood in 2000 Arnie got involved, for the first time in his life, in a political issue that also happened to be an environmental and public safety concern.  Arnie was soon thereafter appointed, by the Township Council, to the Environmental Commission and subsequently to the Open Space Advisory Committee (Vice Chair 2020-present), Shade Tree Commission and most recently the Sewerage Authority Board of Commissioners.  In 2006 Arnie was appointed by Governor Corzine to the NJ Noise Control Council (Chair 2014-present).  He is also on the Board of Trustees of the NJ League of Conservation Voters.  An active member of the Democratic Party, Arnie serves as Chair of the Township Democratic Committee’s 5th Ward and is a member of the Screening Committee.  (1-20-21)

Meet Our Executive Committee: Arnie

Linda Powell

3rd Vice President

Linda Powell has resided in Franklin Township since 1989. She learned about and joined the JKF Franklin Democratic Club around 2007, before the 2008 presidential election. Linda is the past First Vice President and currently serves on the Program and Membership Committees and has been involved in voter registration, get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns and participated on the Scholarship and the Nominating Committees. As a Steering Committee Member of the Franklin Township Task Force (on the Northeast Supply Enhancement [NESE] Project, which proposed building a compressor station in Franklin and pipeline under the Raritan Bay) Linda was a liaison to the Township Council and kept JFK Club members informed about and encouraged participation in the fight against this dangerous project.

Linda was honored to be the Franklin Township nominee and recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Distinguished Volunteer Service Award from the Somerset County Federation of Democratic Women in 2019 for her environmental work. Linda is a longtime activist.  Her involvement as a volunteer at a community health center led to a career in health care as a Renal Dietitian /Nutritionist working with people with kidney disease and on dialysis for the past forty years. Linda serves on the Franklin Township Advisory Board of Health and remains active in community groups involved with social justice and environmental issues.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Linda

Bernadette Mahar

Recording Secretary

Bernadette has resided in Franklin Township for over 32 years and has raised her family here. Her professional background has been in the NYC non-profit sector at a multi-service community based organization. In addition to membership in the JFK Club, she was also a member of the steering committee of the Franklin Township Task force to Stop NESE (Northeast Supply Enhancement Project) and Compressor Station 206 and several other organizations that espouse her goals of environmental and social justice. Bernadette served as the recording secretary for the JFK Club during 2020 and is pleased to have been elected for another term.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Bernadette

Jocelyn Thomas

Corresponding Secretary

Jocelyn, a Somerset resident for three decades, joined the JFK Club in 2019 after realizing that the best — perhaps, only – way to generate positive change in government and society is to get involved locally.  She became active in the Club in fall 2020working to get out the vote and, in early 2021, began serving asa member of the Membership and Digital Media committees. In  2022, she was named assistant corresponding secretary and she chaired the planning of the Club’s picnic. 

Jocelyn, who has a degree in journalism, grew up in Montclair, N.J., where she recalls as a teenager watching her mother, as well as neighbors and friends, fight passionately for social justice causes.

After a first job as a reporter for a daily newspaper, she worked for 40+ years in assorted communication roles in various industries – financial, pharmaceutical and, most recently, for a 300-member religious community where she was director of communications and responsible for a newsletter, public relations, and related tasks.

Jocelyn’s volunteer roles have included leadership position’s with the Parkinson’s Unity Walk (NYC) board of directors for roughly 12 years, Quailbrook Townhomes board of directors, and St. Bonaventure University National Alumni Board, as well as participation in St. Matthias Parish’s communications committee and handbell choir.  In her spare time, she enjoys playing pickleball and listening to live music. 

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Meet Our Executive Committee: Vanessa
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Ronald Murph


Ronald resides in Franklin Township, where he has lived for over 33 years and where he raised his family.  Professionally, he is an experienced senior tax manager specializing in corporate, state and local indirect taxes.  During his career, he has worked as a senior tax manager for Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T and Verizon, and as a director of taxes for The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.  He also has served as an active member of the Council on State Taxation, the Tax Institute, and the Financial Executives Network Group. 

Ronald earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from North Carolina A&T State University and a master’s degree in taxation from Seton Hall University.  Currently, he is employed by RGP, a tax consulting firm, as a senior tax consultant.

Ronald joined the JFK Democratic Club in February 2023.  At the request of its Executive Committee, he agreed to serve as treasurer upon the resignation of Dalya Youssef from the position.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Dalya

Alex Kharazi

Assistant Treasurer

Dr. Alex Kharazi has a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from University of California In Berkeley and has over 30 years of industry experience as director of technology in a major chemical company. He has been an adjunct professor at Rutgers University and Middlesex Community College.  Alex is an active member of the community promoting strong relationship and understanding among diverse faith groups. For many years he has focused his time and energy on philanthropy and giving back to the community.   He serves as the president of Franklin Township Interfaith Council, director and vice president of Muslim Foundation Inc. (Masjid-e-Ali), president and board member of Sadiq School, , president of Razi Health Foundation of NY, board of trustee member of Franklin Township Dr. Martin Luther King Community Foundation, a member of Human Relations Commission, and a board member of Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. Alex is an active member of NJ JFK Democratic Club and Franklin township Ward 3 president.  Alex was named the "Man of the Year" in 2017 by Franklin Reporter & Advocate, "Hometown Hero" in 2019 by Tapinto and was the recipient of NJ Governor’s Jefferson Award for community service.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Alex

Ron Jordan

Franklin Township Municipal Chairperson

 Ron has worked in various roles in the pharmaceutical industry. After settling in Somerset, N.J., Ron became active in Pop Warner Football in Franklin Township and through this participation, he became a member of the Franklin Township Recreational Council where he served as vice chairman. In 2005, working with a small group of dedicated fathers, he founded the Franklin Heat Youth Basketball league which has served hundreds of young men in the Franklin Township area. The League is in its 15th year of operation.

His participation in youth sports opened doors to a political career that began with service as a local committee person and for the last six years, as Democratic chairman in Franklin Township. During his tenure as chair, Franklin – for the first time in history – has an all-Democratic Council as well as mayor.  Also, Franklin has been instrumental in helping Somerset County turn blue as all constitutional officers in the county, as of November 2020, are Democrats. Ron, a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., was recently appointed a commissioner with the Somerset County Department of Parks.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Ron

Teresa D. Ford

Immediate Past President

Teresa is the past President of the JFK Democratic Club of Franklin Township.  She served as president of the Club from 2017-2019.  Teresa is currently a commissioner on the Franklin Township Sewerage Authority.  Through her employment as an assistant deputy public defender in Essex County, she serves on the Essex County Model Court Committee as co-chair of the Well-being of Children Subcommittee and as a member of the Equity, Fairness and Justice Subcommittee.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Teresa
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Sami Shaban

Social Media Manager

Sami is a practicing attorney with over ten years of experience counseling businesses and nonprofit institutions.  Sami is also a small business owner and franchisee of The Halal Guys restaurants, a fast-casual Middle Eastern restaurant famous for pioneering American halal food.  Sami is the founder and CEO of Bare Naked Bowl, a make-your-own superfood and smoothie bar restaurant.  Previously, Sami worked for the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, on their core management team as the chief of staff to the CEO/CIO.  Prior to this position, Sami provided management consulting to a variety of institutions including Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Ernst & Young, and AT&T.  Sami also serves in a number of leadership positions in various local and national non-profit institutions.  Sami currently serves on the Franklin Township Planning Board as well as the Somerset County Planning Board.  Sami earned his B.A. from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law and is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.  In 2020, Sami received his M.A. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 

Meet Our Executive Committee: Sami

Vanessa Davenport

Assistant Corresponding Secretary

Vanessa earned her B.A. in economics, M.B.A. in corporate finance, and M.S.-Ed. in school finance from Fordham University (NYC).  Originally from New York City, where Vanessa embarked on a career in corporate finance for 20+ years, after obtaining the M.S. in education (her first love), Vanessa switched to a career in school finance working with the CFO of the NYC Public Schools.  While she was attending Fordham’s Graduate School of Education, Vanessa and her husband moved to Franklin Township and soon after completing the graduate program, Vanessa obtained a position in the New Jersey State Department of Education, where she remains currently employed.

Vanessa has served on the Board of Directors of her homeowners association since 2011, and has been the HOA’s Board President for the past 7 years.  She was also a member of the Board of Directors for the NJ Chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI-NJ) from 2018 through 2021, where she served as the Board’s Liaison to CAI-NJ’s Legislative Action Committee.  

Vanessa's first involvement with political volunteering was in 2008 when she helped Barack Obama's first presidential campaign (assigned to GOTV efforts in PA.). Most recently, she volunteered with the JFK Franklin Democrats’ GOTV efforts for the 2020 and 2022 elections which led to joining the Somerset County Democratic Committee and the SCDC’s Black Caucus, and serving as a local Democratic committee person.  In January 2023, Vanessa was elected to serve on the JFK Club’s Executive Board as Assistant Corresponding Secretary. In her spare time, Vanessa enjoys music festivals and Broadway plays.

Meet Our Executive Committee: Jocelyn
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