Halsted Middle School students interview Newton's mayor

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:50

Newton — “There’s really a lot of good stuff going on in Newton,” Mayor Helen Le Frois told a group of students at Halsted Middle School on Dec. 14. The students invited Le Frois as part of a civics unit in their social studies class, said teacher Terry Stark. Stark supervised the students in the activity, but said the event was student-directed, from coordination to coming up with questions to ask Le Frois. Le Frois told students about improvement initiatives in Newton, including the efforts in making the streets safer and the new businesses coming to town, such as Thorlabs. “Newton is small in terms of size, but mighty,” Le Frois said. Thorlabs is a manufacturer specializing in laser and fiber optics. Le Frois said after Thorlabs is officially opened, the town would be considered the “photonics capital of the world,” since the company manufacturers photonics - or light sensing products. Le Frois also said Newton will be “the glitter capital of the world” when some operations of the Meadowbrook Glitter Company will move to Newton. “What’s your favorite thing to do as mayor?” one of the students asked. “I enjoy helping in the community, and talking to people,” Le Frois replied. She told students speaking with members of the community is important for the town council to effectively perform their duties and recommended residents participate in council meetings. Le Frois also said on a personal note, one of her ongoing life goals has been to have a conversation with each person she meets about anything. She said she has found common interests with every person she meets. “I find inspiration with every person I talk to,” Le Frois said. She also told students one of the mayoral duties she enjoys is performing weddings, including her own brother’s nuptials. Some of Le Frois other favorite tasks for the town are ribbon cuttings and marching in the parades. One of the downsides, she said, is that life has become more public for her and her family. However, Le Frois said she always planned to become a politician, even as a child. Le Frois said her parents and an eighth grade history teacher were her role models. She obtained a law degree and became a mother of three before moving from California to Newton in 1998 with husband Greg, and children Jordan, Madelyn and Kathryn. In addition to being mayor, Le Frois juggles her job as Director of Development for the Jersey Battered Women’s Service, Inc. She said to students managing all the aspects of her life is about compromise. “In terms of talking politics, for the sake of friendship, you agree to disagree,” said Le Frois. Le Frois related another instance of compromise when she recently chose to attend one of her daughter's school plays instead of a dinner with New Jersey's Lieutenant Governor, both of which were scheduled on the same night. She said compromise is a part of her life and that she has had to miss family functions on other occasions. “Is your job as mayor 24/7?” another student asked Le Frois. “You’re always kind of 'on,’” Le Frois said, stating that it is not uncommon to receive phone calls in the middle of the night for emergencies, like during the recent rash of extreme weather that has afflicted the northeast. Le Frois’ term on the council expires in June of 2012, and she and fellow councilwoman Kristen Becker, whose term is also coming to an end, plan to run again. Le Frois encouraged students to be involved with the Town of Newton. “Our students are a very valuable asset, and help the town,” she said.