Phyllis Marchand, face of contested deer elimination program, dies at 81

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Phyllis L. Marchand, the former mayor of Princeton., NJ, who became the public face of a deer culling program that sparked loud protests, ethical debate and widespread media coverage, died on 25 March to his home in Princeton. She was 81 years old.

Her daughter Deborah Marchand said the cause was lymphoma.

Ms. Marchand served as a public servant in Princeton Township for 22 years and was appointed mayor for 13 non-consecutive one-year terms. This made her the oldest general manager in the township, according to records dating from 1900, and earned her the unofficial title of “mayor for life” until her retirement from the civil service in 2008 for health reasons. .

She was widely known in central New Jersey for her energetic involvement in issues such as affordable housing, the arts, social services, women’s rights, Jewish education and in particular land preservation. A professional indexer, she indexed the papers of President Woodrow Wilson and the letters of writer Samuel Johnson. She also ran at least 18 marathons, a sport she played at the age of 42.

But it was Princeton’s 2000 deer culling program that caught Ms. Marchand’s attention nationwide.

Like many suburbs across the country, Princeton was overrun with white-tailed deer. Their surge in numbers has led to hundreds of car crashes and increased damage to residential plantations, and homeowners have grown increasingly nervous about the spread of Lyme disease.

The deer felt so at home in Princeton that they made their home in backyards and even gave birth on porches. One crashed through the glass window of a barber shop. Another hit a windshield and landed in a child’s lap, bloodied and kicking.

Ms. Marchand signed a contract with a Connecticut wildlife management company called White Buffalo. The company’s snipers shoot deer or lure them into a trap, where a net is cast over them before they are hit in the head with a bolt pistol.

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Although the program had the support of many townspeople, it infuriated many others, who argued that the practice was barbaric and medieval. Opponents, who drew the support of celebrities including singer Patti Smith and author Joyce Carol Oates, said there were more humane ways to control the herd, such as fences, repellents and contraceptives, and that the suburbs were no place for snipers. .

Ms. Marchand said these alternative control methods were ineffective, impractical and expensive. And she said she felt compelled to do something – other cities, she noted, were being sued for not acting when they knew there was a problem.

With the ongoing program, tensions have intensified. Critics hired private detectives to track White Buffalo hunters, prompting hunters to wear bulletproof vests for protection. The trials flew. A protester was accused of beating the township animal control officer, who shifted to wearing a bulletproof vest himself after his dog was poisoned and his cat crushed to death. At one point, someone placed the entrails of a deer on the hood of the mayor’s car.

Ultimately, city officials said the program was successful because it reduced collisions between deer and vehicles by 40%. But that did not solve the problem. Deer remain plentiful, and although Ms. Marchand contracted with White Buffalo for only five years, the city still uses her services.

“She felt like she was really doing the right thing,” her daughter Deborah said in an interview. Far from being the savage her critics have portrayed, Deborah Marchand said her mother was human and compassionate, adding that “she felt the deer were in pain; they were starving and getting hit by cars, ”and that she believed instant death would spare them this trauma.

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Then as now, the city donated hundreds of pounds of venison annually to local food banks.

Phyllis Linda Steinberg was born January 3, 1940 in Manhattan, the eldest of four children. Her father, Morris Steinberg, was a milliner. Her mother, Charlotte (Oill) Steinberg, was a teacher in the Bronx.

At Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, Phyllis majored in English and was the editor of the college newspaper. Like students across the country, she participated in sit-ins at local Woolworth’s in solidarity with black civil rights activists who were refused service at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960.

She graduated in 1961 and went to work at the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company in Manhattan, where she learned to index. She later picked up this skill from The Cowles Comprehensive Encyclopedia.

In 1964, she married Lucien Simon Marchand, a textbook seller in Princeton. The family moved there in 1966, and her husband became the purchasing editor for scientific and mathematical journals.

Ms Marchand quickly found work as an indexer at Princeton University for Professor Arthur Link, who was the primary authority on President Wilson and authored his articles, a 35-year-old prodigious undertaking which the New York said Times, set the standard for presentation. historical documents. She worked with him from the 1970s to the 1990s. She also undertook projects for other authors, including indexing a book on Porsche history and a biography of Jefferson Davis.

Along the way, she joined various community organizations. In 1986, she was invited to run for the township committee, the governing body of Princeton, now called city council. A Democrat, she won the most votes that year and was appointed mayor by the committee from 1989.

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She served as president of the League of Municipalities of New Jersey and also helped establish a sister city relationship between Princeton and Pettoranello, Italy, to celebrate the contributions of Italian-Americans in New Jersey.

When she took marathons, she thought about municipal issues on her runs.

“One of the things I loved about running was that I could think about it,” she told the Princeton Town Weekly Newspaper Topics in 2013. “I was on the planning board. and led by some of the sites under study. ” She said running also gave her the chance to introduce herself to the engineer in the township “where all the potholes were”.

She qualified to run in the New York Marathon and Boston Marathon and also ran in Philadelphia.

She learned she had lymphoma in 2006. She served two more years as mayor and continued her community work for several years afterward.

Besides her daughter Deborah, she is survived by her husband; one son, Michael; another daughter, Sarah Marchand; and eight grandchildren.

Among the causes to which Ms. Marchand was most devoted was the preservation of open spaces. Until 2019, she was chair of the board of directors of the Delaware and Raritan Greenway Land Trust, which names a prairie in her honor.

“Nature makes you realize that there is something bigger than us here in this world,” she said in a video prepared by the Land Trust. “So it’s essential for us right now to advocate for the preservation of open spaces, paying attention to whatever we can to help us leave this world a better place.”

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