Joshua Ringel took the reins as Briarcliff Manor’s village manager on Nov. 15, stepping into the position following a two-year stint as Tarrytown’s assistant village administrator.
The Croton-on-Hudson resident replaces longtime Village Manager Phil Zegarelli, who retired Sept. 30.
Ringel, who will be paid $175,000 annually, is responsible for the day-to-day running of the community of some 7,600 residents. The village manager is chief administrative and executive officer, supervising all departments, acting as chief budget officer and labor negotiator, among other duties, answering to the mayor and Board of Trustees.
Ringel, who spent his first days in office getting acquainted with the village staff and listening to residents’ concerns, now gets down to business: Formulating Briarcliff’s budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023, which must be adopted by May 1.
Here’s a Q&A with Ringel:
River Journal: What’s your first major priority for 2022?
Joshua Ringel: We’re full bore into budget season, and I am concerned about the upcoming budget. While there is an influx of [pandemic-related] American Rescue Plan funding for village use, we still need to game plan and look at every nook and cranny. The 2021-2022 budget was difficult to work through, but I think that 2022-2023 may be just as difficult given inflation, rising energy costs, health insurance, etc.
The New York Power Authority already [anticipates a] 25% increase for building power; we’re anticipating a 12% increase on health insurance, and additional increases on fuel (diesel/gasoline) which will eat up most of the potential [New York State tax] cap.
This will be my first budget as manager and I’m looking forward to working with our department heads and village board on setting our funding priorities for the 2022-2023 year.
RJ: You’re coming to largely residential Briarcliff from a more populous and diverse Tarrytown with a far larger commercial sector. What have you learned from your time in Tarrytown that will inform your approach to your new job?
Ringel: I’ve had to work with folks from all walks of life. It really opens up your perspective and helps to keep you grounded. Tarrytown had a very involved citizenry who kept their ear to the ground on what was going on. Same with Scarsdale, where I got my start. Volunteerism was in the water in their community. It was great to see the same sense of volunteerism from our all-volunteer Fire Department and Recreation Advisory Committee on display at the sing-a-long and bonfire on Dec. 5.
RJ: Briarcliff is in the midst of revitalizing the look and focus of its downtown. How will your experiences in Tarrytown inform your approach to Briarcliff’s downtown planning?
Ringel: From my time in both Scarsdale and Tarrytown the biggest takeaway is this – communication. Providing multiple opportunities for formal input (think hearings, BOT meetings etc.) and walking the downtown and speaking with the local merchants to hear their personal perspective in a one-on-one setting.
Not everyone is keen on public speaking, but still want to provide meaningful input. I manage by walking around, and you’ll see me out of the office often, walking the downtown, or driving the village. Just give me some time, and you’ll see me more and more.
RJ: Your predecessor used the weekly Friday email blast to offer copious details about the village’s operation, and was fond of sneaking in a bit of humor. Any plans for putting your personal stamp on this popular update that has more than 1,800 subscribers?
Ringel: I want to keep the same level of appropriate humor. Government is usually unbelievably dry – best to keep people interested with the touch of humor here and there. Other than that, there will be some minor changes – the report will condense a bit, and be released earlier in the week. I also intend to re-name it from “Managers Report” to something more general (any ideas, I’m all ears).
RJ: I see you enjoy hiking and biking; any favorite locations, trails, or parks you’d like to mention?
Ringel: As a child, my mom would take me to Teatown Lake and Turkey Mountain quite a bit. Living in Croton, it’s now closer than ever for me. But, with that said, I understand we have many trails right here in Briarcliff that I need to go out and explore.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.