- Editor's Note: The following was written in its entirety by Yorktown supervisor Susan Siegel.
My thanks to the residents of Yorktown for the opportunity – and honor - to serve you as your Supervisor for the past two years. It’s been both a fulfilling and, at times, a frustrating experience.
Fulfilling because I was able to put in place reforms that have made our town government operate more efficiently and with fewer taxpayer dollars, and frustrating because I wasn’t able to accomplish everything on my “to do” list, a list which always seemed to grow, even when I was able to cross off items as “completed.”
Looking back over the past 24 months, I’m most proud of having made a start at putting the Town’s financial house in order and initiating reforms that will be saving taxpayer dollars and generating additional revenue for years to come. Government, at all levels, needs money to operate. It’s that simple. And it’s the job of all elected officials, but especially the Supervisor, to manage taxpayer money in the most efficient way possible so that town government can provide its residents with the services they’ve come to expect at a price they can afford.
I’m also proud of the many qualify of life initiatives that I’ve been able to put in place, from the new , to the first ever full time , and beginning the long delayed improvements to our senior center.
I’m equally proud of the initiatives undertaken during my administration that have made Yorktown’s town government more responsive to its residents as well as more open and transparent. Answering your calls, emails and letters in a prompt and courteous fashion has always been a top priority for my staff. They may not always have been able to solve your problem, and at times you may not have been happy with the answer, but they did their best to respond and be of assistance to you.
During Town Board meetings, and in my online newsletter, television programs and media commentaries, I’ve also tried to explain what your town government was doing and why, and to seek out your feedback on issues currently before the Town. I offered to personally pay to televise Town Board work sessions so that you could get an inside view of how the Town Board arrived at its decisions, but regrettably the other members of Town Board didn’t share my vision of openness and twice they vetoed my plan.
One of my biggest frustrations was not being able to get the Town Board to adopt a realistic Capital Plan that addresses our Town’s critical infrastructure needs, particularly our roads, bridges, drainage systems and buildings. We can’t do it all at once. We have to make choices between our desire for limited tax increases and our desire for more police services, road paving, ball fields and drainage system upgrades. Until we begin to distinguish between needs and wishes, and to prioritize our needs, we will continue to spend limited tax dollars in an unplanned, ad hoc fashion that responds more to political expediency than dire emergency.
The difficult – and painful – process of setting priorities and making choiceshas to start at the top, with our elected officials.
Another frustration was having to work within a government structure that is antiquated and non responsive to the needs of operating a 21st century town government. Specifically, I am referring to the need to make the elected positions of highway superintendent and town clerk appointed, but also the need to hire a professional town administrator. Our current government structure is a vestige of the past when Yorktown was a sleepy farming community sending milk and produce to New York City.
Times have changed but our government structure hasn’t. It hasn’t kept pace with the increased complexities of town government. I started to see the need for these changes many years ago when, as a member of the Yorktown League of Voters, I began observing town government. And now, after two years of being part of town government, I’m even more convinced than ever that these fundamental structural changes are needed.
During these past two years I’ve had the privilege of working closely with so many conscientious, hard-working people– both staff and volunteers – who together are quietly responsible for making Yorktown a desirable place to live, work and play. Politicians come and go, but Town services and advisory committees continue on thanks to these dedicated individuals.
Which brings me to looking ahead. While my personal post-supervisor plans are still a work in progress, my commitment to Yorktown, and especially my commitment to modernizing and streamlining Yorktown’s government structure will continue. Working for good government and overcoming voter apathy are part of my DNA and I hope that circumstances will permit me to continue to work towards achieving these goals.
My best wishes to the incoming Supervisor and Town Board – for the sake of all Yorktown residents, I wish them success in the coming years.
And to the residents themselves, I urge you to get involved and stay informed. Government can only be truly responsive if it knows the will of its constituents.