After serving for 16 years as West Windsor’s top elected official, West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh will be stepping down at the end of his term this year.
Hours after Hsueh said at a Feb. 21 press conference that he will not be seeking reelection this fall, former Council member Kamal Khanna threw his hat in the ring by announcing his intention to run to succeed the longtime mayor.
Surrounded by family, township personnel, and local volunteers, Hsueh, 72, said he will serve out the final year of his fourth term before pursuing the “next stage” of his life. He will stay in town, with painting, teaching and a possible memoir on his to-do list.
“I wish I could go back and make myself 10 years younger so I can stay on longer,” said Hsueh, adding that being mayor has been busier than his previous “real job” as a manager in the state Department of Environmental Protection. Since retiring from the state, Hsueh has spent so much time as West Windsor’s chief executive that on multiple occasions his wife, Sue, has joked that he would “make more money flipping burgers.”
Hsueh said he will spend more time with his family, and he thanked them for their support. Nodding to his wife Hsueh said, “I call her boss.”
After his term expires at the end of December, Hsueh will have served 24-and-a-half years as an elected township official. Hsueh moved to West Windsor in 1985 and first got involved as a volunteer on the township board of health.
Related article: Mayor Hsueh speaks on the state of West Windsor 2017
He was on the inaugural council in 1993 after the township switched from the township committee form of government to the current “strong mayor” council-mayor arrangement. He was a four-time council president and became mayor in 2001.
At the press conference Hsueh touted the township’s achievements over the years. His main goal has been creating a stronger sense of place and community, so that residents can say they live in West Windsor in lieu of “the Princeton area.”
His goal, he has said in the past, was for West Windsor to overshadow Princeton as a preeminent community in the country. It is a goal that he seems to have reached, in part. On a number of occasions over the years, publications and online sites have named West Windsor as among the best communities in the state and country in which to live.
Speaking at length on the timeworn topic of property taxes, Hsueh emphasized that West Windsor provides full municipal services. In contrast, he noted Plainsboro has a separate fire district tax and additional garbage collection costs.
“Since 2000, the average property tax increase in West Windsor is 13 percent,” Hsueh said. “I know 13 percent is 13 percent too much for some, but over the same time can you hold your household expenses that low?”
Hsueh also noted the town’s added amenities, including improved recreational parks, the West Windsor Farmers Market, the Schenk Farmstead museum, the West Windsor Arts Center and Senior Center programming.
With 2017 to be his final year as mayor, Hsueh gave a lengthy to-list of housekeeping items. Projects slated for completion in 2017 include the reconstruction of Canal Pointe Boulevard, a wooded trail connecting the Vaughn Drive parking lot to the Princeton Junction train station, and the acquisition of up to 200-acres of open space. Hsueh also wants to finalize the township’s affordable housing compliancy, which is currently at trial in Mercer County Superior Court.
Jockeying to replace Hsueh is Khanna, who served on council from 2009 to 2013. While West Windsor’s municipal elections are technically nonpartisan, both Hsueh and Khanna are active in Democratic Party circles. Khanna is the chair of the township’s Democratic committee and is a vice chair on the Mercer County Democratic committee. In 2014 Khanna sought out the 15th district state Assembly seat vacated by Bonnie Watson Coleman before deferring to then Mercer County Democratic committee chair Elizabeth Maher Muoio. Earlier this year, Khanna was sworn in as a commissioner of the Mercer County Improvement Authority.
A likely rival on the Republican side this year is current Council member Hemant Marathe, who lost to Hsueh in a contentious campaign in 2013. An inactive Facebook page titled “Time for Change West Windsor” lists Marathe as a mayoral candidate alongside a Council slate of Linda Geevers and Council president Peter Mendonez, who are both up for reelection this year. Asked if he plans on running for mayor, Marathe said he is right now focused on his Council duties.