Three candidates filed to run for mayor of West Windsor by the Sept. 5 filing deadline for this year’s Nov. 7 election.
Running for a four-year term as the township’s chief executive are Khamal Khanna, Hemant Marathe and Yan Mei Wang. Khanna (a former member of council) and Marathe (a current councilman) both have experience as elected officials, while Wang is a political newcomer.
The race for the position is wide open this year, with Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh opting to not run for re-election. Although the municipal election takes place on the same day as the general election, West Windsor’s elections are nonpartisan. Candidates are permitted to assemble into slates of running mates with their own slogans, but none are allowed to run with a party affiliation.
In addition to the mayoral election, also open this year are two four-year seats on township council. Incumbent councilwoman Linda Geevers and Virginia Manzari have teamed up with Marathe to form a slate with the slogan, “Standing Up for West Windsor.”
Running along with Khanna on the “Working Together for West Windsor” slate are council candidates Kristin Epstein and Yingchao “YZ” Zhang, a current member of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education.
Wang, who is running alone, has worked at Princeton University since 2015 as an associated research scholar in biophysics. She grew up in Changchun, China, in a family of educators, and moved to Los Angeles 1991. She graduated from UCLA in 1996 with a degree in physics, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in experimental condensed matter physics from UC Berkeley.
Wang went to Princeton University for biophysics postdoctorate work in 2002, and then left for a professorship at Washington University in St. Louis from 2006 to 2015. While there, she helped build a new lab, obtained $1.7 million in grants and graduated four Ph.D. students.
Wang says that her education and work experience make her an excellent candidate for the mayor’s position. “My experiences in building electronic and micro-electrical-mechanical devices, machining, growing cells, demolishing and sequentially building a biophysics research lab from scratch, writing papers, training students, and applying for and managing grants, are necessary for running our town effectively,” she said.
“I will be able to know (or research) what road repair equipment to use for what situation, whether West Windsor should share equipment with other towns or purchase, what materials are better for fixing potholes at different times of the year, and the consequences of poor infrastructure maintenance. I appreciate a good design, and differentiates qualities of products and finished jobs.”
Marathe, who has served on council since 2015, was previously a member of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education, where he served as board president. He also ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor against Hsueh in 2013.
Marathe holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, a master’s from Virginia Tech, and a bachelor’s degree from I.I.T. Bombay, all in electrical engineering. He has lived in West Windsor since 1994, and ran an IT consulting businesses out of his home. In 2006 he started business as a wholesaler of Indian groceries.
In announcing their candidacy, Marathe and his team point to the Howard Hughes project as a “serious threat” to the township’s future. The company’s plan calls for the construction of 1.3 million square feet of commercial space and 1,976 residential units on the 653-acre former American Cyanamid property.
“It’s my job to protect West Windsor taxpayers,” Marathe says. “This type of development would put a disastrous burden on both our schools and our citizens’ pocketbooks.”
Khanna, who moved to West Windsor in 1978, holds a a master’s degree in engineering and management from the University of Florida and worked as an efficiency engineer and business analyst for a Fortune 500 company for 10 years. Afterward, he founded his own business and serves as CEO of an international clothing company located in New York City.
Khanna currently serves as a commissioner on the Mercer County Improvement Authority and was a member of West Windsor Council for four-and-a-half years. He also has been a member of the township planning board and affordable housing committee.
Khanna says he intends to work with Epstein and Zhang to continue the work done over the years by Hsueh, who has endorsed Khanna for the position.
“When I announced, I pledged to both protect the legacy of Mayor Hsueh, while also bringing new ideas, energy and common sense solutions,” Khanna says. “In my conversations with voters at their homes, it is clear that West Windsor residents are excited by this new chapter and share our vision for our Township’s future.”
The three cited their vision for West Windsor in a statement in joint press release in which they said they are “committed to promoting inclusive, responsive, and transparent government; controlling taxes; stopping unreasonably burdensome development; preserving open space and quality of life; encouraging small businesses in the township; and improving traffic, roadways, sidewalks, and bikeways throughout West Windsor.”
As for the council candidates, Epstein, a West Windsor resident since 2004, works as the executive director of YingHua International School in Kingston. She received a degree in civil engineering from Princeton University in 1997 and a master’s in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2000.
She has has served on the township environmental commission, Friends of West Windsor Open Space, and volunteered with the Girl Scouts. She also served for five years as president of the Princeton Area Alumni Association. A former Division 1 college soccer player at Princeton University, Epstein has also coached youth soccer in West Windsor and Cranbury.
Geevers, who was a long-time member of the school board, has served on council since 2005. She was originally elected on a slate with Hsueh, but later differed with the mayor on a number of issues and aligned herself with Marathe.
A township resident for more than 20 years, Geevers has a background in residential real estate and radio news. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Cornell University.
Geevers says that she and her running mates are “extremely concerned” about the potential for the development to cause overcrowded schools. “Excellence in education must be preserved by taking all necessary steps to prevent unwanted explosive growth.”
Manzari is a current member of the West Windsor Zoning Board of Adjustment and holds an MBA from Cornell University. Her professional experience is in business development, strategic marketing and brand management. She has worked for Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. She ran unsuccessfully for council in 2015 on a slate along with Marathe.
Manzari says that her team is committed to more bringing about more transparency in West Windsor’s government, sound financial management, greater sensitivity to the needs of individual neighborhoods, and a much greater effort to attract business ratables. “West Windsor needs a dedicated business development professional who can identify and attract new commercial businesses to the township to remove some of the burden from residential taxpayers without negatively impacting the school district,” she said.
Zhang, a member of the school board since 2015, has been a West Windsor resident for more than 16 years. He holds a PhD in high energy physics and works as chief architect at CrossFlow Software. He has served as a board member and president of the Central Jersey Chinese American Association since 2006. He has twice been board chairman of the HuaXia Chinese School and has volunteered with the West Windsor Arts Council and local youth sports.