Woodbridge Seeks to Bridge Gaps Between Members of Local Parties
“Change is the only constant,” said Richard Woodbridge, the Republican candidate for mayor of the consolidated municipality of Princeton as he pulled out his 1957 Valley Road School yearbook. Of the many businesses represented by ads in the back of the book, he points out, only four remain.
“You don’t get maudlin,” said the 68-year-old candidate, who has the distinction of having served as Township mayor in 1991-92, as well as president of Borough Council in 1984-85. “You need to take advantage of change; know the trends, work with it, get ahead of it.”
A recent New York Times article described the Democratic stronghold in this state as a “continuum” that runs from Jersey City … to the university town of Princeton.” Local elections have only confirmed this, with a recent unbroken run of Democratic mayors and governing bodies in both the Borough and the Township.
“I think I can do it again,” he calmly responds to a question about why he’s running. The Princeton native cites his experience with both municipal governments and with a variety of departments, including the Borough police, the Transition Task Force and its Public Safety Committee, and 20-year commitment as volunteer in the fire department. He describes building his legal practice, which specializes in patent law (he also has an engineering degree), “from the ground up.” At this unique time in its history, said Mr. Woodbridge, “proven leadership” is required.
“There are cultural issues in implementing the process,” he commented. It’s a “full time job if you’re going to do it right.” If elected mayor, Mr. Woodbridge would “phase out” his professional work.
At the top of Mayor Woodbridge’s to-do list would be regular meetings with department heads and leaders of local institutions. He cited the cumulative wisdom that then-Township Mayor Michelle Tuck Ponder tapped into when she convened once-a-month meetings with former mayors, and he expressed admiration for the “professionalism” apparent in both police departments’ recent efforts to “pull together.”
The “bickering” that Mr. Woodbridge sees in recent Borough/Township interactions was “not characteristic when I served.” He recalled how, about ten years ago, voters’ rejection of a school budget provided an opportunity to test officials’ diplomatic mettle. When it became apparent that the school board’s style of budget preparation was considerably different than that of the municipalities, a financial person was brought in “to convert it into language we could understand,” and the outcome was successful. A tagline on Mr. Woodbridge’s website (www.woodbridge4mayor.com) reads “One Princeton. One Spirit.”
With only one Republican candidate, Geoffrey Aton, running for the new Council, it is a given that, if he is elected, Mr. Woodbridge will be working with a Democratic majority. “I’ve done it before,” he said matter-of-factly, noting that his training as an engineer prepared him to be task-oriented. “You like to get things done — build bridges, solve problems — and move on.”
Although public perceptions of relationships among elected officials may suggest one thing, Mr. Woodbridge refers to long-standing friendships, respect, and an interest in “improving the region” among “local players” that cross party lines. “It’s almost a re-election campaign,” he observed, expressing his pleasure in the amount of “grass roots” support he’s been receiving. “Inclusion is important in this town,” he added.