As we continue our Berkeley Heights’ Women of the Week (WoW) series, the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council is pleased to continue to showcase women who are driving change, blazing trails and nurturing society. We hope you have enjoyed the WoW series where we have featured Beth Ferris Sales, Komal Naik, and Jeanne-Marie Mocarski. In addition, we are excited to feature Jeanne Kingsley as the fourth woman of our series. Please read more about what inspires one of our Berkeley Heights’ Town Councilwomen and how she inspires others.
Born: Newark, NY
Raised: Webster, NY
Resides: Berkeley Heights, NJ
Jeanne Kingsley has been a Berkeley Heights resident for over 23 years, and was recently re-elected to the Berkeley Heights Township Council where she previously served for two three-year terms and is currently serving as the Council President. Jeanne is directly responsible for establishing the Berkeley Heights Downtown Beautification Committee, which has an established track record of working closely with the town’s landlords, business owners and residents to improve and enhance the appearance of the downtown area and create a pedestrian friendly, community-oriented environment. Jeanne has four children and has worked tirelessly for the public schools in Berkeley Heights having served as PTO Treasurer for both the Governor Livingston High School and the Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School. Jeanne and her husband Ed are also active members of the Church of the Little Flower in Berkeley Heights where she has served as a trustee and member of the Church’s Finance Council and Strategic Planning Team. She is also dedicated to bringing a little happiness and cheer into the lives of seriously ill children at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Westfield, where she has been volunteering for over 12 years. Jeanne is a CPA and her professional experience is primarily in the area of finance and strategic planning. Most recently, Jeanne helped build a financial planning and analysis function for the Employee Benefit Solutions Group of AIG and prior to that helped the various leadership of increasing responsibility at Prudential Insurance and Deloitte. In her “spare time,” Jeanne enjoys skiing, boating, reading and spending time with family.
How long have you lived in Berkeley Heights?
I have lived in Berkeley Heights for approximately 23 years. We were looking to move into this part of New Jersey because my husband’s identical twin was living with his family in New Providence. We wanted to be close to family so we were looking in Berkeley Heights, Chatham and Summit. We fell in love with the community of Berkeley Heights and have been extremely happy raising our family here.
What inspires you?
My four children. They are each incredible in their own way. They are hardworking, ambitious, focused, compassionate and kind. Their energy and enthusiasm for life inspires me. It is important for me to continue to set a positive example for them.
If you were to describe yourself with one word, what would it be and why?
I think if I had to describe myself, the word that comes to mind is passionate. I'm passionate about my family. I'm passionate about my community. I'm passionate about my career, and I’m passionate about giving and doing for others. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't just sit on the sidelines. I dive right in, roll up my sleeves and get involved. I have been an active volunteer in our community – serving our schools, my church, local sports organizations, the township and most recently the rescue squad.
What is your favorite song and why?
I don't really have a favorite song. I was a classical piano player in my youth and loved to play ragtime. I also love Broadway musicals and basically enjoy all genres of music, but if I had to pick a special song it would have to be Under the Boardwalk, sung by Bette Midler. When my children were babies and having a tough day, I would put on Bette Midler singing Under the Boardwalk. We would sing and dance around the house together and it would calm them down and bring a smile to my face.
What do you do for a living? Why did you enter your profession?
I am a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and finance professional. I went into public accounting 32 years ago because it provided me with the opportunity to be exposed to multiple industries. When I entered public accounting, there were very few women in leadership roles. It quickly became important to me to create networks for myself and other women in the industry, and to become a role model for women who were following behind me. I actively sought out mentors for myself, strived to mentor others and aspired to be a role model for those around me. Throughout my career, I have taken an active role in creating opportunities for women in finance. In fact, I was a founding member of the Women in Finance networking organization at Prudential Financial, which was the first program of its kind at the time.
What key skills do you need in your profession?
Aside from technical accounting and finance skills, key skills in this profession include working together as a team, being flexible, having the ability to negotiate, and building relationships. These are also critical talents necessary for success in life – whether it’s at the office or at home – and serving the best interests of our community in government!
What is one fun fact that you would like to share?
As a teenager, I taught myself to decorate cakes in high school. I was hired by a local bakery as a professional cake decorator. On one of my college applications there was an option to demonstrate a talent that you had spent a significant amount of time. In addition to auditioning for the university on the piano, I baked a cake decorated with the university’s emblem. Needless to say it was one of a kind and I was accepted!
Who is one woman that every woman should know about?
There are so many important accomplished women in our community – and one of them lives right in Berkeley Heights. Cathy Engelbert is the current CEO of Deloitte and the first female CEO of a Big Four financial services firm. Cathy is married with 2 children, was a college athlete and played both basketball and lacrosse for Lehigh University. She is an expert with time management, effectively prioritizing family with her frequent travel schedule. She coached her daughter’s middle-school lacrosse team and managed to attend almost all of her high school games as well. She is an expert on financial derivatives and an extremely effective and successful CEO. She has a humble and unpretentious style that makes her extremely approachable. You can often find Cathy shopping the aisles of the local Stop and Shop. She is an incredible role model to many, especially young and experienced women. I am lucky to have her as a mentor and a friend.
Who was your female role model growing up and why?
I have always admired my mother. She was an only child from a small town in Wisconsin, but growing up in Upstate New York her motto was, if she couldn't go see the world, then she would bring the world to us. My mom has a big heart and strong social conscience. As a family, we built houses for migrant worker families that lived in the area. My parents started the first refugee sponsorship program in Rochester, NY and growing up we sponsored families from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Turkey and helped them get settled in the United States and begin to rebuild their lives. We shared holidays with these families and learned about their cultures, traditions and values. Howard, an inner-city child that my parents sponsored as part of a fresh air summer program, spent summers and holidays with us and became part of our family. My Mom also participated in an international teacher exchange program and we had several European teachers come spend summers with us. We shared our American traditions with them and in turn, they taught us their respective countries’ traditions. It was important to my Mom that we see, value and respect people for who they are, not what they look like.
How can you set an example for young women?
The best way to set an example, is to be the example. I have always rolled up my sleeves, gotten involved, and lead by my actions. The reason I ran for Town Council seven years ago was because I saw a need for a woman on the council. I loved Berkeley Heights, but our downtown was suffering and I wanted to bring my energy and creativity to help turn it around. I continue to serve on the Council because I love our town and was eager to work hard for all residents. The Council is currently in the process of transforming our “downtown” community with the Municipal Project and other exciting development projects happening in and around our community. I want to be able to see them through and do whatever possible to preserve all that makes this community special. Through my leadership and passion, I hope to be an example to young women that through hard work, action, and dedication anything is possible.