An Uncommon Mayor…An Uncommon Village

The time given to public service for Philip Zegarelli can be counted from the 1970’s to the present. He served as a North Tarrytown Trustee from 1974-79.

imagesHis first Mayoral term began in 1979 and ended in 1987, the same year he won a seat on the school board as a “write-in” candidate. In 1999 he was re-elected as the Mayor of Sleepy Hollow at a time when the Village was in trouble (to put it mildly). Talks with General Motors had broken off, infrastructure and equipment needs had been neglected, fiscally the newly-named Village was in a precarious state and the list went on and on.

Armed with negotiating skills honed in the private sector, a vision for the Village 20 years hence, and a personality that is textbook “Type A,” Mr. Zegarelli has put forward an ambitious and personally time-intensive style of governing that is based on simple principles. “I ran for Mayor because important things were not being done,” he said at a recent interview. “Sleepy Hollow is an uncommon Village when you consider the General Motors project. No other village or administration has a project of this scope to plan and prepare for. Lighthouse Landing does not lend itself to a quick solution. In this uncommon situation I find myself being an uncommon type of Mayor. My role models have been two former Mayors of New York City — Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani,” he added. “I have a purpose and believe in doing good and avoiding doing harm. In the old TV show, Mission Impossible, the characters were hand-picked because each one had a specialty to help accomplish the mission. In Sleepy Hollow I have had the opportunity to create a team of 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent each with their own interests and expertise to address the diverse needs of the Village,” the Mayor said.

His negotiating skills have produced a contract with the Teamsters Union to which Department of Public Works personnel belong. He has also successfully contracted with the clerical staff at Village Hall and is expected to announce the ratification of a new 6-year retroactive contract with the Police Department.

His direct approach and mantra, “lead, follow or get out of the way,” has attracted a host of personnel with skills in planning, architecture, law, community relations and land preservation, to name a few. These local residents have contributed their time and expertise as elected officials, employees and volunteers within Sleepy Hollow’s Village government. In short, Mr. Zegarelli has surrounded himself with a very capable team to address the needs of Sleepy Hollow, particularly the development of the General Motors site. “I see General Motors with a 10-year horizon,” he said. What he meant is that current planning for the site has to address the needs of the community in 2017 — 10 years from now. “Right now we are planning for a firehouse with a dormitory on the GM site. We have full faith and confidence in our volunteer firefighters but we may have to have paid drivers or firefighters within the next ten years. We have to plan ahead because General Motors and Lighthouse Landing is not a short-term development. It will be with us for a very long time,” he added. With the increased population of Sleepy Hollow will also come the increased need for water. At present the Mayor and his Board are planning to increase water storage from 880,000 gallons to 2.4 million gallons with plans to put the tanks on the Phelps Memorial property. “We have to increase our water storage capacity now in order to be within state and federal guidelines as we continue to grow. Those guidelines specify each municipality to retain 110 gallons per individual for a twenty-four hour period,” he noted. “Water may not be a sexy issue but it is certainly life important,” he added. A recent Village census put the population at 9,400 but that number is undoubtedly higher when undocumented aliens are factored in, according to the Mayor.

When asked how much longer he wants to serve his native Village, he replied, “No one is irreplaceable. I will stay until the job is complete and as long as the residents want me to. I currently have the blessings of my family and the voters and there is still more work to do, especially with General Motors.” So, Mr. Zegarelli will run for re-election in March.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento