Former Livingston mayor Robert Leopold, known for his extraordinary intelligence and a lifelong advocacy of social justice, passed away on January 12. He was 93.
Leopold first sought office in 1972 as a Democratic candidate for the Livingston Township Council. Republicans had a 3-2 majority at the time and neither Democratic incumbent was seeking re-election. He lost to Republican C. David Geer by 1,609 votes but ran 618 votes ahead of Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern and 1,456 votes ahead of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Paul Krebs, a former congressman and Livingston resident.
He ran again in 1982, when Democrats where defending their 3-2 majority following the retirement of two of their incumbents. He ran 1,871 votes ahead of the top Republican vote- getter, Richard Beltram. (Beltram later moved to South Carolina, where he became the Spartanburg County GOP chairman and a close ally of U.S. Senator Jim DeMint and Gov. Mark Sanford.)
Leopold became mayor in 1985.
He was re-elected in 1986 by just 150 votes after Republicans picked up two seats to take a 4-1 majority on the township council.
Leopold was again elected mayor in 1989. He did not seek re-election to a third term in 1990.
Leopold served on the Livingston Planning Board prior to becoming a councilman and served there again after he left local office until he stepped down in 2017. He served as chairman of the Livingston Environmental Commission, a chairman of the Livingston Board of Education Long Range Planning Committee, as president of the Livingston Conservation Council, as a representative to the Essex County Solid Waste Advisory Commission, and as president of the West Essex chapter of the American Jewish Congress.
He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and spent more than 40 years as a Bell Labs engineer.
Leopold is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.
Editor’s note: I served on the Livingston Township Council with Bob Leopold from 1985 to 1989. While we rarely agreed on issues, I admired his tenacity, intellect, and commitment to his community. I will remember him fondly.