Princeton Councilwoman Jo Butler will not seek re-election


Incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Jo Butler will not seek re-election to the Princeton governing body, she told Planet Princeton Sunday.

Butler, the most independent voice on the council and an advocate for transparent and open government, first was elected to the Princeton Borough Council in November of 2010 and will complete her second term on the governing body for the consolidated Princeton at the end of 2017.

An education consultant, Butler said she often spends up to 30 hours a week at meetings talking to constituents, and reviewing town policies.

“Doing the job right is very time consuming and has been more so with consolidation, reviewing and consolidating policies and ordinances,” she said. “I will have served seven years when I’m done. That’s more than a tenth of my lifetime.”

Last month, the council adopted a new meeting schedule that includes some morning council meetings on weekdays. The Princeton governing body is the only governing body at the local or county level to have daytime meetings.

“Lots of members of the public won’t be able to make the meetings,” Butler said. “The council won’t be able to attract people to the position who have jobs.”

The last time Butler ran for council she faced a tough battle to retain her seat. A faction of the governing body led by Mayor Liz Lempert opposed her re-election and aggressively backed Sue Nemeth, a former Princeton Township committeewoman, instead. In spite of Nemeth receiving more votes at the Princeton Community Democratic Organization’s endorsement meeting, Butler won by a handful of votes.

“It’s a challenge trying to be an independent voice on council,” Butler said of her time on the governing body. Incumbent Councilman Bernie Miller will also not seek re-election.

“I expect some of the experienced members on the council will step up and help out until new people get their bearings,” Butler said, adding that the council needs members who have professional backgrounds that could be assets to the governing body in areas such as finance.

“It has been an honor to serve. I still have some things on my plate I hope we can get to by the end of the year. I’m looking forward to a very productive year,” Butler said. “We have some great staff members and volunteers on board working for the municipality. I will miss working with them.”

So far Leticia Fraga has announced she will run again after losing last year, and longtime Princeton Community Democratic Organization member David Cohen, a member of the Princeton Planning Board who was appointed by Lempert, has also told PCDO leaders that he will run for a three-year term on the governing body.

The deadline to file a petition with the county to run for the council in the Republican or Democratic primary is April 3. Independent candidates have until June 6 to file.


  1. What a pity — Jo Butler and Patrick Simon were the two best members of the consolidated Princeton Council. They and only they consistently did their homework, asked the hard questions, and looked to their own independent analysis before deciding how to vote. Too bad that the best and the brightest have decided to retire from Council. The voters of Princeton must figure out what needs to be done to encourage the best, experienced members of Council to seek re-election. A sad day for Princeton. Joe Small

  2. A significant loss for Princeton. Council’s move for morning meetings is another step away from transparency. Jo was often the only one to call Council on seemingly blind decisions. She will be missed although probably not by the university.

  3. God Bless Jo Butler – she has worked very hard on our behalf and we all owe her a debt of gratitude.

  4. In recent decades, Jo is the only person on Council who walked door to door in my hood. Reaching out to get to know her constituents that way was very impressive. She seems smart enough to realize there are 10,000+ households & 30,000+ citizens here, and those who can attend meetings generally represent their own interests or those of a small cohort. How fortunate that she’ll continue to work through this year, endeavoring to serve all well.

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