OPD Leadership

FullSizeRender (1)In anticipation of last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, Chief Joseph Burton invited the members of the Ossining Police Department to attend and provide him moral support. He didn’t say why. After 24 years as Chief of Police, Joseph Burton announced he’ll be retiring at the end of the year. Click here to watch the Chief’s moving comments which begin around 19 minutes into the meeting. Following the Chief’s comments I had the honor of announcing that Kevin Sylvester will lead the department beginning on January 1, 2016.

Below are my remarks, written pretty much as I delivered them. Chief Burton determined the way that news of this transition would roll out. Following my remarks, we all took a break to shake hands and snap pictures. Then the dozens of OPD members that had filled the courtroom, headed around the corner to OFD headquarters for pizza. When our meeting finished, the Trustees and I, along with new Village Manager Abe Zambrano joined them for a slice.

Chief Joseph Burton began his career with the Ossining Police Department in August of 1967—before three members of this Board were even born. He considers himself to have had “two careers” in the department. The first was twenty four years as a Patrolman, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and then Captain—working in the Patrol, Records, and Youth Divisions. It was during that first career the he became a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy.

Joseph Burton’s second career spans twenty four years as Chief of the Ossining Police Department. During his tenure he was instrumental in implementing the D.A.R.E. Program in our schools. The relationship he has established with our schools is perhaps his greatest work in crime reduction. In a conversation I had with the Chief very soon after I became a trustee he told me, “once a crime has been committed, we’ve already failed.” A big part of Chief Burton’s effectiveness, and the reason Ossining keeps finding itself on the list of safest places to live, comes from the 40 years Chief Burton has dedicated to our young people as a coach for the Ossining High School Football Program and as an active member of the Ossining Police Athletic League, which supports various youth programs. Chief Burton plays the long game. He recognizes that preventing kids from beginning a life of crime is the only real path for crime reduction.

For relative new comers to village government, it’s hard imagine the Police Department and Court were all squeezed into 16 Croton Avenue together. Chief Burton oversaw the construction and transition of department headquarters from Village Hall to the Birdsall-Fagan Police & Court Facility. No doubt the business degree he earned early in his career as chief, was a big help to the making this facility function so well today. This building is a testament to his incredible leadership, his ability to think big and effect real positive change for our community, and his very high regard for the members of this police department.

Chief Burton is Ossining’s longest serving chief. And we are grateful that he has put in place a plan for a smooth transition to the next leader of the department.

This board, in our capacity as the Board of Police Commissioners, underwent a thorough deliberative process to determine who would be the next Chief of the Ossining Police Department. In fact, our process mirrors the approach that Chief Joseph Burton has implemented for recent promotions to sergeant and lieutenant. In doing so, we had the opportunity to speak with many members of the department, including all of the administrators at length. We were so impressed by the leadership team that Chief Burton has assembled—the dedication, skills, and insights of the captain and all the lieutenants was beyond what we even imagined. Ossining is incredibly fortunate to have this core group of leaders in our Police Department.

This Board has asked Lieutenant Kevin Sylvester to become the next chief of the Ossining Police Department. Following the timeline and the manner recommended by Chief Burton, on New Years Day Kevin Sylvester will be sworn into office at the inauguration. I hope you will all join us for this community event.

Kevin Sylvester’s rise to this leadership position is a testament to not only his intellectual capabilities, but his remarkable leadership skills and work ethic. Each day Lt Sylvester dedicates himself to finding ways to better serve the Ossining community, and in doing so he inspires his colleagues on the police force.

For Kevin Sylvester, simply accomplishing great things during his full time job as a patrol officer, sergeant and lieutenant in the Ossining Police Department, was not enough to satisfy desire for achievement. His drive for personal success led him to become the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Training Division for the United States Marine Corps Reserve. And after completing his Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice, the then-Patrol Sergeant Sylvester began working on his Law Degree, which he earned this spring. We wish Lieutenant Sylvester the best of luck on his bar exam in July. When that’s over, he’s going to start studying for the Chief’s exam which he will take next spring, so that we can make his provisional appointment to Chief permanent.

This Board is united in our vision for a police department that continues to deepen community connections through innovation and a dedication to a local police force. Lieutenant Sylvester demonstrates an ability to be fair and consistent; he leads by example; and he has a clear vision for the future of this department.

I have been reminded many times during this process that the relationship between politicians and police has not always been one of openness, trust and a shared sense of duty to our community. That is changing, at least for Ossining. At a time when the news is filled with tragic stories of violence, anger and mistrust, the Ossining Police Department is recognized for its heroism and dedication to community policing. We know that the “storybook department” as we were described during an accreditation report years ago under the leadership of Chief Joseph Burton, will continue to thrive with Kevin Sylvester at the helm.

We thank you both and this entire department for your incredible service to Ossining.

100 Days

On day 1 of my term as mayor I spoke of big initiatives. There is much to do, and it is reassuring to see all the progress that has been made in just the first 100 days of my term as mayor. Before I list some of the accomplishments of this Board of Trustees, please indulge me as I briefly reflect on what I’ve learned so far. I’ve learned I am a hands-on mayor. I’ve also learned that I can work with anyone in village government because I respect their position and their commitment to serving our community. And while shifting the culture of village government to be more open is not a quick process, everything I do is with a smile because I am so thoroughly enjoying each moment of it.

On April 7 the Board of Trustees announced our decision to hire Abe Zambrano to be the new Village Manager.
On April 7 the Board of Trustees announced our decision to hire Abe Zambrano to be the new Village Manager.

No single decision will have as great an impact on our local government as the selection of Abe Zambrano to be our next Village Manager. The search process was comprehensive and efficient. Abe will be leading an outstanding team of department managers. We on the Village Board of Trustees look forward to Abe’s help in furthering our goals to improve communication, government efficiency and a vibrant economy. We anticipate great success in these efforts as Abe focuses on the day-to-day functioning of the village, and strengthens our relationships with residents, businesses and community organizations.

This Board is committed to improving communication and accessibility. At our first legislative session, this Board of Trustees agreed to keep the cameras rolling throughout the public comment period, reversing a practice of the previous eight years. Thank you to all of the residents who participate in these public meetings.

Open Office Hours with the Mayor are a success. Every Tuesday from 10am to 12noon, I am in the Board of Trustees office, located on the first floor of Village Hall. No appointment is necessary. Occasionally a line forms, but not usually. By meeting with residents in this face-to-face manner, I’ve had the opportunity to hear big picture suggestions as well as address immediate individual concerns.

Improving energy efficiency is another goal of this Board. Last year we identified LED streetlights as a priority. At the March 11 work session we had a lengthy presentation from the group that has installed LED streetlights in other Westchester communities. This initiative allows us to benefit from the work begun by nearby municipalities to reduce our electricity cost for street lights by more than half, and improve the quality of our lighting.

At the March 25 work session we heard from Sustainable Westchester about two significant energy related programs that cost the village only minimal staff resources and no financial commitment. Community Choice Aggregation will immediately provide energy savings for Ossining residents and small business owners, and we are moving forward with the legal process to make that a reality. We are also moving forward with the first stage of positioning Ossining to take advantage of NYPrize funding for a community micro-grid that could provide the Village of Ossining with a reliable energy source even during a widespread blackout.

Proactively making smart development decisions is critical to Ossining’s economic viability and quality of life. On January 28 we hosted a community meeting at the Ossining Public Library to learn about the experience of two other municipalities regarding Green Building Codes. You can read a post about this initiative or watch the video from the meeting where Yonkers and Hastings presented us with their approaches and experiences. If this is a topic that interests you, visit the village website to apply to be on the Green Building Codes committee.

The Ossining Bank for Savings at 200 Main Street is the gateway to our downtown. We have issued a new Request for Proposal, with a bit of a twist this time. We are now open to considering public-private partnerships that could make it a success. The business or organization that breathes life into this historic building will be a powerful force in the revitalization of our Main Street.

MindMixer Ossining is an example of the dedication of this Board to engage the public. We are excited that this new online platform enables us to hear from the community in a quantitative way. It is an easily accessible ongoing series of questions that will focus this year on what Ossining wants to see happen at the heart of our downtown–the Market Square Properties.

Will I see you tomorrow as the JCYS Baseball Season kicks off with their Opening Day Parade? Or perhaps next Saturday, April 18 at Green Ossining’s Earth Day Festival at our waterfront. The theme of this year’s festival is Solar, promoting the Solarize Ossining-Briarcliff program which is a public-private partnership to bring low-cost high-quality solar to our residential and commercial property owners. After this long winter, we could all us a little more sunshine!

Between parades and festivals, I look forward to working with my colleagues in village government on these and so many more initiatives to improve our community and the lives of Ossining residents.

Ways to Get Involved & Informed

Attend a legislative session on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Meetings are 7:30pm at the Birdsall-Fagan Courthouse, 86-88 Spring Street. There are three opportunities for visitors to speak on camera: Organizational Announcements; Comments on Village Board Resolutions; and Visitor Recognition when you may speak on any subject relevant to the common good of the village.

Serve on a village committee. Currently there are positions available on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Landlord Tenant Relations Council, the Mid-Hudson Ambulance Committee, and the Green Building Guidelines Committee. Visit the Village of Ossining website for details on how to apply.

Watch BOT meetings on Ch 78 or FIOS 43, or anytime online at the village website or the Village of Ossining YouTube channel.

A couple of media outlets where I’ve shared village news are the Cablevision program Meet the Leaders, and on the second Monday of each month I spend an hour as a guest of Westchester On the Level. I look forward to talking with online radio host Hezi Aris again on Monday, April 13 at 11am.

Beyond Tuesday morning office hours, residents can also reach out via email gearity@villageofossining.org or call 914-941-3554. You can email the entire Board at BOT@villageofossining.org.


Welcoming a New Manager

Abe welcome pic    It is my privilege to announce that Abe Zambrano will be Ossining’s next Village Manager. We on the Board of Trustees know he is going to do a terrific job, and we are very excited for him to step into that position on May 27.
    Abe is no stranger to Ossining. Before advancing his career in our neighboring Village of Croton, Abe worked right upstairs in our finance department.
    During our search process we learned there are a lot of terrific managers. Thankfully we found Abe Zambrano, and he is the perfect fit for the Village of Ossining. He has demonstrated an incredible work ethic and a desire to work with department heads to improve efficiency and productivity.
    The process for selecting Abe to be the next Village Manager has strengthened the cohesiveness of this Board. We wisely hired Don Marra of Marra Consulting to guide the search process. Don met with 15 village department managers and key staff members to understand their experience and priorities.  And he also challenged the five of us on this Board to clarify our priorities. There were 17 applicants interested in this position—which is a testament to the desirability of our community. It also meant that we had an incredible group of candidates to consider for the position. The process was comprehensive and efficient. What is perhaps most impressive and reassuring is the result. The five of us are unified in this decision. Y es muy bueno que Abe habla espanol.
    We look forward to Abe’s leadership in furthering our goals of improving communication, government efficiency and a vibrant economy. The first three months of 2015 have been very productive and exciting for this Board. But no single decision will have as great an impact on our local government as the selection of Abe Zambrano to be our next Village Manager. We have great confidence in his success, and know that he will serve Ossining with integrity and dedication.
    We on the Village Board of Trustees look forward to Abe’s leadership in furthering our goals of improving communication, government efficiency and a vibrant economy. We anticipate great success in these efforts as Abe improves the day to day functioning of the village, and strengthens our relationships with residents, businesses and community organizations.

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