Peter Cavallaro, current Westbury Village Trustee, is the Action Party's candidate for mayor. Opposing him is Joe Masiello, who is running on the Friends of Westbury Party. This year, current trustees Joan Boes and William Wise of the Action Party are seeking re-election. Challenging them are Friends of Westbury Party candidates Larry Kirton and Lou Neziri. Trustee seats are at-large and all terms are four years, effective April 1, 2009 through March 31, 2013. Elections will take place Wednesday, March 18 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at select polling sites. For information on where to vote, call village hall at 334-1700, ext. 111.
All candidates were asked a series of questions and their answers were used to compile the profiles below:
Lifelong resident and current village trustee Peter Cavallaro is the Action Party's mayoral candidate.
Cavallaro, a private practice attorney for over 20 years with experience in corporate and municipal law, land use and zoning, was first elected to the village board in 1999 and is currently serving his third term. Prior, he served as a member of the village's Planning Board for almost 12 years. As trustee, he currently serves as commissioner of both public works and personnel and is a former audit and claims commissioner and former building department liaison.
Cavallaro said he is running for mayor because Westbury needs an active and committed advocate who will work to ensure that state, county and other levels of government provide village residents with the services they need, expect and pay for. "I know that village government is important to our residents because it is the government that most directly affects their lives. I want to continue to use my experience and problem-solving approach to making Westbury a better place," Cavallaro said. "As mayor, I will be that advocate for our residents. In these difficult times, it is especially important that our leaders have the experience and commitment necessary to allow Westbury to enjoy continued success in the future."
The top three issues facing the village today, said Cavallaro, include property taxes; the difficult economic times and how the village can pro-actively thrive in this environment; and code enforcement and other quality of life issues that must constantly be addressed "in order to protect our property values and the character of our community."
Property taxes, Cavallaro said, are of critical importance because they reflect the number one reason why it is so expensive for seniors and young families to live or stay in Nassau County. "Fortunately, the village board has been successful in keeping a lid on taxes, and we have limited our tax rate increases to roughly the rate of inflation over the past 5 to 10 years. Most governments and taxing authorities have not been able to do that," he said, adding that this past year Westbury's tax increase was slightly larger than in the past because village officials sensed the coming economic turmoil and needed to bolster reserves.
"That was the prudent thing for us to do. Despite that, Westbury has the lowest village property tax rate of any of our comparable villages," he said, adding that to lessen the tax burden on residents, he will work to keep expenses in check, limit borrowing to only necessary and planned projects, and work to obtain grant monies to supplement village resources. "We [need] to keep the property tax rate in check and continue to prudently manage the budget," Cavallaro said. "We have been very successful in doing these things in the past, and I expect that we will continue to keep our village taxes low."
According to Cavallaro, Moody's, the bond rating agency that oversees the village's finances, has credited Westbury in the past for its conservative accounting and budget practices. "We will continue to act prudently ... While there will be challenges ahead, I believe, since Westbury is so well positioned financially, we will be able to weather this economic crisis better than other communities," Cavallaro said, adding that the current economic crisis makes it more important for the village to have "experienced leadership at the helm."
In regard to code enforcement and other quality of life issues, Cavallaro believes they play a major role in what can "make or break a community's desirability." As a trustee, Cavallaro said he has focused a great deal on finding ways to bring more resources and attention to code enforcement, resolving neighborhood problems, responding to resident concerns, etc.
"[These issues] are challenges for all communities in Nassau County, but we want to be the most aggressive in terms of protecting our residents and our quality of life," Cavallaro said, adding that's why, as trustee, he has drafted and implemented laws to limit mini-mansion and other overdevelopment within the village and worked with the building department to impose fees on commercial developers seeking parking variances and implement new and effective code enforcement techniques.
If elected mayor, Cavallaro said his "administration will continue to focus on illegal and unsafe housing and continue to respond to the quality of life concerns of our residents." Additionally, he said the village plans to increase the manpower and resources dedicated specifically to code enforcement. To do so, Cavallaro said he will work to establish new and more consistent communication lines with both the school district and the Nassau County Police Department. "All of these plans will be advanced in the first few months of my administration," he said.
In addition to the aforementioned issues, Cavallaro said he will work to find feasible ways to dispose of trash as cheaply as possible (particularly with the transfer station proposal dead) and said that over the past 15 years, the board has saved taxpayers over $1 million in trash disposal costs. "We want to continue to get the best deal for our residents," he said, adding that to make Westbury a "greener" place to live, he plans to expand upon the village's recycling program by increasing the kinds of waste collected and introducing the recycling of old computer and electronic equipment. "All of which will lower our disposal costs and lead to a 'greener' community," he said.
Also top on his "to-do" list is fostering a thriving downtown business district, which includes the redevelopment of the Westbury movie theater property. The village, he said, must also address the needs of the business community and work with the Business Improvement District (B.I.D.) to promote the downtown as a premier shopping and dining destination that would attract the right mix of commercial uses that will complement one another. Fostering a thriving downtown business district, he said, will enable the village to maintain its "economic stability" while keeping village taxes low and providing "the top-notch services that residents have come to expect."
Cavallaro said his overall goal as mayor would be to ensure that Westbury Village continues to move forward to become the "vibrant and welcoming community we all want and expect." He said that the village's award-winning downtown revitalization plan, its pending "Cool Downtown" designation by Nassau County and continued economic development and revitalization "are key to attracting the kinds of residents and businesses that will allow us to be one of the prime communities in Nassau. I believe that we are well on our way, but we cannot cease in our efforts, and we can not entrust our fate to untested and inexperienced hands," he said, adding that he will attain these goals by continuing the village's "commitment to always seeking to do what is best for residents and by being attentive to the issues and concerns that are important to the community."
Cavallaro said he will work with anyone who wants to work with the village in a positive way to accomplish goals and will be "open to all opinions and ideas, and actively seek community input."
According to Cavallaro, he, along with Action Party running mates Joan Boes and William Wise as trustees, have proven their "commitment to moving [the village] in the right direction. Sometimes, village government may move more slowly than we - or some residents - would like, and there are times that we do not have the resources to do all the things that we want to do, but we have always had the vision and commitment to make Westbury the best it can be. That is our ultimate goal, and that is why I am running and what I expect to be able to accomplish in the years ahead," he said.
As mayor, Cavallaro said he will "leave no stone unturned trying to get the resources we need, and the participation of other levels of government, civic associations, business community -including the chamber of commerce and B.I.D. - and all other segments of the community, in achieving our goals."
If elected, Cavallaro said village residents will have a mayor who "has successfully solved complicated problems, addressed community concerns and provided leadership on virtually all of the important issues that have faced the village and community at large." He said his legal training, service to the community and 22 years in village government have given him the "experience, judgment, perspective and skills" needed to be mayor and the candidate of choice.
"I am thoroughly familiar with all operations, departments, issues and responsibilities of village government. I am well-prepared to face any challenge or issue that the village may face in the coming years. I will not require on-the-job training," Cavallaro said.
The candidate is a charter member of the Donatello Lodge - Sons of Italy and serves as a member of St. Brigid's Baptism Preparation Team, the Nassau County Village Officials' Association, the Nassau County Bar Association and Carle Place Civic Association. He is a former leader of the North Hempstead and Westbury Republican Clubs, served on the St. Brigid's/Our Lady of Hope Regional School Middle States Accreditation Advisory Group and is a former board trustee and audit committee member of the Henry Viscardi School of the National Center for Disability Services. Additionally, he served as a CYO basketball coach and Cub Scout leader and was a member of the board of directors of the Education and Assistance Corporation (EAC), Long Island's largest not-for-profit social services agency.
Lifelong resident and businessman Joseph Masiello is the Friends of Westbury Party's mayoral candidate.
Masiello earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Long Island University - C.W. Post and, upon graduation, worked for the accounting firm of Clarence Renise. Several years later he decided to change careers and began working in the construction industry. Masiello founded and operated two construction firms and was most recently owner and manager of the former Post Avenue restaurant JM's at the Stockyard.
Masiello told The Westbury Times he is running for mayor because he sees "a lack of leadership and fiscal responsibility" in village government. If elected Masiello said top on his "to-do" list would be working to improve the village's fiscal responsibility and finding ways to address issues pertaining to what he calls the "lack of fiscal responsibility demonstrated by the current mayor and board" that have come to his attention. As mayor, Masiello said he would use his expertise as a successful businessman and accountant to bring fiscal responsibility and direction and to ensure proper management of the village.
He would also like to see a Quality of Life law passed. "[This] would require all issues affecting the quality of life in the village, such as the recently proposed municipal waste transfer station, be decided upon by the voters via referendum," said Masiello.
Among his goals for the village is business growth and diversity. As mayor, Masiello said he would work closely with the Westbury B.I.D. and would work to form an Associations Representation Council (ARC), a group representing civic groups, the B.I.D., chamber and various village commissioners that would work together to "determine the needs of both the business community and residents to implement strategic initiatives to address those needs."
Additionally, said Masiello, he would "propose legislation to address current and future village initiatives that impact quality of life [to] protect residents and business now and in the future."
According to the Friends of Westbury Party website, Masiello believes that Westbury's mayor and board of trustees must work toward establishing trust and communication within the village in order to build sound relationships between residents, businesses and government. His greatest desire is to see a rebirth of the village: new growth in a thriving business community, coupled with the resurgence of involved residents who recognize the strong need to support that growth.
Masiello told this newspaper he is the candidate of choice because he would bring a different perspective to village government. "I am not a politician but rather a businessman," he said. "I will take aggressive action to see that the previously mentioned issues will be addressed and [work to] stimulate growth for the Village of Westbury."
Masiello, who ran for mayor in 2005 in a three-way race, currently sits on the Westbury Business Improvement District (B.I.D.) Board of Directors. He is a member of the Westbury Chamber of Commerce and was named the organization's Businessman of the Year in 2004. Additionally, Masiello is a charter member of Westbury Raising Educational Standards Together (WREST), a bi-partisan group organized to improve the educational standards in the Westbury School District, and a former Carle Place and Westbury Little League coach. In January 2008, Masiello formed Residents Against Transfer Station (R.A.T.S), an organization aimed at increasing community awareness of a village proposal to construct and operate a garbage transfer station in Westbury.
Action Party candidate Joan M. Boes is seeking re-election to her third term as village trustee. First elected village trustee in 2001, Boes has served as deputy mayor for the past four years. As a member of the board, Boes served as commissioner of recreation, is chair of the village's Smart Growth Committee and liaison to both the Westbury Senior Citizen Board and the Business Improvement District (B.I.D.). She also served as a past alternate to the village's Board of Zoning Appeals.
Boes said she is seeking re-election to "continue and complete the work on 'Smart Growth' of the Village of Westbury infrastructure, and to oversee redevelopment and reconstruction of the Westbury Theater to a successful conclusion." According to the trustee, the state of the economy, the need for improvement, repair and repaving of village roads, and seeing the theater project come to fruition are some of the major issues facing Westbury today. "The Westbury Theater Project would stimulate the Post Avenue downtown area as a destination village," said Boes. "[This would] greatly benefit our business economy and increase commercial property values and village tax revenues."
If re-elected, Boes said she will continue her commitment of maintaining a "continuity of dedication" to village government. "I will actively seek to share in the significant decisions to carry the Village of Westbury ahead in these critical times," she said, adding that, as co-chair of the village's Smart Growth Committee, she will "continue extensive analysis of our community's needs for redevelopment and economic growth and make significant recommendations and decisions to enhance our business community and the vitality of our downtown village district."
The 40-year Westbury resident said she is the candidate of choice based on her "proven experience, vision for the future, time-tested government service skills and a record of accomplishments that demonstrates future success."
Boes attended St. John's School of Nursing and was a research nurse for Albert Einstein Hospital. In 1981, Boes joined the staff of the Westbury Memorial Public Library as its program coordinator, remaining in that position for 21 years. Additionally, she is a member of the League of Women Voters, serving two years as the organization's president and some 20 years as voter service chair. She was a trustee for the Foundation for Hospice Care and Research and a member of the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials and a board member with both the Westbury Senior Center and the Village Recreation Commissioner. Additionally, she is a member of the St. Brigid's Parish.
Boes and her husband, Larry, an attorney, raised three children in Westbury.
Friends of Westbury Party candidate Lawrence Kirton, a resident of the Hedges section since 1997, is seeking election to "restore and optimize good governance to the village." According to Kirton, "an absence of trustworthy communication [exists] between a significant proportion of the residents and village officials, [which] results in less than desirable impacts on the general welfare of the village's diverse population."
Among the issues facing the village today, said Kirton, are management of service and finances as well as overall public safety. He said that the village currently has "less than excellent services despite increases ... of tax dollars" and that public safety, specifically lighting, code patrol and enforcement, are "inadequate." Kirton also believes village finances are being mismanaged and that the "decision-making, controls, recording and reporting" process in place "no longer meets acceptable standards to prevent risk."
If elected, Kirton said he would "propose restructuring procedures and practices towards fast tracking village government development to meet new age needs." He added, "The time is past to single out only one issue/concern as a top priority ... A well-formulated interventional plan must be put in place that addresses each and all simultaneously."
As a trustee, Kirton said he'll work to maximize village efficiency and growth and "provide relief to the residents who are disenfranchised from exercising their power to secure comfort and wellness as residents of Westbury because that is what a significant representation of villagers are requesting that they need."
To achieve these goals, the candidate said an analysis and evaluation of the existing policies must be conducted with necessary revisions implemented in an expedient manner. "Residents and businesses must be given an understanding of the policies and informed how to navigate the system in order to receive the services entitled," Kirton said. "The resulting taxation and receivable services must be directly linked and significantly proportioned to optimize a meaningful positive impact on the community at large."
According to Kirton, he is the candidate of choice. "I am a stakeholder who doesn't have associates that would compromise me from taking measures to act in the best interest of both the village and its residents."
Kirton earned a bachelor's degree in respiratory care from Stony Brook University and holds Advanced Certificates in both community health and health care management from Stony Brook's Graduate Division/School of Health Technology & Management. Presently, he is retired from a career that began in 1983 in the health care industry's private sector. Kirton has represented Salem Road residents before the Village's Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, and, is a current member of the Hedges Estates Civic Association, having served on the By-Laws Committee. Additionally, he is a charter member and the current president of Westbury Raising Educational Standards Together (WREST) and sits on a Westbury School District Board of Education Advisory Committee. His involvement with the schools, which his two children attend, earned him the PTA Council's Parent Recognition Award.
(Editor's Note: Lou Neziri did not respond to the election questionnaire. The following is information that ran in a previous issue of The Westbury Times.)
Friends of Westbury Party candidate Lou Neziri has lived in the village for the past 15 years. He and his wife, Maria, a lifelong village resident, live with their two children in Westbury's Breezy Hill section, and he owns Carsmetics, Inc., located on Union Avenue across from the Westbury Long Island Rail Road station. He is a member of Westbury Raising Educational Standards Together (WREST).
Neziri, a Queens native, stated that as a Westbury Village Trustee, he will work to bring needed change to village government. In a previous Westbury Times article, Neziri said he sees "Westbury as a community that is centrally located that could be full of life and thriving businesses." Rather than just zip through the community, he would like people to view Westbury as a community for families and businesses alike to live and grow in. He hopes to use his ideas and fresh views to help Westbury grow and prosper from the opportunities in nearby areas and potential ventures.
Action Party candidate William Wise was first appointed to the village board in July 2006 and elected in 2007 to complete the remainder of the late Charles Russell's term and, as trustee, serves as commissioner of claims. Prior, he served in various capacities of village government for over 35 years, including on the planning board.
Wise said he is seeking a re-election in an effort to "bring sustainable change to the community and to enhance the quality of life of residents." He said, "I believe that the breadth and depth of my experience is what qualifies me to serve as trustee [and] want to continue using my experience to move Westbury forward."
According to Wise, garbage, followed by infrastructure and residential safety, are among the top three issues facing the village today. Wise said the village is looking at ways to reduce waste disposal costs and, in the area of infrastructure, believes the village needs to do more road repairs and that the board has been seeking funds to help increase the amount of work done on village streets. In regard to residential safety, he said, "we are concerned about the safety of our community. As the police presence afforded to us by the county has been reduced, we have seen more speeding and running of traffic signs in the village, and we need to work with the police to put more patrols on."
If re-elected, Wise said top on his to-do list is the redevelopment of the Post Avenue theater. "I see that as the missing link to completing the redevelopment of our downtown that we have been working on for years. Once completed, that theater could be a draw that brings other complementary businesses and shops into Westbury's downtown and makes our community a destination for shopping, dining and entertainment," Wise said, adding, "It's important that we continue to help the business community by continuing the economic development activities and downtown improvement programs that we have worked so hard on."
Additionally, Wise said he would work to ensure that the village's bond rating remains high while maintaining a stable village tax rate to ensure that, in "these tough economic times, the village can be fiscally strong and continue to move ahead." Wise said these goals are achievable by "reaching out to all segments of the village, including the business community, to help them stay solvent and attract new customers and business. We also need to hear their concerns and address their grievances and needs, [including] more visible code enforcement on Post Avenue."
A resident of the village for 38 years, Wise said he is the candidate of choice because he has over three decades of village government experience. "You cannot replace that kind of experience and that is what distinguishes me from my opponents," Wise said.
Wise has a bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology and a master's degree in public administration and professionally, was a labor mediator and employment consultant as well as a business manager for two local unions. He has served on several boards, including 100 Black Men of Nassau/Suffolk, the Noble/National Organization, the Black Law Enforcement Executives, March of Dimes and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He is a member of the Westbury-Carle Place Rotary Club and a past member of both the Zion Lodge #76 and Abu Bekr #91 Shiner Lodge. Additionally, he has served on Nassau County Police Guardians Board, is a charter member of Who's Who in North American Registry of African Americans and is a member of the National Alliance of Specialized Services for Veterans.