Sondra Greenberg, who served as mayor of Englewood from 1976 to 1982 and a leader in the city’s fight to integrate public schools in the 1960s, died on December 27. She was 93.
During her six years as mayor, Greenberg continued what had been a lifetime of advocating for social justice issues. She was also extraordinarily proud of her hometown; her license plate was “ENGLWD.” Greenberg fought for approval of an arts center in Englewood.
Greenberg became Englewood’s first woman mayor when she defeated Republican Jesse Turner by roughly 500 votes, 53%-47%, in 1975. Nearly 50 years later, she remains the only woman to hold the post.
Local Democrats picked Greenberg rather than support the incumbent, Rev. Walter Taylor, who had become the city’s first Black mayor in 1971. Taylor had fallen out of favor with Democratic leaders, who instead backed Greenberg, a veteran activist who had been involved in Englewood’s fair housing organization, against former Councilman William Mettler, the Democratic municipal chairman.
Greenberg defeated Mettler by three votes, 12-9, on the second ballot.
In 1979, Greenberg was re-elected by about 375 votes, 53%-47%, against Republican Barbara de Mare. She overcome a brief political problem after proposing limits on Christmas decorations in local schools an in city hall.
Greenberg declined to seek re-election in 1982 and was succeeded by another Democrat, Steven Rothman. Rothman later went on to serve sixteen years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mayor Michael Wildes appointed Greenberg to the Englewood Planning Board in 2006.
Greenberg mounted a political comeback bid in 2021 as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Bergen County Clerk. She had lent her name to a ticket headed by State Senate candidate Valerie Vainieri Huttle and received 20% of the vote countywide.
Wildes said in a statement that Greenberg “reveled in the intergenerational success of the city and will always be regarded for her wit, tenacity and strength of her conviction.”
“Her warm smile yet strength is what will be remembered,” he said.