Legislators Paul, Stilley, Davidson & Earl Lead County Legislature’s Women History Month Celebration

The Rockland County Legislature celebrated Women’s History Month by recognizing the contributions of four remarkable residents – Suzanne Barclay, Rena Finkelstein, Marie Lorenzini and Nicole Matthews.

“The incredible work carried out by each of our honorees has made a positive difference in the lives of so many – individuals, families and our overall community,” Rockland County Legislature Vice Chair Aney Paul said. “We are honored to recognize each of them and to thank them for all they have done and all they continue to do.”

Legislator Paul, along with County Legislators Dana G. Stilley, Beth Davidson and Toney L. Earl led a ceremony that included the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award to each honoree. It is the Legislature’s highest award.

Women’s History Month commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history – then and now.

“Our 2024 honorees exemplify the definition of ‘public service’ because they truly work for the betterment of others,” Legislator Stilley said. “They have empowered women – and men – to have a voice in environmental and social justice and mental health advocacy. They have empowered women and men to understand and believe that they have an equal place in the arena – be it politics, the classroom, the workforce or elsewhere. We know it has not been easy, and we are profoundly grateful for their efforts.”

As determined by the National Women’s History Alliance, the theme for 2024 celebrates “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” In describing this theme, the NWHA says that  “equity, diversity and inclusion are powerful driving forces that are having a wide-ranging impact on our country. As members of families, civic and community groups, businesses and legislative bodies, women are in the forefront of reevaluating the status quo.”

“This year’s local Women’s History Month honorees personify justice, equity, and participation,” Legislator Davidson said. “Whether fighting for clean water, advocating for mental health, addressing food insecurity or mentoring the next generation of legal scholars, these women have impacted public policy, improved our communities and changed lives. Above all, they have raised the bar for all of us in terms of what we are willing, able, and called to do to serve Rockland County and beyond.”

The Rockland County Legislature’s 2024 Women’s History Month Honorees:

Suzanne Barclay has devoted her life to the advancement of environmental and social justice. She has worked to ensure environmental policy, land use planning and affordable housing practices are pursued to benefit all members of our community.

She most recently served as executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, which provides  informal education in horticulture, nutrition, environmental issues, youth development and non-profit management. Suzanne was director of special projects for the Town of Orangetown, managing the planning process for the redevelopment of 348 acres of Town land to promote economic development, ensure waterfront access and include senior, affordable and volunteer housing.

Suzanne also worked as Assistant to then-Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, researching policy, developing position papers and preparing formal comment on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, the proposed Hudson River desalination plant and more. Her ongoing volunteer efforts include work with the Rockland Audubon Society, Beyond Plastic, the Rockland Long Range Water Management Task Force, and the Rockland Municipal Planning Federation. Suzanne holds a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned her bachelor’s from Washington University in St. Louis.

Rena Finkelstein is a dedicated proponent of education and an advocate for families impacted by the challenges of mental health disorders. Rena retired in 2006 as an insurance broker and principal of the Finkelstein-Bedford Agency/Safe Harbour Group. She served many years with the PTA in East Ramapo, and for 12 years as a Trustee of the Finkelstein Memorial Library, where she currently serves as president of the Friends of the Library, an outstanding educational and cultural center with wide-ranging services that meet the needs of the multiethnic population residing in Spring Valley, Chestnut Ridge, and part of Nanuet.

Initially seeking support when her son was diagnosed with a mental illness, Rena became a passionate advocate in the field of mental health, spending 30 years as President and Executive Director of NAMI Rockland (the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Rockland County), and serving on the Board of NAMI-NYS. She currently serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of NAMI Rockland and continues to be pivotal in the Breaking the Silence programs. Rena is currently a member of the Mental Health committee of the Rockland Coalition to End the New Jim Crow.

Marie Lorenzini is a committed member of the Village of Nyack community.

She served as a member of the Nyack Planning and Zoning Boards before her election as Nyack Village Trustee, serving from 2003 to 2023.  As trustee, Marie drove important initiatives, including helping to shepherd Nyack through the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting funding for Nyack Center and Camp Nyack.

Marie has also served on the board of  Leadership Rockland and as President of the Rockland Riverfront Communities Council, Vice President of Rockland Municipal Planning Federation, a member of Nyack NAACP and a stirring committee member of Soup Angels.

Nicole Matthews holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University, where she graduated magna cum laude, and earned her law degree from Pace University, where she was President of the Black Law Students Association.

Nicole believes society cannot progress without lifting up young people to achieve their full potential. Critical to that effort is providing an equal, just society in which they can grow. All of her volunteer work has been an extension of that belief. She has worked at a top-100 law firm, mentored law students of color, and for several years was an advocate and Coordinator for Services to the African-American Community for the Center for Safety and Change.

Nicole joined AT&T’s legal department, where she is an Assistant Vice President – Senior Legal Counsel. Her pro bono and volunteer work on behalf of our county’s youth continues.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Rockland County Legislators Dana G. Stilley and Aney Paul (left) and Toney L. Earl and Beth Davidson (right) presented Distinguished Service Awards to Nicole Matthews, Rena Finkelstein, Marie Lorenzini and Suzanne Barclay in recognition of their many community contributions. 

You must be logged in to post a comment Login