Dashield honored on retirement as Princeton administrator

LEA KAHN/STAFF

If Princeton Municipal Administrator Marc Dashield thought he could retire very quietly, he was sadly mistaken when current and former Princeton Council members and municipal staff gathered online to send him off into the next chapter of his life.

Dashield, whose retirement took effect April 1, was praised for his good nature and calm presence by well-wishers that also included community members at the March 30 Zoom meeting.

Former Mayor Liz Lempert was the first of many to compliment and thank Dashield for his nearly six years of service in Princeton’s top administrative job. He was the second administrator of the newly created town that was formed in 2013 after the merger of the former Princeton Borough and former Princeton Township.

“It’s pretty nice to be on the other side,” Lempert said as she gently teased Dashield.

Lempert was the first mayor of the new town, having served from 2013 to 2020. Dashield was hired during her tenure as mayor, coming to Princeton after serving as the township manager and chief operating officer in Montclair.

Lempert thanked Dashield for guiding the town through many challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

She pointed to his unflappable nature and how important it is to stay calm under pressure.

The former mayor also described Dashield as “caring” and “upbeat.”

“You pulled me out of quite a few emotional ditches. Your legacy is fostering inclusion. The town is going to miss you,” Lempert said.

Mayor Mark Freda, like Lempert, thanked Dashield for being a sounding board. The three months that he and Dashield worked together – Freda was sworn in as mayor in January – “did fly by,” he said.

Former Princeton Councilman Lance Liverman reeled off a list of Dashield’s accomplishments – from helping the town retain its top credit rating to negotiating contracts that were a “win-win” for employees and taxpayers.

Dashield recognized that the number one asset of municipal government is its employees, and he made certain that the “over-achievers” were honored, Liverman said.

Several attendees pointed out that Dashield, who is Black, was a role model for Princeton’s Black community. It is important for young Black children to see someone who looks like them in such a position of authority, said former Princeton Councilman Tim Quinn.

“The Black community is proud of you and your dedication,” said Leighton Newlin. He is the chairman of the Princeton Housing Authority’s board of commissioners.

“To me, you are one of our own. Your intellect and your professionalism is first class, first rate. You taught me a lot. I took a lot of mental notes,” Newlin said.

John Bailey of Joint Effort Safe Streets, which celebrates the historically Black Witherspoon-Jackson community every summer, said that when Dashield was hired for the administrator’s position, he thought it would be hard to replace Bob Bruschi.

“You stepped in, and it has been a blessing. We needed something different. The Black community – I wouldn’t say it was disrespected, but disregarded. For you to come in and be accepted, thank you for what you are,” Bailey said.

Municipal Clerk Delores Williams and Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser said they enjoyed working with Dashield.

Grosser said the administrator, who he described as a “family man,” taught him about the need to balance one’s professional life and personal life.

On a lighter note, Williams said she will missing decorating Dashield’s office with balloons and confetti on his birthday. She said he made the Municipal Clerk’s Office “exceptionally pleasant,” adding that she will miss working with him.

Kristin Appelget, Princeton University’s director of Community and Regional Affairs, said Dashield exhibited “quiet, strong leadership” that kept the community moving forward. He fostered a strong working relationship with Princeton University.

When it was their turn to comment, the current Princeton Council members were unanimous in their praise for Dashield.

They noted his unfailing respect and patience, and his ability to keep the council members on track during closed-door discussions that sometimes turned heated. He never blamed anyone else if something went wrong, they said.

Bruschi, who was Dashhield’s predecessor, said that “until you sit behind that desk, you can’t comprehend” what it takes to serve in the top job. Dashield has done a remarkable job in keeping things going, he said.

In response to the accolades, Dashield said he wanted to thank everyone “for giving me the opportunity to serve this wonderful community.”

“It’s just been a wonderful time. I think the world of the staff and the administration for helping me to juggle all the balls” to become a successful administrator, Dashield said.