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Local Lawyer Will Manage Joint Campaign


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August 24, 2016

Local Lawyer Will Manage Joint Campaign

It would be an understatement to say that Dwaine Williamson, the recently announced chairman of the joint campaign for Princeton Council candidates Jenny Crumiller, Tim Quinn, and Mayor Liz Lempert, has been around. The Princeton resident, who serves on the town’s Planning Board, was born in Jamaica, raised in Trenton, worked on Wall Street, and made music videos for rap groups before becoming a lawyer and opening his own office back in Trenton.

Between now and November, Mr. Williamson will balance his busy schedule of civil litigation with working to help re-elect incumbents Ms. Crumiller and Ms. Lempert, and elect Mr. Quinn. (Former Princeton Borough mayor and Planning Board member Mildred Trotman is chairing Ms. Lempert’s individual campaign.)

“Dwaine is a rising star,” Ms. Lempert said. “He’s got tremendous positive energy. He is somebody who wants to give back to the community for all the right reasons and I’m excited and grateful that he’s willing to help us out with the campaign.”

Mr. Williamson was six years old when his family left Jamaica and settled in Trenton. “My aunt had met a tourist from Hightstown in Jamaica, and stayed in touch with this lady,” he said. “My aunt and her husband migrated to Hightstown and then Trenton. When we came around 1977, after stopping in Bermuda for a year and a half, we went straight to Trenton.”

The capital city was, and continues to be, “interesting,” Mr. Williamson said. “It had its problems — a lot of interesting issues to deal with growing up. In the community around us, there were a lot of good people, and a lot who were not so nice.”

Despite the city’s challenges, Mr. Williamson managed to thrive at Trenton Central High School. He was an honor student who played soccer and ran track, was an ROTC executive officer, an exchange student in Turkey, and president of the International Club. His impressive record won him admission to Georgetown University in Washington. The first in his immediate family to go to college, he graduated in 1993 with a degree in International Politics.

While at Georgetown, he had the opportunity to work as an intern for Merrill Lynch. Landing a job on Wall Street after graduation was a natural progression, he said. “I did marketing, and then became a broker. After that, I tried to do an Internet company, doing independent music and films. We made some music videos for rap groups. Unfortunately, I did it with my own money but I couldn’t raise the venture capital I really needed.”

Mr. Williamson went back to Wall Street to work as a broker for Salomon Smith Barney. “To be candid, I enjoyed some aspects of it — but not the sales aspect,” he recalled. “I had really wanted to go to law school straight from college, but Merrill Lynch gave me the opportunity and I got kind of mesmerized. I mean, they picked me up in a limo, I stayed at The Nassau Inn. For a kid who grew up in Trenton, that looked pretty good.”

After 9-11, Mr. Williamson enrolled at Rutgers Law School in Newark. “I said, I have one life to live and this is what I want to do. I did the evening program and worked a full time job at the same time, finishing in 2007.”

With his wife Trina, a Trenton public school teacher whom he met while both were students at Trenton High, Mr. Williamson moved to Princeton in 1998. The couple, who have three children, settled at Griggs Farm. They became friends with neighbors, former Princeton Township Mayor Michele Tuck Ponder and Ronald Ponder, and he and Mr. Ponder started a law firm together in West Windsor. After a few years, Mr. Williamson began doing criminal defense work, and opened his own office on Trenton’s South Broad Street in 2010. He now focuses on civil litigation and personal injury cases, referring criminal cases to others.

“It’s good to be working in the city where I grew up. I knew a lot of people here, and I feel like I’m helping as much as I can,” he said. “But it’s tough.”

Entering public service in Princeton made sense. Mr. Williamson began attending Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) events and is currently a second vice president for the PCDO as well as a committeeman for the Princeton Municipal Committee. He fully intends to run for public office at some point.

In the meantime, Mr. Williamson is focused on the election campaigns of Ms. Lempert, Ms. Crumiller, and Mr. Quinn. “Public service is the term for them,” he said. “These are great-thinking people who analyze and come up with the best solutions. Just to be counted among them is an honor for me. I’m an idealist and I consider myself a true American patriot. I got my U.S. citizenship in 1994, and I’m very aware of our history. I want to make the Princeton community a better place.”

Dwaine Williamson