Hang out at any BTDC meeting or event, and you’ll no doubt encounter media chair and local powerhouse Sara Nichols. Charming and gracious, Sara delights in greeting friends old and new while seamlessly ensuring audiovisuals are in place and miscellaneous details attended to. With her creative eye and flair for design, she’s made BTDC events sparkle and the website and newsletter come alive with information for members.
A former resident of Maplewood, Nichols and her husband, Neal Eisenstein, decamped west to Liberty Corner in 2012, just before her daughter, Alex, now 25, was entering high school (son Nick, now 30, had already graduated). They sought a community that had a more country feel but was still close to New York City–important to Sara, who works as an executive producer/director of documentaries and unscripted TV series. While she appreciated the beauty of her new environment, she didn’t necessarily consider the political tenor of her new home.
“I always voted in national elections, but wasn’t very interested in politics until I began producing content surrounding social justice and got to work with some extraordinary people making a difference,” Sara recalls. “Of course, the 2016 election changed a lot for me.”
Sara’s activism ramped up in 2019, when she directed a documentary on child marriage in the U.S. At the beginning of filming, only one state had completely banned marriage below the age of 18. During and shortly after filming, more states moved in this direction. As Sara witnessed how the women involved in child marriages took action, she realized that what seemed like small-scale efforts actually could lead to major change.
That year, Sara created a mailer and video for the Democratic campaign for Township Committee. She got more involved in 2020, when candidates needed a way to safely raise their profiles during the COVID-19 pandemic. At her suggestion, the campaign began conducting livestreams and remote interviews. She moved up to become the chair of candidate Jessica Simpson-Cook’s campaign in 2022, and currently runs candidates Ana McCarthy and Lily Wong’s campaign in addition to creating social media content for the BTDC.
Reflecting on the state of affairs locally and nationally, Sara expresses concern. “Most people don’t view local elections as very important–I know I didn’t,” she says. “A lot of our work is about bringing awareness to issues, helping people to understand why local elections matter and what’s really at stake even if it hasn’t yet directly impacted them. My hope is we will get back to truly putting community over party.”
While local candidates Ana and Lily may not be as well known as some of the amazing women Sara has worked with during her career, such as Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep, Oprah, Beyonce, Liberian pacifist Leymah Gbowee, and child-marriage activist Fraidy Reiss, Sara is confident that the duo’s passion, courage, and power will stand this township in good stead: “We need more leaders like Lily and Ana, and I hope to be raising a glass to their win in November!”