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(Photo by Candace Braun)

LOOKING BACK: Mayor Marvin Reed stands next to the Princeton Bell, one of the oldest landmarks in Borough history, dating back to 1843. Mr. Reed will retire from his mayoral office when his term expires at the end of the year.

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Marvin Reed Reflects on 13 Years as Mayor

Candace Braun

Additional affordable housing, reconstruction of Monument Park and the Suzanne Paterson Senior Center, and renovation of Borough Hall are just a few of the accomplishments the Borough has made over the past 13 years. These are due, at least in part, to Mayor Marvin Reed.

As Mayor Reed, 72, looks back on his tenure as mayor of Princeton Borough, he says that after serving his community to the best of his ability, it is time for him to retire. "I got a lot of things accomplished, and a lot of things are well underway," he said.

Affordable housing was on the forefront of the mayor's agenda, and many housing units have been added since his time in office. "I've spent a lot of time on affordable housing issues, which are very important in a town like this," said Mayor Reed.

These include housing units on Hamilton, John and Clay Streets, Shirley Court, and McLean Street. More recently, private developers have also added housing on Moore Street and Spring Street. Also underway are redevelopment of the Hillier Nursing Home on Quarry Street and 68 units of low-income senior housing in Elm Court.

Nevertheless, there are other issues that he still hopes to tackle before leaving office. The garage on Hulfish North has been left without the promised housing units that were to be built on top, and Mr. Reed said he still hopes to move the project forward.

"That's an eyesore that the John Witherspoon neighborhood faces all the time," he said. The mayor said that there's been an ongoing dispute between the Borough and the state over getting the much-needed housing units funded. "This was to be a significant new rateable for the Borough," he said.

Arriving in Princeton

A resident of Princeton Borough for 45 years, the mayor is no stranger to the concerns and debates that have passed through Borough Hall.

Mr. Reed first moved to Princeton when he was asked to fill the third bedroom in an apartment share on Jefferson Road. He was working for the New Jersey Education Association, where he remained for 31 years, retiring as director of communications.

"I bounced around for a couple years from one shared apartment to another, like many young people have to do," he said. "When I got married, I brought my wife down here, and I've been living here ever since."

A resident of Cameron Court, Mr. Reed has been married to his wife, Ingrid, for almost 44 years. They have a son, David, who lives in Orinda, Calif., with his wife and their son, Owen. Their daughter, Liza O'Reilly, lives with her husband and two daughters, Cecilia and Jacqueline, in Hingham, Mass.

Becoming Mayor

The mayor has been an ongoing member of Borough Council for 18 years. Helping Ms. Sigmund with her campaign was Mr. Reed's first experience with Borough government. "She was a good friend of mine," he said.

After Ms. Sigmund became mayor, she asked Mr. Reed to run for Council as seats began to open. Both Mayor Reed and Mildred Trotman, who is also still on Council today, were elected in 1985. "I didn't have as much to do in those days," said Mr. Reed. "I came to Council meetings and tried to be wise."

According to Mr. Reed, Ms. Sigmund was a model mayor. "Barbara Sigmund was a very strong mayor, and she exerted a lot of leadership in terms of what we did," he said.

Dick Woodbridge was Council president at that time, however, after he moved to the Township, Mr. Reed was chosen to take his place. It was that same year, in 1989, when Ms. Sigmund ran for governor. Because she was often unable to attend Council meetings due to the upcoming election for the primary, Mr. Reed ran Council meetings on a regular basis.

After Ms. Sigmund lost the election, she had a reoccurrence of melanoma cancer, and had to begin treatments. Mr. Reed continued to lead Council meetings in her absence. After Ms. Sigmund's death in October of 1990, Mr. Reed was named as replacement mayor by the Council. He has now served three full terms as mayor of Princeton Borough.

Overseeing Changes

Over the years the mayor has seen many changes in town, including several positive ones for the Borough and its residents. "One of the better changes I've seen is the increasing number of people that participate in public life in this town," he said.

The mayor said that the number of volunteers for organizations and municipal positions has increased, providing a significant base of people support. He said that there are also now a number of organizations in town that support senior programs, youth programs, and recreational programs.

Another positive change, he said, has been the transformation of the Borough Police Department into one that is serious about community policing and keeping a good rapport with residents.

In addition, the expansion of recreational activities, the adding of open space areas, and improvements on neighborhood playgrounds have also taken place.

He also added that the town's commitment to the historic preservation and the maintaining of Princeton's heritage have made him proud to represent Princeton Borough.

However some problematic changes have also occurred in Princeton and the surrounding area, said Mr. Reed. In particular, he says he has seen a shift in retail business to Route One shopping centers.

"It has changed the nature of convenient shopping that we used to enjoy in the center of town," he said.

He also added that the state's refusal to come to grips with the traffic problems in and around Princeton has led to more and more traffic and motor pollution in the area.

Further down the road, the mayor said he is hoping the town will have a better developed public transportation system, which will decrease the amount of traffic circulating through town and enable more people to walk and ride their bikes to where they need to go.

"If we can master that, we will probably have made Princeton an even more attractive place to live," said Mr. Reed. "I have full faith that our real estate market will remain very, very strong, and Princeton will continue to be the preeminent center of central New Jersey, where people not only come to live, but also come for their shopping and entertainment."

For now, the mayor said that he hopes the Council will continue to focus on keeping Princeton a quality community within a reasonable tax cost. He said he also hopes they continue to pressure the state for more financial help so that Princeton is not a "cash-strapped Borough," and work on obtaining money from the many tax-exempt higher education institutions in the community.
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