‘Let’s move forward together’: Full text of new Princeton Mayor Mark Freda’s speech at municipal reorganization meeting
Princeton Mayor Mark Freda. Photo by Rich Hundley III.
, Planet Princeton
Princeton’s new mayor, Mark Freda, was officially sworn in during a virtual Zoom meeting on Monday night by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and begins his first year of a four-year term in office. Fellow Democrats Leticia Fraga and David Cohen were sworn in and will serve their second three-year terms on the council. Fraga was named president of the council for 2021.
Freda gave a speech calling on people to listen and work together to meet the challenges and opportunities the community faces during the pandemic and beyond.
Freda’s full speech
Welcome everyone joining us over Zoom for a very unusual reorganization and swearing-in meeting. Not being able to see you all here in the same room to shake your hands and talk to you face to face is a disappointment and a little unsatisfying.
But, on the other hand, it is truly satisfying to be given the privilege to serve as your mayor for the next four years.
Thank you to Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman for finding the time in the middle of all that is going on in our nation’s capital to join us today. And thank you to Bonnie’s staff for their time and effort to make this happen. It is an honor to have the congresswoman swear me in. I proudly support her for all she has done, and continues to do, for Princeton and the 12th Congressional District. During my earlier tenure on the then-Princeton Borough Council, I was able to support both her father, John Watson, and later, Bonnie, in the New Jersey State Assembly. Bonnie has a long record of being a true public servant, a true leader, and an inspiration to so many.
Thank you to my wife Beth, my children Rebecca and Alex, and so many relatives and friends for their support of my effort to get here today. Thank you to my campaign committee for all their hard work and advice; a great team that helped to get me here. Thank you to so many of you who supported my campaign. And thank you to Mayor Lempert and all the council members for their time going over many, many topics to help prepare me to be our next mayor.
Where do we go from here? What is next? There are many issues for us ahead including COVID-19 and all of its impacts on our community. These impacts will most likely persist for years. During those years, new challenges and new issues will arise, and they will require resilience, agility, and effort from all of us to address them.
My thoughts on our future. We will build on the lessons learned this past year: The need to communicate often and in clear detail, the need to share information at the elected official level, at the town staff level, and, of course, with all our residents. We will look to improve our speed and efficiency in digesting information and getting to the point of making decisions as quickly as we reasonably can. We will continue to expand our skills in big-picture thinking and long-term planning. We will continue to improve our listening skills. We will stand firm that all of us treat each other with respect and decency, that being fair to all is a never-ending effort. This past year has amplified the need for a consistent and ongoing effort to support everyone in our community to the best of our abilities, to create partnerships, and to question the way things are done as we look to improve services and how they are delivered.
We need to address how to maintain and create opportunities for people at all economic levels to stay in our town. We need to continue to address the realities of a world that is not fair and just to all. We need to foster the growth of businesses in our community, to create job opportunities, to help grow our tax base, to continue to grow Princeton’s attractiveness as a destination in New Jersey. We need to look at providing the best services we can within a reasonable municipal budget. We need to work with our public school system and Mercer County on shared services and on leveraging each other’s abilities since those two entities account for 79% of everyone’s property tax bill.
How do we accomplish all that is before us? We work together. We listen to each other. We understand that we will have difficult or awkward discussions at times, that we will not always agree with each other, but that is okay. We allow each other to freely share ideas, and we allow all of us to participate in public discussions to move us forward. We all need to appreciate that the free exchange of thoughts and ideas at public meetings is the lifeblood of a true democracy.
While mentioning what can be accomplished in this community, let’s look back at 2020 for a minute. Think about all the individuals, the nonprofits, the town staff, elected officials, the university, our public school system, businesses, and first responders who came together to address challenges in our community. Working together to help provide food, rental assistance, holidays gifts for residents in need. Working together to find ways to support local businesses. Think of all the local workers, town staff, and first responders who worked throughout 2020 to support the rest of us.
Though we will continue, as long as needed, to socially distance, we must also continue to work together – in whatever form that takes. We have so many resources in this town. We have so many opportunities in this town. We have the ability to move forward on so many fronts. I am eager to work with all of you to move forward together.
The reorganization meeting for the Princeton Council was held via Zoom. Pictured clockwise from the top left: Councilman Dwaine Williamson, Councilwoman Eve Niedergang, Mayor Mark Freda, Councilwoman Leticia Fraga, Clerk Delores Williams, Councilman David Cohen, Councilwoman Mia Sacks, Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros.