Arguably, there’s no job at town hall where its more important to have ties to the community than the position of township clerk.
In that respect, Gay Huber, who became West Windsor township clerk of as of July 2, is the perfect person for the job.
Not only was she born in West Windsor, so were her mother and her maternal grandfather. Her great-grandparents arrived in the late 19th Century to farm property where Toll Brothers is currently building the Enclave at Princeton Junction on Bear Brook Road.
In addition to her deep familial ties to the township, she has also been serving West Windsor professionally since 1987, when she started to work part-time in the community development department.
She’s also not new to community service. Except for a short hiatus, Huber has been a member of Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Co. since she was in high school.
Huber’s earliest experience was with the fire company, which she joined while she was a student at West Windsor Plainsboro High School.
“It was the thing to do back then,” she says. “It was a calling that I felt I wanted to do, to be involved in, to help the community.”
Serving in the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Co. is also a family tradition; as Huber puts it, “It’s in your DNA.”
‘I’ve always liked to be involved, serve and help.’
Her maternal great-grandfather was a founding member and an uncle was chief in the 1950s. Her son-in-law, David Terzian, has been the company’s chief for two years (Terzian’s father and all his siblings were part of the Lawrenceville Fire Co.).
Huber’s daughters, Rana Terzian of Lawrence, Dawn Huber of Princeton Junction and Tara Huber of Hamilton are all members of the fire company, two as firefighters and one as an associate member. Her husband, Dennis, also served as a firefighter with Princeton Junction and was the long-time chief.
She says emphatically, “I did not go into burning buildings.” Rather, she was more “in the administrative end,” something that became her forte as she progressed in her career.
At the fire company, where she served as secretary for over 15 years, she ran the fundraising drive, held birthday parties, did “all of the behind-the-scenes things,” like bringing a truck with water and nourishment to a fire scene so that the firefighters “were rehydrated and would go back in and complete what they had to do.”
She says didn’t worry when her husband used to go into burning buildings. “I never thought about it. It was just part of our life. But the first time my daughters went in, it was a little different. I was nervous, but I knew they could handle themselves.”
Explaining why, as a senior in high school, she joined the New Jersey Army National Guard, she says, “My father had always wanted to serve in the military, but because of his health he couldn’t. I kind of did it for him as much as for myself.”
Her military service expanded her administrative know-how. She served as battery clerk (think Radar on the television show M*A*S*H), working for the first sergeant of her unit.
“It involved juggling a lot of things at one time, which I still do today, and I learned to be a team player,” she says.
The National Guard taught her about what it meant to be part of a diverse community, something she hadn’t experienced growing up in West Windsor in the 1960s and 1970s. “It opened up my world a little bit more,” she says.
Her military experience instilled a discipline that remains with her. “It keeps me organized, and I can handle multiple things that are thrown at me,” she says.
Finally, Huber says, “I matured at that point; I gained a lot of life experience, which kind of helped me to move forward in the rest of my government career. I’ve always liked to be involved, serve and help.”
From 1977 to 1978, Huber worked as a receptionist for the township. Then in 1983, she became administrative assistant to Hillsborough’s first township administrator, leaving in 1987 after her third daughter was born.
After two years working part-time at West Windsor town hall, she started working full time for the finance department in 1990. In 2001 she moved to the clerk’s office and became deputy clerk in 2004.
Huber was chosen by unanimous vote of township council to replace long-time clerk Sharon Young, who retired this year after serving in the job since 2000.
Speaking of her tenure in the clerk’s office, Huber says, “I have enjoyed every moment of it; every day there is something new. It’s never the same job; there’s always some new challenge that comes up in trying to help people.”
“I just love being part of my own community and serving the residents; it’s not always easy, but I find it rewarding when we can accomplish things and help people. Just to serve them is something I’ve always felt I wanted to do and have done for most of my life.”
‘I think even though [West Windsor] has grown it has tried to stay as a community where people are all involved.’
While serving as deputy clerk, Huber always cross-trained with Young, which has made her transition much easier.
One thing she is still learning about is how to deal with the diverse community West Windsor is today, with so many different cultures and different modes of interacting.
“I’ve learned so much about other countries through that, that I’ll probably never go see,” she says.
A town clerk’s duties are varied. The clerk acts as secretary of the municipal corporation and custodian of the township seal and all township records; is secretary to the township council, preparing agendas, minutes, ordinances, and resolutions; is chief administrative officer for elections and chief registrar of voter registration and of issuance of taxi, raffle, bingo, limo, land and liquor licenses; is records manager for all township documents; and assists residents with Open Public Records Act requests.
She also runs the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies because she enjoys serving the veterans of the West Windsor community.
“I was in the service, but was very fortunate never to have served in a war or conflict,” she says. “Most veterans served in a war or conflict, and I put them at a higher level than myself. They gave a lot more than I gave; they put their lives on the line.”
Huber’s grandfather was a carpenter who built four homes on Old Bear Brook—including the one where she now lives—and several more in Princeton Junction and Berrien City, the area near the old firehouse and Princeton Junction train station. Her father, who worked for Princeton Polychrome Press, died when Huber was 10. Losing her father, Huber says, “probably made me a stronger person in the long run.”
Her mother, a maternity nurse, was able to continue working because Huber’s grandparents lived next door.
Describing her mother as “a strong woman,” Huber says, “She was like the mother-father figure for the rest of our lives. She did a great job in raising us by herself. She raised us to be independent, just like I raised my girls to be independent, and I think that helped mold me to be who I am today.” After leaving maternity nursing, her semiretired mother became a hospice caretaker.
In 1976, Huber was in the first graduating class at West Windsor Plainsboro High School. In April 2004, after taking two years of classes and passing the state exam, she received her Registered Municipal Clerk certification, which is required to be a clerk in New Jersey. In July 2015 she earned the Certified Municipal Clerk certification from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.
Huber met Dennis, to whom she has been married 40 years, through the fire company bowling league—he was a fireman in Lawrence Township then.
“We knew people from all different fire companies,” she says, through the bowling league, parades and other events. They married when she was 19.
Huber got involved with Womanspace when the West Windsor Police Department needed advocates for women who were in situations of domestic violence.
She has also been a member of the West Windsor Historical Society. Where the advocacy work is a “calling,” she says she became a member of the Historic Society of West Windsor “more because of my history in the town and because I enjoy history, and it is something I hope to get more involved in in the future.”
Thinking back to the Princeton Junction of her childhood, Huber says, “It was a lot smaller; it was more farms, farmland and farmers. It was probably an area that everybody knew everybody because they were all farmers. And you could walk everywhere without seeing a car.”
For fun, Huber and her friends used to walk over the old railroad bridge that took Alexander Road into Berrien City, where there was a deli convenience store near the firehouse and a post office where Brother’s Pizza now sits. And, she adds, “one of our bigger highlights as teenagers was to get on the Dinky and go to Princeton and go shopping.”
Despite the changes West Windsor has experienced, Huber says, “I think this is still a great community to be a part of. I think even though it has grown it has tried to stay as a community where people are all involved.”