PRINCETON – More than 100 of Mayor Liz Lempert’s closest friends gathered virtually to wish her well after the last Princeton Council meeting of 2020 was held on Dec. 30, recapping her contributions as she prepared to leave office at midnight Dec. 31.
Lempert chose not to seek re-election this year and completed her second four-year term as the first mayor of the Municipality of Princeton. The town was formed in 2013 when the former Princeton Borough and the former Princeton Township merged.
Lempert, a California native, served one term on the former Princeton Township Committee before seeking election to become the new town’s first mayor.
Lempert moved to Princeton with her husband, Ken Norman, when he accepted a professorship at Princeton University.
Lempert’s personal integrity, compassion and caring were the common threads woven throughout the comments offered by many attendees, who included political figures and former colleagues on the Princeton Council and the former Princeton Township Committee.
Members of several municipal advisory boards and commissions – the Princeton Human Services Commission, the Princeton Civil Rights Commission and the Princeton Environmental Commission – also thanked Lempert for her public service.
Gov. Phil Murphy wrote a note to Lempert, which was read aloud by forum moderator Heather Howard, a former Princeton Borough Council member who served on the Princeton Council post-merger. In his note, Murphy praised Lempert for her legacy of sustainability and progressive politics.
U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) told Lempert it will be “strange” not to see her at the helm, but said she is confident Lempert will find a way to stay involved.
“I am grateful and blessed to call you my friend,” Watson Coleman told Lempert.
East Windsor Mayor Janice S. Mironov, who is the Mercer County Democratic chair, praised Lempert, a Democrat, for her integrity, which is one of her “foremost qualities.” Mironov described Lempert as an “honest and decent person” who has “a strong moral compass.”
Lance Liverman, who served on the former Princeton Township Committee and the Princeton Council, and Princeton Civil Rights Commission Chairman Tommy Parker said Lempert is a role model for women and an example of what a strong woman can accomplish in the United States.
Carol Golden, who served on the commission that studied the consolidation of the two towns, said she was able to see Lempert’s “amazing” leadership qualities as the mayor guided the town through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She stepped up to help (and addressed the issues) head-on. Her integrity and kindness, that’s all true, and she’s really smart, too,” Golden said.
Several attendees remarked on Lempert’s ability to listen, analyze and synthesize information and comments, and then get right to the heart of the matter – even when she was being criticized.
Wendy Mager said she was impressed by Lempert’s ability to absorb the “slings and arrows” as mayor.
“You just coolly pulled out the salient points of what people said and you responded,” said Mager, who is the president of the Friends of Princeton Open Space.
Under Lempert’s leadership, the town forged a closer relationship with Princeton University, said Kristin Appleget, the university’s director of Community and Regional Affairs. Representatives of the two entities met on a quarterly basis to discuss issues.
Appleget said she was certain that through Lempert’s interactions with the university and its students, many of those students were inspired to enter public service.
After two hours of accolades, Lempert responded by saying, “this is really overwhelming. I feel like it’s a love fest in both directions. It’s pretty mind-blowing to see everyone’s face” on the Zoom call.
Lempert credited her mother, who is a former mayor of San Mateo, Calif., where she grew up, with setting the example of public service and how meaningful it can be.
“I feel like this is a celebration of all of our work. It takes a group of people to work (on problems) and to get change to happen. We are all so lucky to live in a place like Princeton,” Lempert said.