WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Michael Kaplowitz (D – Somers) was elected chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators by a wide margin, while his coalition colleague Jim Maisano (R – New Rochelle) was elected vice chair by a 9-to-8 vote Monday night.
The two are not only the new leadership for the county board, but for the bi-partisan coalition formed in December 2012 during the county budget vote. It includes all seven Republicans and two Democrats, including Kaplowitz and Virginia Perez (D – Yonkers). They have voted together on major issues in the last year, effectively taking the majority from the remaining eight Democrats.
While Kaplowitz received 15 of 17 votes Monday night for chair, Maisano’s nine votes came from only coalition members. John Testa (R - Peekskill), who is the new minority leader, nominated Maisano. Catherine Borgia (D - Ossining), who is the new majority leader, nominated Alfreda Williams (D - Greenburgh). No one was nominated to oppose Kaplowitz for chair.
The former chair, Ken Jenkins (D – Yonkers), said before the votes Monday that he isn’t discouraged by the change in leadership.
“There is nothing for us to be hanging our head about,” he told the Daily Voice. “People like to make a change. That’s part of life and were going to work together and continue to do what we do for the people of Westchester.”
He reflected on his accomplishments during his time as chair, including increasing employee health care contributions, term limits and making government transparent by streaming live online all board and committee meetings.
“We accomplished a lot of things, making sure that we were protecting the interest of those folks in Westchester that it is our responsibility to protect, as well as stand up for the rights of the legislature,” he said.
Kaplowitz and Maisano both started on the board in 1997, which the new chair said was an even stronger class than the 1983 NFL Draft that included greats like Dan Marino. Both he and Maisano emphasized collaboration between all legislators, but said that doesn’t mean they won’t debate.
“We’re not all going to agree on every issues. That’s not who we are as people,” he said. “I’ve said no one is expected to check their party registration or their party ideals at that legislative door. Let’s have a raucous vigorous discussion on the issues with respect in a bi-partisan fashion.”
Maisano, who was the minority leader for the Republicans, said the new leadership will defend the legislature’s rights against the
“I offer up, as all chairs do, this is an opportunity for a new spirit and a new approach,” Kaplowitz said. “Not better necessarily, but different.”