By Philip Sean Curran
Princeton Council President Jenny Crumiller, a political activist who went from getting candidates elected to later becoming a candidate herself, has announced she will not seek re-election in 2019.
During a Dec. 20 interview, Crumiller said it was a hard decision for her to make. She said she would miss the work of being a councilwoman.
“I like doing what I’m doing and I’m looking forward to the next year,” said Crumiller, a Democrat.
Crumiller, a native of Delaware, moved to Princeton in 1991 with her family. Her involvement in local politics included leading the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, the party club, starting in 2006, and working on many political races, including then U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
She won a seat on the Borough Council in the former Princeton Borough in 2009 and then, in 2012, was elected to serve on the new council when Princeton Borough and Princeton Township consolidated. She has been re-elected twice since then.
“I’ve been doing it a long time,” Crumiller said. “I think new people are good for the government.”
She will be the last member of the original six-member council that was seated in January 2013 to lead the consolidated Princeton. The others have all retired, a path she intends to take.
In terms of her next steps, Crumiller said one of them would not include running for higher office.
Her colleagues, past and present, offered tributes to her and what she has meant to the town. They have talked of her as a hard worker who spoke her mind.
“I’m sad she’ll be leaving the council,” Mayor Liz Lempert said. “We’ve worked closely together, especially in her role as council president. She has been a great colleague and a forceful voice on council.”
Councilman Tim Quinn said he wished Crumiller would stay on the council, “because I love working with her.”
He and Crumiller were running mates in their successful 2016 bid for council, having emerged earlier that year from a crowded field in a Democratic primary.
“I’ve run against Jenny and I’ve run with her,” Quinn said. “I like running with her a lot better than running against her.”
Councilman David Cohen credited Crumiller for his involvement in local politics. He pointed to “her ability to recruit and encourage other people to get involved as well.”
“I am definitely going to miss having Jenny on council,” he said. “She’s very experienced and expert at getting things done.”
During her time in office, Crumiller fought against relocating the NJ Transit shuttle train, the Dinky, farther from the center of town. The stance put her at odds with Princeton University, which sought the move to accommodate its arts and transit project along parts of University Place and Alexander Street.
As a borough councilwoman, she voted against the zoning change Nassau Hall wanted to redevelop that section of town.
“As a resident and as a former colleague, I’m really sorry to hear it,” said Jo S. Butler, a former councilwoman, about Crumiller’s decision not to run again. “But as someone who’s done the job, I think I also understand her decision.”
Butler and Crumiller became political allies, with Crumiller supporting Butler in her 2014 re-election bid during a close Democratic primary.
Butler said Crumiller “had a big influence on the town politics over the years,” something Crumiller’s critics would describe as the “Crumiller machine.”
“Jenny inspired me to run for office and I am comforted to know I at least have one more year to learn from her,” Councilwoman Leticia Fraga wrote on her Twitter account.
“I think the town is losing a sincere, caring leader,” said Councilman Lance Liverman, who is winding down his last few days on the council before he retires. “Jenny puts 100 percent into her job. It will be the town’s loss, but I respect her decision.”
Incoming Councilwoman Eve Niedergang recalled Crumiller’s efforts to reform the Princeton Community Democratic Organization to become a place where “decisions were made in public and in a fair way and not in the so-called smoke-filled rooms.”
“I’ve always had an incredibly high opinion of her,” Niedergang said.
“Jenny has been a tremendous asset to Princeton,” said incoming Councilman Dwaine Williamson. “She’s been a very strong voice on council for years.”
As for who might run to succeed Crumiller, Michelle Pirone Lambros, a Democrat who ran for council in 2018, but lost in the primary, said she intends to run again in 2019. She called running for office “a great learning experience.”
“This is my community, this is my hometown and I want to serve in public office,” she said.
Mia Sacks, a Democrat, said she has formed an exploratory committee to see if she will run for council. She sits on the Planning Board and is involved in local politics.