Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 4
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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Retiring Recreation Director Roberts Lauded for His Long, Fruitful Tenure

Ellen Gilbert

At Monday’s Township Committee meeting, Mayor Chad Goerner read a proclamation honoring Jack Roberts who recently retired as executive director of the Princeton Recreation Department.

Joint Recreation Department Board member Tom Zucosky was one of the several speakers who paid tribute to Mr. Roberts’s long and fruitful tenure. “All of us combined are trying to fill the shoes of one person,” he observed. “It’s not easy. The quality of life that we experience in Princeton is because of Parks and Recreation, and all of that is a reflection of the vision that Jack Roberts had for this community.” He noted that Mr. Roberts was regarded by many of his peers as “the best recreation director in the country.”

“I’m so happy you’re my friend,” said Board member Mike Finkelstein as he described Mr. Roberts’s influence as a personal mentor to him. The Recreation Department, Mr. Finkelstein added, is “a group of people devoted to community service.” 

“I might stick around just enough to be an annoyance,” joked Mr. Roberts, presumably referring to the unfinished business of finalizing design plans and financing for an updated community pool park.

Later in the meeting, the permanent appointments of Patrol Officers Michael Strobel and Stephen Lattin were unanimously approved by the Committee, as were the appointments of architect Heidi Fichtenbaum to the Environmental Commission, and Recreation Department Board member Joanne Rogers to the Recreation Management Committee.

Princeton Merchant Association President Travis Linderman preempted Mayor Chad Goerner in thanking the Public Works Department for its “excellent” response to the several snow emergencies that have already occurred this season. “Nothing stopped,” he commented. “I could make it to the gym early in the morning.”

Mr. Goerner thanked the department for its help during recent storms, and reminded everyone of Township Committee’s upcoming Monday, January 31 joint meeting with Borough Council to discuss the University’s proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood. He noted that the University will be making a presentation at the meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the main meeting room at Township Hall.

“We’ve accomplished a lot,” said Human Services Commission member Stacey Mann as she introduced a power point presentation describing the department’s recent accomplishments. This “work session” at the end of Township Committee’s regular meeting included Human Services Commission Director Cynthia Mendez.

Ms. Mann noted that the Commission’s accomplishments included beefing up “ongoing initiatives” as well as starting “a whole bunch of new ones.” She described the fact that new programs “happened without additional costs” as “amazing.”

Among the highlights of the Commission’s recent efforts is the recruitment of two Spanish-speaking volunteers to be present on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in order to provide the Latino community with information on welfare, food stamps, and referrals. Three student volunteers from area colleges have also been helpful in bringing the new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program to 40 individuals and families in 2010. The use of primarily Spanish-speaking volunteers, Ms. Mann said, represented a savings of approximately $10,800, the salary of a paid staffer who left and was not replaced.

Another Human Services Commission accomplishment was a new back-to-school drive initiated by Ms. Mendez. Noting that the back-to-school season can be “a source of anxiety” for low income families who cannot afford school supplies, Ms. Mann described the program as “a great success.”

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