NEWARK, NJ - Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson was presented with the 13th Annual Essex County Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award this afternoon at Essex County’s annual African American History Month celebration held in the Essex County Hall of Records in Newark on Wednesday.

Also honored during the celebration was Quovella M. Spruill, the newly appointed Chief of Detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Chief Spruill received Coretta Scott King Leadership Award.

Jackson and Spruill were recognized for their significant contributions to the community, say Essex County officials.

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Assembly Speaker Emeretus Sheila Oliver, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez were in attendance to honor both award recipients.

“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. “Chief Quovella Spruill and Mayor Robert D. Jackson 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,” he added.

“Essex County is a beacon of what we should be doing collectively as a country,” U.S. Senator Robert Menendez said. He used the honorees – Robert Jackson and Quovella Spruill – as examples of people who have transcended their race and now hold leadership positions because of their abilities, substance and accomplishments.

Congressman Donald Payne also congratulated the honorees on their recognition and the positive influence they are making in their communities. Payne commended Mayor Jackson for “moving Montclair forward,” and noted Chief Spruill rose through the ranks of the Prosecutor’s Office before being appointed Chief of Detectives.

Spruill has worked in government and has been a public employee for almost 30 years. She has served nearly 20 years in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, rising through the ranks from detective, lieutenant, captain and deputy chief. She has been assigned to various units including child abuse/sex crimes, homicide and internal affairs. In her new role, Spruill manages more than 130 sworn officers and investigatory personnel.  

Spruill began her public service with the City of Newark as a student assistant and rose to become a manager in the City's Neighborhood Services before going to the Prosecutor’s Office.  As a manager, she oversaw millions of dollars in City and grant funds, as well as a staff of 40 city employees. A graduate of Saint Vincent Academy, Spruill earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from NJIT and a Master’s Degree in HRTD from Seton Hall University. She has received recognition from the community, her peers and other law enforcement agencies within the State of New Jersey. Chief Spruill is also married with two children, ages 10 and 12.

“I am honored to be recognized with an award named for Coretta Scott King. Look at what she did during a time of civil unrest, having her husband taken from her and continuing his legacy,” Spruill said.

Jackson, a Montclair native and the township’s current mayor, has had a strong record of involvement in local civic and service activities, as well as a successful business career. Mr. Jackson is the only person in the history of Montclair to have been elected to two terms as Mayor, serving his first term from 1987-1988.

Since taking office in July 2012, the Township has been hailed for dramatically reducing its debt and raising its bond rating while making substantial infrastructure improvements, enhancing service delivery, and minimizing property tax increases. In addition, the inclusion of minority employees in leadership has increased, with a number of “firsts” across departments. Also, Montclair continues to be at the forefront of engaging minority professional services firms.

Jackson’s board memberships have included the Montclair Public Library, Montclair Planning Board, New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing, Montclair Kimberley Academy, and the St. Paul Baptist Church. He graduated from Montclair Kimberley Academy, Princeton University, and the Harvard Business School. He enjoys reading, music, and sports. He and his family are members of the Fountain Baptist Church in Summit. He is married to the former Cheryl Stephenson and they have four children: Danielle, Taylor, Carter, and Chase.

“When I contemplate my name being linked to Martin Luther King, Jr., the platform allows me to thank those who have helped me along the way. I am thankful for the opportunities placed in my way and I am thankful for the County Executive for selecting me,” Mayor Jackson said. “As we celebrate this day, let’s rededicate ourselves as thundering drums of excellence, service and compassion,” he added.

The invocation was given by Bishop Jethro C. James, Jr., Senior Pastor of Paradise Baptist Church in Newark. All entertainment was provided by music production students from ECVTS-Newark Tech, under the direction of their teacher, Mr. Brandon McCune. The National Anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing were sung by Giovanna Burgess-Humes and Aliyanah Carter, and Jayla Bennett played a musical selection on the piano.