Michelle Pirone Lambros, a Democrat running for Princeton Council, is looking to lead a community she once called home and recently returned to.
As one of six candidates in the upcoming Democratic primary, she has entered the race for the two council seats up this year.
“I’m back and I want to do public service,” said Pirone Lambros, who has never held elected office before. “And I see that Princeton’s really at a critical juncture.”
She said she believes the town is losing its middle class and socio-economic diversity. “When we lose diversity,” she said, “we lose the flavor of our community.”
Her campaign platform calls for freezing property assessments of homes valued at less than $1 million or “hold them to small percentage per year,” as opposed to a 5 percent and 10 percent increase every year. She said she sees that as a way to keep long-time Princeton residents remaining in town.
On land use regulations, she supports “more zoning” to allow for more density — so that young families can afford to move to Princeton and allow older residents to downsize and stay in the community.
As for her views on law enforcement, she said she favors police wearing body cameras, a way to “give accountability” and to protect police officers and the public. If elected, she said she would support putting money in the municipal budget to phase cameras in.
She supports having a dog park for pet owners, wants to see more bike lanes and said Princeton needs another hotel in town.
She said she has reached out to the business community to hear its concerns. She said they tell her they would like the town to expand the FreeB, the municipal bus service, to have more shuttles.
“We’re doing well with restaurants, but retail is hurting,” she said. “Rents are high because taxes are high.”
She applauded the creation of an economic development committee that Mayor Liz Lempert has created, and said she believes there is too much red tape for businesses to get through.
“We can make it easier for change of use,” she said, and the town could have “less requirements for parking when something opens up.”
“We need to look at that,” she said. “And I think we need to think out of the box.”
As for relations with Nassau Hall, she said the “university is a part of us, and we need to be working together, strategically, with the university.”
She supports the two sides working to solve problems, like helping the business community.
“It serves them, as well, to make sure that we have a downtown that’s vibrant, that’s not just restaurants, that’s a mix,” she said.
In a community that has suffered widespread power outages during bad storms, she believes it would be “great” if power lines were below ground but called such a process “a huge undertaking.”
Pirone Lambros, 56, earned her bachelor’s in political science from Seton Hill University, in Pennsylvania, and a master’s in international affairs from George Washington University. Professionally, she has worked in small business as a retailer, event manager and a sales and marketing executive — a self-described “doer,” in her words.
Married, she and her husband, George, have three children. Originally from Princeton, she moved away as a child and returned to town last year in June.
She traces her family roots to the community back more than 100 years.
“My family sacrificed a lot to bring their families over,” said Pirone Lambros, a second generation Italian-American.
She said she supports continuing the policy of limited cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigrations authorities. She said she would be comfortable alerting the illegal immigrant community ahead of time if she became aware of an impending immigration raid, like the mayor of Oakland, California, recently did.
“I’m a product of chain migration,” she said, “and I’m all about keeping our immigrants here safe.”
Pirone Lambros finds herself running in a crowded field of Democrats seeking to capture their party’s nomination. Given that the primary acts as the defacto general election in Princeton, the two winners of the June 5 contest are all but assured of winning in November.
Incumbent council members Lance Liverman and Heather H. Howard announced this year that they would not seek another term.