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NCVOA Honors Martins And Schimel

The “dynamic duo” lauded for their efforts in advocating for villages

The “dynamic duo,” New York State Senator Jack Martins and New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, were honored by the Nassau County Village Officials Association last Thursday evening, Sept. 13, at the NCVOA’s 87th annual dinner. Senator Martins and Assemblywoman Schimel were praised for their individual and joint efforts to support and advocate for local government. The NCVOA includes 64 villages, and both the senator and the assemblywoman represent many of these villages within the Seventh Senate District and the 16th Assembly District.

Hosting the event, NCVOA President Ralph Kreitzman, mayor of the Village of Great Neck, offered a brief history of the organization, starting with its inception in June of 1925, when officials from four villages (Freeport, Lynbrook, Rockville Centre and Hempstead) met mainly to discuss traffic problems, an issue still today. “At the meeting, they had a presentation from a company that proposed adoption of three-color traffic signals to avoid some of those traffic problems,” the mayor said, adding, “Importantly, they agreed that a close association of those and other villages should result from that meeting.” Soon after, by-laws were adopted and the Village Officials Association of Nassau County came into existence. Mayor Kreitzman noted that “significant among its provisions was its purpose of ‘the promotion of mutual community welfare’ and a provision that there were to be monthly meetings.”

Today the NCVOA continues to maintain its mission and its importance in the county and in the state, representing almost 12 percent of the villages in the state with over 22 percent of the state’s residents.

“So, we are important and have strength in numbers … we must work together … not every issue affects every village, but we must support all of our villages,” Mayor Kreitzman emphasized. And then he presented the dynamic duo: “two people who understand local government, two people who understand the reasons for and needs of local government, two people who are setting a terrific example for our other state legislators in the fight for mandate relief and local government … simply, they get it.”

Introducing Senator Jack Martins, Mayor Kreitzman explained that the senator is the former mayor of the Village of Mineola, a former member of the NCVOA executive board, a former member of the executive committee of the New York Conference of Mayors, and the state Senate’s only representative on the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. Mayor Kreitzman then noted that even though Senator Martins is now serving his first term in the New York State Senate, he heads the senate local governments committee and serves on the state mandate relief council. Mayor Kreitzman spoke of how Senator Martins works hard to provide tax relief to residents and businesses statewide, among other issues, fighting to eliminate the MTA payroll tax on schools, small businesses and small municipalities, and, with Assemblywoman Schimel, twice passing legislation to save villages a great deal of money by permitting the continued use of the old lever voting machines.

Senator Jack Martins told the large, 250-plus crowd of Nassau County village mayors and trustees: “It’s good to be home!” He said, “there is nothing more important” than local government, “the government closest to the people … the government able to address every issue.” Senator Martins represents 31 of Nassau County’s 64 villages, “the most villages of any senate district in New York State.” Chairing the New York Senate’s local government committee, Senator Martins said he is proud of the work there, proud that they can do “some pretty good things here.” Senator Martins touched on the fact that both he and Assemblywoman Schimel come from a local government background, “so we understand.” Senator Martins stated, from his perspective, “The decision has been made that local government has to be respected and we must keep the emphasis on that.”

As he introduced Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, Mayor Kreitzman stated that the assemblywoman, too, “has roots in local government, having served for eight years as clerk for the Town of North Hempstead, where she “made dramatic improvements to that office for the benefit of its residents. Said the mayor: “Michelle understands how local governments work and the significant impact they have on shaping our quality of life … Michelle believes in smart government and that villages are the smartest, leanest governments.” He reported that three years ago, the assemblywoman received NYCOM’s first award given to a state legislator in recognition of her being a champion of local government. Mayor Kreitzman also noted that as a member of the assembly local governments committee, the assemblywoman led the opposition against the push for the consolidation and dissolution of local government, sponsored vital environmental legislation and joined Senator Martins in fighting for local use of the old lever voting machines.  She has also been an assembly sponsor of Tier VI pension legislation.

Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel told her “colleagues” in local government: “You are all my mayors.” And she added: “Someone who I admire said, ‘It takes a village’ and I have co-opted that statement during my tenure on the Assembly local government committee … it is not easy for me to explain to city folk legislators what villages do and how and why they were incorporated in the first place, for local control … I believe it is the one thing that city folk secretly covet and envy.” And she spoke of her ability to “call my mayor any time of day …” The assemblywoman added: “And the fact of the matter is, no government unit is leaner or meaner than a village … and they always balance their books and their budget.” Assemblywoman Schimel noted that “It’s been a long and winding road in Albany … but I love coming home to the land of the free and the home of the brave, Nassau County.” Assemblywoman Schimel then touched on her work with Senator Martins: “At the end of the day we are all in it together, in what I consider to be the most noble of professions, that of government and we are here to get the job done.” Turning to the mayors and villages trustees, the assemblywoman said that they are the ones on the front lines of government, “probably the most selfless of those elected,” and she promised “As long as I am in Albany, I will have your back.”

As the evening ended, Mayor Kreitzman read a letter from Peter Baynes, executive director of NYCOM, where Mr. Baynes praised the two honorees: “In my two and one-half decades at the state capitol I have not found two more dedicated, hard-working legislators than Michelle and Jack. What makes them particularly special is their continued commitment to their roots in local government and the sanctity of local home rule. On the issues of most importance to our members, state aid, mandate relief, village elections and villages as the government closest to the people, Jack and Michelle have led the charge and stood side-by-side with NYCOM.”

Just in case anyone does not know, this “dynamic duo” represents both sides of the aisle. State Senator Jack Martins is a Republican and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel is a Democrat.