February 28, 2018

Liverman, “Son of the Community,” Will Be Honored on Thursday March 15

Lance Liverman

By Anne Levin

On Thursday, March 15, the Joint Effort Safe Streets Program of Princeton is scheduled to salute long-standing public servant Lance Liverman. A fixture of Princeton’s governing body for the past 15 years, Liverman will be honored with music, dance, presentations, and remarks from family, friends, and a long list of local officials.

All of this is a bit overwhelming to Liverman, who recently announced that he won’t make another run for a seat on Princeton Council. He still has another 10 months before stepping down.

“John Bailey made me do this,” he joked last week, referring to the program’s director, who holds an annual week of community-focused activities each summer but is sponsoring an additional weekend this spring. “He said, ‘We’re doing this not just for you, but for everyone.’ So I said OK.”

Liverman’s upbeat personality and devotion to his home town have made him a popular public servant. In addition to serving on the governing body, he is chairman of the board of trustees at First Baptist Church of Princeton and serves as Princeton Council’s liaison to the Public Safety Committee. He is a board member of Corner House, Princeton Affordable Housing, Mercer Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, Princeton Housing Authority, and the Princeton Human Services Commission.

“Lance is a Princeton hero,” said Councilwoman Heather Howard, who is also stepping down in January. “He serves the community in so many ways, not just on the Princeton Council, but through his church, his work with youth, and his constant presence around town — it seems he knows everyone!”

“I’ve known him forever,” said Alvin McGowen, who recently announced his own run for Council. “It’s rare how much knowledge he has, and also what he gets involved in. I don’t know that there are a lot of public servants who have taken on the responsibilities he has, and with the seriousness he’s gone about it.”

Former Councilman Bernie Miller served with Liverman for 14 of his 15 years on the governing body. “His knowledge of our town, its history, and its residents is unmatched,” he said. “Often this knowledge helped his colleagues find a solution to the problems we faced. Lance could always be counted on to keep us all focused on the facts of the issue. His goal was always to find a solution that could work for the greater good for all of our residents. The youth of our community are a special interest of Lance’s and he worked unceasingly on their behalf. I particularly appreciated his wry, warm sense of humor. He is a true gentleman.”

Born in Princeton Hospital in 1962, Liverman spent most of his childhood in the house he now shares with his wife, LaTonya, and daughters Kelsey, Ashlyn, and Savannah. His father, the first African American electrical lighting technician at McCarter Theatre, died when Liverman was only 3. The family relocated to Trenton for a few years, but moved back to Princeton after Liverman’s mother remarried.

He was educated in Princeton public schools. “I remember being bussed to Littlebrook Elementary instead of walking across the street to Community Park,” he said. “They were trying to bring the minorities over to the school.”

After two years at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Liverman transferred to the College of New Jersey (then Trenton State College) to be closer to home, where he could help care for his ailing stepfather. Liverman’s first job was in his stepfather’s business, doing private hauling. “I met some pretty influential people doing that,” he said. “One of them was on the board of directors of Macy’s, and he sent me up to New York where I was in their sales specialist/assistant buyer program before I transferred to Macy’s at Quaker Bridge. I stayed there a few years, and then Glenn Paul of Clancy Paul Computers hired me to be inventory manager. I got to do some remarkable things there.”

Liverman eventually realized that self-employment was the route for him. Since 1988, he has worked for himself — first as a special courier, delivering letters and packages between Boston and Washington, D.C. “We had three vans and three employees. I did OK, but then 9/11 came and put me out of business because all of my business had been in Lower Manhattan.”

Liverman had wisely been investing in real estate, with properties in Princeton, Lawrenceville, East Windsor, and Trenton. Today, he manages his holdings full-time.

Since announcing his plan to retire from Council, he has been approached repeatedly by members of the public. “There hasn’t been a day when I have gone into McCaffrey’s or Small World and someone hasn’t come up to me and said, “‘We are going to miss you,’ which is nice but makes me feel bad,” he said. “But I will still be around. If someone needs me to help out, I’ll be more than willing. I hear people, I listen to people, and I’ll still do that.”

A big proponent of affordable housing, Liverman has watched Princeton change and become prohibitive to those without substantial bank accounts. “It is totally different from the town where I grew up,” he said. “It’s more of a city than a town. It’s very busy and there are a lot more people. There’s a lot of excitement. But we really need more affordable housing, and we need to keep it diverse.”

Liverman faced what was perhaps his biggest hurdle in 2014, when he developed an aggressive form of throat cancer. His odds were not good. But after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, the cancer was gone. “When you get a diagnosis like that, your whole life passes before your eyes,” he said. “But I made it through. So every day is a birthday for me. I thank God I’m here.”

The festivities on March 15 will begin with a community reception at 5 p.m., at First Baptist Church. Leighton Newlin, who chairs the Witherspoon/Jackson Neighborhood Association and is a lifelong friend of Liverman’s, will be among those on hand to pay tribute. “He is a ‘son of the community’ and his style is that of a ‘servant leader,’” he said in a press release about the event. “In this day and time, we could all learn a lot from Lance and I look forward to celebrating him at this well-deserved community recognition of his service to Princeton.”