Trenton native Jennifer Williams grew up in the East Ward, in the shadows of Junior School #2 (now Hedgepeth-Williams) and went on to receive a Master of Business Administration from Tulane University where she had the opportunity to learn how other cities operated and thrived. Williams is a parent, writer, health care professional, and a small business owner. For two years she served as the Chair on the North Ward Zoning Adjustment Board in Trenton, New Jersey helping to guide business and residential development towards fair, legal, and equitable resolutions. Williams is also the first openly transgender delegate to attend a Republican National Convention. Now, she is running for North Ward City Council and looking to bring back jobs, civility, and pride to her hometown. For over two decades, Williams has been active in her community advocating for the betterment of both residents and business owners in the Capital City. The Trenton Journal recently sat down with Williams to discuss her candidacy, growing up in the Capital City, and why she believes she is the right candidate for council.
What was your childhood like growing up in Trenton?
I grew up in a house, the youngest of seven kids [with] one bathroom, but we made it through. I love living here, the city I grew up in—we could ride bikes anywhere we wanted to. You could deliver newspapers. Briggs Library was my library. That’s where I really learned to read and expand my vision of the world. Those things still exist here. We are still a city that wants to bond together as a community. We’re still a city that wants to give people opportunity. We’re a city that respects hard work.
What do you believe will attract people back to Trenton?
I would say a new city council. One that's not an obstructionist. One that doesn't embarrass the city. We’re fortunate to have a Starbucks. Up until six or seven years ago, Trenton and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were the only state capitals not to have Starbucks. We finally got one through this great program Starbucks did for urban development and training. I believe there are other companies that will do that.
As a lifelong Trenton resident, how do you believe Trenton found itself in the predicament of having a city council as “obstructive” as this one? As you put it?
We’ve had a rubber stamp council that just approved everything that the administration at that time wanted. That didn’t help our city. Some of the living standards are just abysmal. I spoke with one woman; she’s living in a road home and the house next to her is abandoned. That’s all over the city.
You spoke of living standards being abysmal. The turnout at the last election was also abysmal. How can we get more people to vote?
The people who aren’t voting are folks who are registered and only come out for presidential votes. They’ve given up because they haven’t seen any results. Until they start seeing results, that’s when people are going to start voting. We’ve got a multitude of problems that are things that basic cities can fix. If you fix that, that gives people hope.
What makes you qualified to lead the North Ward?
I’ve been chairman of the zoning board. I've shown that I have the city's best interest at heart. I can ask the right questions. I have good judgment and can make the right decisions. I have worked in business and know what to look for. We could change our culture here. We’re not borrowing time, we’re planting roots.
How do you plan to lead the North Ward?
I want to be engaged with the community. I love talking to people. I want to make whatever the initiative is the best it can possibly be for the city. I’m going to be a councilperson that is going to make sure every neighborhood gets taken care of, not just certain neighborhoods. Public safety needs to be based on equality. No one wants to walk down a street where they’re not safe. I would love for kids to have the kind of childhood I had.
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