White Plains, NY - The Westchester County Board of Legislators have unanimously elected Legislator Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) to serve as the new Chair of the Board of Legislators and Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) to serve as the new Vice-Chairman during their organizational meeting tonight.  Under the leadership of both Jenkins and Williams, the Board will move Westchester in a new direction, taking steps to create a more open, accountable and inclusive legislative process.  “I look forward to working with all the members of this august body as we continue the County Board’s leadership in addressing the cost of government, establishing policies that protect essential services while delivering them in a cost-effective manner,” said Chairman Jenkins. 

Both being nominated and seconded by the newly-elected Democratic Majority Leader Thomas Abinanti (D-Greenburgh) and Majority Whip Judith Myers (D-Mamaroneck), both legislators have committed to working with the new County Executive and all of our municipal officials to revive the economy, provide much-needed tax relief to our residents and to operate a lean and efficient regional government.  “We are united behind the common purpose of getting Westchester back on track and creating a government that operates in a more efficient and transparent manner to meet the needs of all county residents,” said Vice-Chair Williams. 


I want to thank Majority Leader Tom Abinanti for nominating me and Majority Whip Judy Myers for the second.  I wish to congratulate Minority Leader Jim Maisano and Minority Whip Gordon Burrows.  I also wish to congratulate new Vice-Chairman of the Board Lyndon Williams on his election.  Our Board leadership has both the experience and enthusiasm and is the right group at this critical time. Most of all, I wish to thank the members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators for their confidence in electing me Chairman.

We need to thank Bill Ryan for his service as Chairman for the past 6 years.  Bill Ryan has led this Board through some of the most tumultuous times.

I want to thank my family, for all the sacrifices they must make, to Debbie, who supports everything I do, to our three children, Alana, Jamal and Terrell.

As have many of you, I’ve gone to numerous inauguration ceremonies over the past few days.  At each, officials thanked their parents.  My parents aren’t here physically, but, I know their influence, guidance and training have helped order my steps.  I also want to thank my in-laws who have provided me tremendous support.

It is a new year, a new decade and a new era for Westchester County.

There are challenges ahead as we balance the protection of the safety net we provide with an understanding of our fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of Westchester County.

Let me make this very clear.

The County Board --- functioning as a co-equal branch of government --- will continue to provide needed services to the citizens of Westchester while providing those services in an efficient and effective manner.

I know it is certainly easier to be an elected official when everything is going well and you are handing out the ‘goodies’…people cheering when you are recognized at events.  But, right now is not that time.  People need our help more than ever.  The NY Times reported on Sunday that the number of people living on “food stamps” with no income is at an all time high.  People are losing their homes and are worried about their jobs.  And, yet, we also know that the citizens of our county seek and need tax relief.

I look forward to working with all the members of this august body as we continue the County Board’s leadership in addressing the cost of government, establishing polices that protect essential services while delivering them in a cost-effective manner.  We know this is not a problem we tackle alone at the County level, but with our partners at every level -- Federal, State and our local municipalities.  The County Board will have a three-pronged approach – continuing to find efficiencies in government, identifying and more importantly enacting more shared services and finally achieving mandate relief.

The County Executive has stated that he will find efficiencies in government. Understand there is no member of this County Board that does not support finding ways of making government more efficient.  More Shared Services will create savings in the overall cost of government which the people are demanding.  Finally, achieve mandate relief – a joint effort with the administration, working with our government partners to enact demonstration projects that allow the innovative, award-winning and standard-setting professionals that encompass County government to more efficiently deliver services.

The work we do on the County Board through its Committees will be structured to support this approach.  We know that we are not always going to agree with the administration – this is not new, but know that we are all fighting for what is best for Westchester.

We will not be distracted as we focus on continuing to show the tremendous value of regional government and doing the work that this Board has done.  Remember this Board has had a Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee that meets throughout the year.  This Board created a Collaborative Assessment Commission to work cooperatively with our municipal stakeholders to address tax fairness.

We certainly will set the tone by how we work with the administration.  Cooperation is contagious and there will be an epidemic of cooperation. Our successes will help fuel the changes that are needed at every level of government in this County to maintain the high quality of life in Westchester that we expect, at a cost that we can afford.

I intend to do to what every person who has ever sat in this Chair have endeavored to do under their stewardship.  Leave the Board and the County of Westchester in a better place than when we started. 

I plan to get the Committee assignments out ASAP to allow us to start the process of due diligence in reviewing the County Executive’s appointments insuring that Charter procedures are followed and the Administration can get to work unimpeded as quickly as possible.  There is great anticipation of what we can do for Westchester.  I know we will make everyone proud of what we can accomplish together.


Congratulations to the Chairman Kenneth Jenkins.  Mr. Chairman, I know that your demonstrated leadership abilities will lead this Legislature in a direction of great accomplishments and I look forward to working with you.  I would also like to thank our outgoing Chairman Bill Ryan for his leadership over the years in moving this Board’s agenda forward, and to our outgoing Vice-Chairman Michael Kaplowitz whose leadership has been invaluable on budgetary and financial matters.

I would like to recognize my wife, June, and thank her for the love, support and sacrifices that she makes in order for me to dedicate the time to serve my community.  To my constituents, in the City of Mount Vernon, who have given me the opportunity to represent you as your county legislator, I am eternally grateful.

And, to my colleagues on the Board of Legislators who have bestowed your confidence in me to serve in the position as Vice-Chairman, I am indeed honored by your trust and confidence and look forward to working with you as we collectively improve the quality of life for Westchester’s residents by creating and supporting policies for greater economic prosperity and tax relief for our residents.

We exit the year 2009 -- a year of some of the greatest economic challenges we have faced as a nation and in the county of Westchester.  We f aced challenged of skyrocketing unemployment, resident losing their homes through high rates of housing foreclosures, depressed consumer spending and depressed economic growth.  But, as we approach the year 2010, the economists and financial experts tell us that they are seeing signs that the recession might be over – signs of housing stabilization, increased consumer spending and come economic growth in the third quarter.  While these signs of economic rebound are by no means the reason to begin celebrating, they give us reason to hope for prosperity at the dawn of this new decade in 2010/

It is with this same sense of hope that we must face the challenges of improving the quality of life for Westchester’s residents while pursuing workable reforms that will streamline government and provide meaningful tax relief at the county and local levels.  I know that we can meet and overcome these challenges because, although we may come from different districts, serve different constituencies, with different needs, we are all inextricable bound by common goals of making this county the best that it can be for all of its residents.

So, as we move into this new decade, I look forward to working with you, as we work in collaboration with the new County Executive Rob Astorino, and his administration to develop a robust legislative agenda for Westchester.

Again, I thank you, for the honor and privilege of serving in this position of leadership and God bless you.