Election 2009, Room at the Top

When Sleepy Hollow Mayor Phil Zegarelli announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, it sent a shockwave through the Village. The ensuing positional shuffle means that, regardless of the outcome, next year’s Board will look quite a bit different than the current one.

Of the three Trustees up for reelection this year, only one, Maria Rose De Milia, is trying to keep her seat.

A second, Ken Wray, is trying to move into the Mayor’s hot seat. The third, Kay Grala, has decided not to run at this time. Enter a flood of new blood, both on the Democratic Party line, and on the independently-minded United Party line (which is also using the Republican line at the ballot).

Paging Mr. Mayor

The two men running for Mayor are registered Democrat Ken Wray and registered Independent Alan Singer. As a current Trustee (elected in 2007) Wray is part of the coalition that has held a 4-3 controlling majority on the Board this past year. Their signature achievement has been following through with a pledge not to raise taxes in 2008 – the first time residents did not see a tax increase in 10 years. “I think going forward it’s going to be very important to have a continual and objective look at Village spending.”

Singer agrees, but doesn’t believe that Wray and the slate of Democrats running with him are up to the task. “The question is how willing are you to take fresh looks at your budget and to say there are no sacred cows?” He says. “Do we need a Justice Court that costs us $300,000 a year?”

Both men have strong feelings about the GM development project. In fact, it is Singer’s concern with the approach Wray’s Democratic coalition has taken with the GM project that convinced him to run for Mayor in the first place. “Until General Motors is built,” says Singer, “the Village of Sleepy Hollow is not going to improve.”

Wray agrees, but cautions the need to make sure it is done right. “While I’m enthusiastic about having the riverfront developed, that’s not exactly the same thing as saying I’m enthusiastic about the proposal in front of us.”

Trustees You Can Trust

The Democrats are running three financially-minded candidates for Trustee. Barbara Carr is co-founder and President of a software development company that creates financial management software. A pragmatist, she believes the Village needs to get its financial house in order. “I think that the important thing for us to be doing and working toward is keeping our Village sound and being ready when the economy does turn around.”

Evelyn Stupel agrees that Sleepy Hollow needs to focus on efficient government. “[We need] good management, in terms of where our tax dollars are going. Are we really utilizing the people that are on staff, in terms of positions and what they do? Are our tax dollars being utilized correctly?” Stupel brings extensive business experience to the table, having worked for years in staffing for some of the biggest names on Wall Street, as well as serving as Partner and Vice President of Operations for an advertising and marketing firm. 

The third member of the Democratic slate is Bruce Campbell. Currently teaching film and television at Dobbs Ferry High School, Campbell spent nearly two decades working in television news. He serves as chief negotiator for the Dobbs Ferry United Teachers, and he negotiated contracts as Secretary-Treasurer of the Writers Guild of America, East. Looking long-term, he says Sleepy Hollow needs to think beyond its borders. “Reaching out to Tarrytown more, consolidation of services between the two Villages.” He says. “I can’t help but think that’s the future of the two Villages, doing more things together and lowering the tax burden on all of our residents.”

On the Republican line are the members of the United Party running with Alan Singer. They include Bruce Lozito, a registered Democrat, Robert Higle, an Independent who previously served as Trustee on the Republican line, and Maria Rose De Milia, the only incumbent Trustee running for re-election, who won in 2007 on the Democratic line.

They, too, believe that the Village’s finances are a prime concern, but view the issue in terms of the need for development, specifically the much-maligned General Motors project. Maria Rose De Milia has worked for the past two years alongside Ken Wray and the rest of the Board trying to move the project forward. She believes it’s vital to the health of Sleepy Hollow. “Once people have confidence in the fact that GM is going to be redeveloped, you’re going to get the kind of businesses into the Village that makes the Village a better place to shop, to live.”

Bruce Lozito agrees. “I think a lot of our issues [re: GM] are resolvable issues without making wholesale changes to the previously presented plans.” A community planning and real estate development consultant, Lozito has been actively involved with the revitalization of the Village’s waterfront for more than nine years, first with the Ichabod’s Landing project, and then with the GM site. He also spent 11 years working for the Town of Greenburgh, becoming Commissioner of Community Development and Conservation.

Joining them on the United Party line is former Village Trustee Robert Higle. A retired police officer, Higle served on the Board from 1999-2003, and played an active role at the start of the General Motors project back in 2001. Frustration at the lack of progress after eight long years has inspired him to jump back into the game. “It [the General Motors project] has to come to fruition here; it’s been way too long. I’m 55 years old; I want to see this done in my lifetime. I’m sure other people in the Village feel the same way.”

All eight candidates express a deep love of Sleepy Hollow, and a desire to do the best job they can to shepherd the Village through these difficult times. Next month, voters will go to the ballot box and give four of them a chance to make good on their promises.

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About the Author: David Neilsen