On Nov. 8 Peekskill voters will have a lot of choices to make. There are three open Common Council seats and the mayor is also up for reelection.
Patch sent all candidates the following five questions and asked for brief responses. We will run a series featuring the responses over the next two weeks. Here is the fourth of our series, featuring Barbara Kerasiotes' unedited answers. Read her biography .
Democratic candidates Kathleen Talbot, Darren Rigger and Don Bennett (incumbent) are running for the Council seats. Mayor Mary Foster is running for re-election into what would be her third 2-year term.
Republican candidates Joe Brady, Steve Woods and Barbara Kerasiotes are running for the Council seats and Tony Washington is running for mayor.
Read more about the Republican candidates and the Democratic candidates .
Why are you running for political office?
As a lifelong resident of Peekskill with deep roots in the community, I have always been passionate about Peekskill. My dad owned and operated a business, the Academy Grill Restaurant, in the downtown for thirty-five years and instilled in me a love and appreciation for my hometown. Peekskill was good to our family – it afforded my parents the opportunity to raise their children in a safe small town environment, where neighbors and friends always looked out for one another and where the school district could provide a solid educational foundation.
Consequently, I have always felt indebted to Peekskill for all that it has given us and feel that becoming a part of city government would afford me the opportunity to contribute or give back for all that we have received. More importantly, Peekskill is now at a very critical juncture in its history, and I would be delinquent if I sat back and did nothing to help turn things around. Someone has to stand up and take responsibility -- I am standing up for my hometown.
What do you feel makes you qualified to run for your position based on your professional and personal life?
Everything I’ve done in my life thus far has prepared me for a spot on the City Council. Educationally, I hold a degree in Business Administration and earned two Master’s degrees – one in Administration, and one in Counseling. Furthermore, I have dedicated much of my life to serving my community, both personally and professionally.
Years of volunteer experience as an executive and a board member in various community organizations – such as the Women’s Resource Center, the Paramount Center for the Arts, and the Northern Westchester College Conference Committee to name a few -- have prepared me for the challenge, as has my current role as trustee of a privately held company.
My years in the business sector have also provided me with a broad-based background in accounting, sales, marketing, and management. Serving as Principal and co-founder of an after-school Greek language program at Lakeland High School for the last ten plus years has also added significantly to my experience. Most importantly, however, my role as a school counselor for the last twenty years has taught me to listen carefully to the viewpoints of people from various backgrounds and to offer options and creative solutions to their problems.
What are two or three of the most important issues facing Peekskill that you plan to tackle first if elected?
The most critical issue facing Peekskill today is the lack of good governance. First and foremost we need to get Peekskill’s financial house in order. Without a firm fiscal foundation, we cannot meet the challenges facing the city today. Peekskill is on the brink of financial crisis. Frivolous spending and spending more than we take in has led to an anticipated 2012 deficit of over three million dollars, without even mentioning the massive debt that the city’s undertaken. This will impact future generations for some time.
In my view, the second most important issue is the lack of real economic development which could have produced sorely needed tax revenue, tax relief for our overburdened population and jobs for our youth and citizens at large. Thirdly, as we speak to people all over the city, we hear over and over that our quality of life has deteriorated. One of the city’s most important jobs is to provide a healthy and safe environment for all of our residents – safe housing, streets free of litter and debris, clean water and sewers that are maintained so they don’t back up into our basements, to name just a few.
How are your plans and solutions different from other candidates?
My running mates and I share similar values and beliefs and have an exciting vision for renewing Peekskill and its future – a future where a thriving economy will enhance our already rich cultural life and reflect our vibrant community – a future that is bright and where life is better for all of its citizens. This vision is one that includes transparency at all times. The public will know what issues are on the table. More importantly there will be no hidden taxes or stealth fees that are slipped by the taxpayers – such as the real estate transfer tax and utility tax. There will be no empty promises. We’ll say what we’ll do, and we’ll do what we say. Above all we’ll listen to what our constituents are saying. We will open up the lines of communication between the city and its employees and negotiate contracts in good faith and in a timely fashion.
How do you measure the success of elected officials in Peekskill?
Perhaps the best measure of the success of Peekskill’s elected officials is whether people are better off today than they were, let’s say four years ago. More specifically, are taxes being kept to a reasonable rate? Do we feel safe in our homes and on our streets? Are city services adequate to provide for the needs of our residents? Is there a mutual respect between city officials and their constituents? Is there adequate economic development? When our team is elected, we will do everything in our power to ensure that the above mentioned needs of our city become a reality.