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Atlantic County freeholders get first all-woman leadership

Amy Gatto knew her future was in politics in eighth grade.
As part of Youth in Government Day, she followed around Hamilton Township’s then-Deputy Mayor Joe Nickels.
“I saw the way he was serving his community and how he was helping, and that’s how I decided, ‘This is what I want to do,’” she Gatto, who would become her hometown’s youngest mayor a decade later.
With the new year, Gatto added a new first to her list of accomplishments: first female chair of the 182-year-old Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“It’s an honor to serve my county this way,” she said.
Nominated by outgoing Freeholder Chair Frank Formica at Tuesday’s reorganization meeting, Gatto joins Vice Chair Maureen Kern — elected the first woman in that position last year — in leading the new board.

‘It’s an honor to serve my county this way.’
Freeholder Amy Gatto, right, with Vice Chair Maureen Kern

“It’s extremely humbling that I have the support of not only Chairman Formica but rest of my colleagues on the board,” Gatto said. “It’s pretty awesome at the same time.”
She said the board is a team, and that she’s never felt treated differently either as a woman or a Republican.
Gatto grew up in a household with a history, government and politics teacher. Her mother, Dr. Jeri-Lynn Vernon, is now principal of Absegami High School.
Her father, Bill Gatto, is a retired union laborer who worked 40 years at the Atlantic City Race Course.
The future freeholder also had the help of people like Nickels and others who led her along the way.
A lifelong Mays Landing resident, Gatto graduated from Oakcrest High School in 2000.
“What really sparked my interest was to help people be able to succeed in their own right,” she said. “Making it a community people would be proud to live in because I certainly am.”

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