Being mayor means many things. Cutting ribbons, walking in parades, officiating weddings, acknowledging milestones, bearing witness, being a role model, advocating justice, celebrating the arts, honoring heroes, supporting entrepreneurs, learning history, protecting the environment, inspiring young voices, visiting classrooms and nursing homes, and noticing the everyday beauty that makes Ossining special. These actions build a stronger community. All mayors perform these duties, and in doing so, we can’t help but feel great love for the people we serve. I am grateful for the opportunity to know Ossining in this most special way.
The aspects of my service that I’m most proud of aren’t easily captured in photographs. I am proud of the stronger and more efficient municipal government, major infrastructure projects, more vibrant local business community, and new standard of communication built under my administration. I challenged my colleagues to address our high effective tax burden by freezing, and then lowering, the village tax rate. This approach was previously unheard of, but I hope it will become a new starting point each budget season. Bureaucracies are not known for being cutting edge. It took years of leading by example, and bringing on new staff, to shift the municipal mindset on outreach. We now connect with thousands of residents each week through a rich combination of communication tools, and regularly engage a diversity of community stakeholders.
The votes we cast are among an elected official’s most enduring legacies. I am proud to have honored the courage of my convictions. Whether or not you liked my position on a given issue, you knew where I stood. My position was well-informed and reflected what I believed was in the best interest of the community, regardless of whether it was politically expedient.
I have indulged my intellectual curiosity to develop a deep understanding about land use, municipal budgets, public infrastructure, and municipal government structure. I have learned from many sources including village staff, community members, former elected officials, leaders of other municipalities, municipal organizations on a county and state-wide level, and academic and nonprofit organizations that provide invaluable workshops and trainings. A mix of all of these resources is essential for a well-informed public official. When an elected official does not have either the time, capability, or inclination to become well-educated about a topic, their decision making is dependent on either the advice of staff or chatter from a handful of vocal community members.
I offer these words of unsolicited advice for future leaders:
- Walk every block of Ossining—it’s the best way to understand every neighborhood, learn local history, and connect with residents on their turf;
- Begin the budget season by asking the treasurer, “What is the maximum amount that can be carried over to the following year?” And then make it your goal to pass a budget reflecting that amount below the cap for the current year;
- Make well-informed decisions on controversial issues in the interest of the community, and then stand for what you believe in regardless of whether you ruffle feathers, or even lose friends; and
- If you aren’t failing sometimes, you aren’t trying hard enough to accomplish anything worthwhile. (This last one is universal).
Serving in elected office is not a thankless job. People thank me for my service all the time. Not all feedback is gracious, particularly on social media. Still, being mayor has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If it paid a living wage, I may never want to leave.
If you have the courage of your convictions, a love for Ossining, and a desire for learning, then please consider running for elected office. Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to learn about the election process. I’m leaving village government, but I’m not going far. I am joining the team of senior advisors to our incoming NY Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick. I will build on my experience in municipal government by serving as the Director of Constituent Services for the 38th Senate District. Most days you’ll find me at the Ossining district office located at 2 Church Street, just down the hall from Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s office. I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve the public in this new way.
In this year of loss, isolation, and financial hardship, we learned what we can live with out, and what we cherish most. Thank you to everyone who has sacrificed for the safety of the whole community, donated time and money so that no Ossining family goes hungry, and supported local businesses during this economic devastation.
Being mayor has been the journey of a lifetime. I fought hard to earn and keep the seat, and that has helped me appreciate the honor of serving as your mayor. Thank you for taking time to share your stories, demand better of your local government, and give so much of yourselves to strengthen our community. Best wishes for a joyous 2021.