Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, elected in 2007, is serving her first term in the New Jersey State Senate, representing the 29th Legislative District, which includes the Union County Township of Hillside, and parts of the City of Newark in Essex County. A first-generation Puerto Rican American, she is the first Latina to serve in the State Senate.
Senator Ruiz, an Assistant Majority Leader, serves as Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Vice-Chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee and as a member of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Joint Committee on Public Schools.
A lifelong resident of Newark's North Ward, Senator Ruiz is active in Essex County government and politics. She is Vice Chair of the Essex County Democratic Party, and Deputy Chief of Staff and former Director of Public Information for Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. A fearless advocate for the people and issues in which she believes, Senator Ruiz uses the skills she learned in county government and the political realm to promote the ideas of justice, inclusion and equality.
Senator Ruiz worked as a Pre-K Teacher after she graduated from Drew University as an English major. She was a First Fidelity Bank Scholar in her junior year of college, and spent six weeks studying art and culture in West Africa. A founding member of the Robert Treat Academy, she has served for over five years as a school Trustee. Senator Ruiz is Co-Chair of the Hispanic Scholarship Program for the North Ward Center. She also served as a Trustee of the Essex County Technical-Vocational School Board for five years.
In addition, she was the first Puerto Rican woman to sit as a member of the Essex County Improvement Authority Board of Commissioners. Senator Ruiz served as an elected delegate for John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and was also elected as a Clinton delegate in 2008.
Recognized by the Hispanics for Progress of the Oranges for her dedicated service to the Latino community, and honored by the Essex County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with its Public Service Award, Senator Ruiz was also awarded the Star of Essex during the County's Hispanic Heritage Celebration in 2005. In 2006 she was named Woman of the Year by Newark's Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Inc.
Senator Ruiz's parents settled in Newark in the 1950s. She has one sister, a niece and a large extended family. The most recent addition to her family is Samuel Gonzalez, the Essex County Freeholder-District I, and an elected member of the Newark Board of Education, to whom she was married in September of 2005.