By Elyse Luecke
St. Louis, MO
Walking into Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert’s office is like walking into a living room: homemade cards, family photos, and various resource books sit on the shelves behind her semi-circle desk, alongside a prominently featured greeting card from the Obama family. A small, light green cactus in a flower pot decorates her work space. The olive green walls are bare.
She’d like to decorate the walls someday, if she ever has time, Lempert said. Using images of historical and modern-day Princeton, as well as portraits of Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson, are just a few of her visions.
As mayor, Lempert is working hard to make sure the city is inclusive and welcoming to newcomers as well as its residents.
Politics is in Lempert’s blood. As a child, her mother was on the school board and ran for city council, and her brother, Ted Lempert, won election to the California State Assembly in 1988 and served until 2000. Growing up, she saw what a politician should look like.
At a young age, Lempert said she was a “shy person” who enjoyed journalism. She eventually pursued a career at The New York Times and Public Radio International for a series called “Living on Earth.” In one segment, Lempert observed the habits of young American voters. She compared young people’s influence as opposed to that of senior citizens and other voting populations. The goal was to conclude how much environmental issues impact young people’s voting decisions.
Discussing how her journalistic background was transferrable to her career as a mayor, Lempert said that the job is “very precarious, confrontational.”
She said she feels strongly that Princeton should be welcoming to immigrants. Resources such as the town’s affordable housing program, which consists of public, rental, and traditional housing, are available to residents in need. She mentioned the work of the Human Services Department at the state and federal level, which offers programs, resources, and services to people new to the area.
Lempert stressed that immigration is a significant issue. She said that making sure people feel welcomed is a process, one she considers a “building bond of trust.”
Lempert, who has a sleek, black FitBit comfortably wrapped around her wrist, has also taken part in many local activities in the community. She said she is involved in events like yoga at a local art museum and a naturalization ceremony held at the university in April to show that she cares about the community.
In reference to the future of Princeton, Lempert encouraged residents to be civil and hear criticism from each other, which will hopefully decrease the stress level of the city.
“In this community, we want to do right by everybody,” Lempert declared.