New planning director brings ‘passion and vast experience’ to key issues in Princeton


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The Municipality of Princeton has named Justin Lesko as its planning director.

Lesko, who had been serving as planning director on an acting basis since May 2021, has been instrumental in directing the creation of Princeton’s updated Master Plan, as well as several other long-term planning projects, according to a press release through Princeton.

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He has been serving as Princeton’s Senior Planner since summer 2020. As the first person to hold that position, he worked on long-range planning including the new municipal master plan and GIS mapping, and day-to-day operations of the department including Planning Board assistance, Site Plan Review Advisory Board coordination, and interdepartmental work on projects such as the Witherspoon Street re-design.

“I am extremely honored to have been selected for this position,” said Lesko, who holds AICP Certification from the American Planning Association and is a licensed Professional Planner (PP) in New Jersey. “I’ve called Central Jersey home for most of my life and look forward to continuing on in Princeton. I very much look forward to working with Mayor [Mark] Freda, Council, and the Planning Board during this exciting time in Princeton.”

Freda said, “Justin’s passion for public service and commitment to Princeton were evident from the beginning, as was his vast experience in dealing with the key issues that Princeton faces now, and in the months and years ahead.”

“We are excited to continue our work together,” he said.

Lesko previously worked for the City of Tuscaloosa, Ala., first as planner then zoning administrator. He oversaw the Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Board and worked on Framework Tuscaloosa, the city’s first master plan, which was recognized by the Alabama Chapter of the American Planning Association with its Outstanding Planning Award for a Comprehensive Plan in October 2021.

“On behalf of the Princeton Planning Board, we are delighted to officially welcome Justin to his new role as Planning Director,” Board Chair Louise Currey Wilson said. “In all his work for the community and the board, he has demonstrated exceptional competence as a planner and manager, and an impressive understanding of the urgent, complex planning issues that Princeton must address now and well into the future. He’s earned the respect of his colleagues and all of us on the board. Princeton is lucky to have him.”

Lesko received a Master’s of City and Regional Planning Degree from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, with a concentration in community development and housing and a joint certificate from Bloustein and the Rutgers Business School in real estate development and redevelopment. In between his undergraduate and graduate school education, Lesko served two terms with AmeriCorps, first as a tutor, mentor and afterschool program coordinator at a school in North Philadelphia with City Year, then as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader with NJ Campus Compact out of the Bonner Foundation on Mercer Street.

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