The first time I met Linda Puglisi was memorable. As I imagine it is for just about anyone when they first make her acquaintance.
In my case, it was a scheduled meeting, fraught with anxiety. On my part. I recently had become Publisher of North County News, about halfway through her 30-year run as perennial Cortlandt Supervisor.
We had reported something unflattering involving a faux pas by one of her staff. She invited me to her office. “Oh, boy,” I thought. “Here we go. Dressing Down City.”
I didn’t want to hog all the fun, so I brought a brace of editors. Though I did not know Linda, my journalistic sense was that I needed a small army behind me to bear the brunt of what was certain to be her pointed displeasure.
As we sat on pins and needles in the imposing Town Hall conference room, I dutifully prepped the staff, exhorting them to not be defensive when the inevitable fusillade of fury was fired our way. Our plan was to sit there and take it stoically, then explain ourselves when she was done.
Well, we never got the chance to do that. Supervisor Puglisi had other plans. She calmly walked in, sat down, and firmly proclaimed, “You are right in what you did.”
“What?!” I thought. “That’s not the plan here. We’re not prepared for you to agree with us, let alone praise our decision to run with the story.” She was way ahead of us, cannily disarming us with her charm offensive.
I knew right then and there this is someone to be reckoned with. Not just as an effective elected official. But as a person of consequence. In the 15 years since, my initial impression of Linda Puglisi has been repeatedly reinforced. Having won election as Supervisor for 15 consecutive terms, the citizenry of Cortlandt clearly agrees with that admiring assessment.
Her enduring popularity is not surprising. She is a proverbial “people person” who exudes sincerity, empathy and competency — three personal qualities that are invaluable to successful governance, yet not to be taken for granted across the political class. As personified by Linda Puglisi, that trifecta constitutes a strength of character any elected official would do well to emulate, if not equal.
Linda Puglisi’s fruitful legacy has earned a unique place in the bedrock of what is unique and strong and nourishing about Cortlandt. Where life works.
Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of River Journal North