Mayor Peter Cantu, known to many as the longest serving mayor in New Jersey, has been the mayor of Plainsboro for 38 years.
With a population of 24, 000 residents, Plainsboro was known as a quiet, farming community through the 1960s. Significant development pressures came into play in the 1970s and attempted to change the demographics.
“When I first moved to Plainsboro, there were 1,200 people living here, and probably about 1,600 cows,” Mayor Cantu, said with a laugh. “You know, I met my wife here. She was riding a horse on Plainsboro Road, if you can believe that, I mean riding a horse on Plainsboro Road. It’s really funny to think about that now. But it puts things in perspective.
“My journey started when I got elected to be a member of an advisory group called the Plainsboro Town Council in the ’70s, kind-of a ‘throwback’ to the old New England town council style,” Mayor Cantu recalled.
Plainsboro’s beginnings date back to May 6, 1919, when Plainsboro was part of Cranbury Township.
“The people felt that educational opportunists for their children were not being provided. As a result, the community, which is now Plainsboro successfully petitioned the state Legislature. The first thing they did was built a new school, the Wicoff School, which is still in use today,” the mayor said.
“That’s why Plainsboro is known to some as the ‘Education Community,'” the mayor said, adding that residents over the years have always prioritized great quality schools and boundless educational opportunity.
“Bringing it full circle, people still have a lot of pride and really love living in Plainsboro, now 100 years later. Plainsboro is the most diverse community in Middlesex County, which will be incorporated in the centennial celebrations,” said Mayor Cantu.
“Everyone in this community gets along, supports one another and has great enthusiasm for the township,” Mayor Cantu added. “That’s why we are so excited for our Plainsboro Centennial Celebration because we know how proud our residents are and know it’s going to be a great time.”
A Centennial planning committee has been organizing this celebration for more than six months. Fundraising has been strong because of supportive businesses and sponsors eager to take part in the celebration because of their belief in Plainsboro.
The Centennial Celebrations will start January 17 with the Centennial Gala at Plainsboro’s Crowne Plaza, celebrating the businesses and individuals who have partnered with Plainsboro.
Each month there will be an event marking Plainsboro 100 year birthday. Another important date is May 5, Founders Day at the Municipal Complex. This event will feature the grand opening of the historic John Van Buren Wicoff House. The house will re-open to the public as a museum after years of renovations.
“What’s the secret of 100 years? It’s recognizing where you have been, what challenges you have and where you are going,” Mayor Cantu said. “You set goals and make those goals come to life.
“We’ve set goals of a strong economic base, to provide diverse housing for people and also provide a great place for people to live,” he added. “We’ve done that. Fifty percent of Plainsboro is permanently preserved of open space. The reward is seeing your hard work come to reality.
“What’s next for the next 100 years? More goals to be met,” Mayor Cantu added. “Looking into the future we will have a plan and we will live by it. For 2019, Plainsboro’s message is ‘moving forward means an appreciation of one’s past.'”