Princeton Mayor Discusses Keeping the Peace

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Before becoming Princeton’s mayor, Liz Lempert was an environmental journalist at National Public Radio. (Princeton Summer Journal File Photo)

By Sergio Reyes Aguilar

Arleta, Calif.

Princeton is a small New Jersey town that is well-known as the home of the prestigious Ivy League university of the same name. It is very peaceful and has very friendly residents—there are always people smiling everywhere, trees all over the place, shops on every corner.

But there was a time when public outrage broke out and the constant peace was shattered. In January, a white supremacist group threatened to hold a rally in Palmer Square. Ultimately, the white supremacists never showed up, and the rally didn’t happen. Even still, it caused concern within the small community.

For the mayor of Princeton, Liz Lempert, it was her toughest moment to date.

“I was very worried the morning of the rally,” Lempert said in a recent interview. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, or if it was in fact going to happen, so I just closed the central part of the town to make sure that everyone remained as safe as possible.”

She said it was important to make Princeton a very diverse and safe space for everyone. “Princeton is such a great community with smart, helpful people and although the town is small, it never gets boring,” she said.

Born in San Mateo, California, Lempert has a degree in history and symbolic systems from Stanford University, as well as a very political background: Her mother and brothers were deeply involved in politics. Despite that, she said she never planned to get into politics herself. Before taking office, she worked as an environmental journalist at National Public Radio, and was recruited to run in 2012.

Princeton is a relatively small town, but it carries so much prestige because of the University and its distinguished reputation. There are tourists, students and local residents who try to peacefully coexist with one another, which has worked so far.

“Princeton is and will always be a work in progress,” said Lempert, whose term expires in 2021. “It’s impossible to get a perfect community in which everyone is happy, but I’m doing my best efforts to get everyone satisfied and to support the local people.”

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