PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – The Port Chester Daily Voice is profiling the candidates for mayor and for the village Board of Trustees in the March 19 election. Each candidate was asked the same questions.
Mayor Dennis Pilla, running on the Citizens for Better Government ticket, is being challenged by Neil Pagano, a candidate on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines, for a two-year mayoral term.
Ten candidates are running for six three-year seats on the village board. They include incumbents Daniel Brakewood (D, CBG); Joseph Kenner (R); Saverio Terenzi (R, C, I); Luis Marino (D, CBG); and Bart Didden (C, I). John Branca is not seeking re-election.
New candidates are Gregory Adams (D, CBG); Gene Ceccarelli (Pride of Port Chester); John Reavis (Coalition Party); Ricardo Dos Anjos (C); and Francis Ferrara (R), who serves on the Industrial Development Agency.
The Daily Voice asked Pagano about his background and what he would do if elected mayor. Here are his answers.
Tell us about yourself and your family.
I was born and raised in Port Chester and I have owned and operated C.J. Pagano Real Estate, Appraisal and Insurance Co. for 45 years. The company was founded by my dad in 1930 and is now going into its 83rd year of service to the Sound Shore area.
- Wife: Rosemary Pagnotta-Pagano
- Daughter: Gina Maria Redwine, married to Jim, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. They have two children. The family lives in Kansas.
- Son: Michael Pagano, married to Heide. Michael is a judge in northern Indiana. They have two children.
- Westchester Community College, A.A.S. degree, liberal arts social science
- The College of Insurance, B.B.A. with minor in finance
- Licensed real estate and insurance broker and licensed real estate appraiser
- U.S. military: 101st Airborne Division, 19th Special Forces Group
- Current chair of the Village of Port Chester Industrial Development Agency
- Member of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee
- Past president Port Chester Rye Town Chamber of Commerce
- 45-year member of Harry Howard Hook & Ladder Company No. 1
- Former member of the Board of Trustees of Westchester Community College
Why are you running for mayor of Port Chester?
Over the last several years I have watched our village government slide into gridlock and paralysis. At a time when it is most needed, critical decisions are not being made. Important issues such as expanding our tax base go unaddressed, and there is no plan to identify, much less secure, additional sources of revenue for our budget.
An unfair and unjust code enforcement process is penalizing good and law-abiding property owners, while those who flaunt the law appear to go unscathed. Our marina bulkhead sinks further and further into the Byram River, and has become an embarrassing eyesore to our community. And what has our current mayor done about this? Nothing! The marina is so underutilized and unmanaged that it is often referred to as "the wild, wild West."
Rather than remain on the sidelines and watch this inaction and mismanagement continue, I decided that I would step up and offer the good people of Port Chester the benefit of my life experiences as an effective manager and communicator, and apply those skills to a board that, by virtually all accounts, is badly in need of new leadership.
That is why I would like to be Port Chester's next mayor – so I can offer the kind of effective leadership that will produce the kind of results that the people of this village want, need and deserve.
What qualifies you to be mayor?
I would bring proven leadership and "in-the-trenches" work experience to the village. As a lifelong resident of Port Chester, I know its history, its people, and I know how to lead the village toward a brighter future.
As chairman of the village's Industrial Development Agency, I personally negotiated a $600,000 municipal impact fee payment to the village treasury, and I helped to significantly increase the annual payments in lieu of taxes to the village and its school system. I also negotiated the successful agreement between the IDA and Restaurant Depot that resulted in freezing the tax assessment on the property and produced approximately 60 new jobs, the majority of which went to village residents.
As a member of the village's Comprehensive Plan Committee, I worked cooperatively with other village leaders and residents to adopt a comprehensive plan for the village; as the former executive vice president and CEO of Historic New Harmony Inc. (Eli Lilly-Lilly), in southern Indiana, I provided key leadership for an economic development and historic preservation project.
And last, but certainly not least, my over 45 years as the owner and CEO of a family owned and operated real estate, appraisal and management company, right here in Port Chester, has provided me with a level of expertise and exposure to issues that will benefit the village financially, and developmentally, in the future.
What are the three biggest issues facing the village today?
1. Immediately develop and install a plan to put our village on the path to expand our tax base and focus on adding additional revenue sources by maximizing revenue centers like the commercial tenant space on the third floor of Village Hall, and the marina.
2. Seek immediate relief of the code enforcement/amnesty program and develop a more benevolent and friendly approach to those property owners who, through no fault of their own, are trapped in an unfair and unbalanced process, and find legally permitted ways to identify property owners who have violated the building code law.
3. Address long-neglected infrastructure issues, especially the marina bulkhead and the police headquarters building.
If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax levy cap, what would you cut?
Everything must be on the table. In the long run, the expansion of a static tax base is an immediate priority for our community. While tax-base expansion takes time to produce results that will effectively ease the tax burden, other opportunities must be aggressively sought in the short term, including:
- Exploration of shared services among neighboring communities. This is a viable option that would reduce costs and slow the growth of spending without negatively impacting the quality of services. Shared services can include fire services, outsourcing garbage collection and recycling, shared permitting services in the Building Department, shared code enforcement duties, park maintenance, and consolidating payroll, time and attendance administration.
- I am an advocate of "zero-based" budgeting, and I would also continue to explore the town dissolution study. In addition I would explore changing the method of purchasing workers compensation insurance.