By Rick Pezzullo
Three longtime Cortlandt incumbents and a newcomer to elected office were sworn-in Sunday before more than 100 family, friends and well-wishers at Cortlandt Town Hall.
A sometimes uncharacteristically emotional Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi headlined the ceremony as she took the oath of office for her 15th two-year term with her adult twin children, two grandsons, son-in-law and sister taking part in the festivities.
“I’m as excited today as I was the first time, 29 years ago,” Puglisi said. “It takes a whole group of people to get us to this position. The victory goes to the whole town, the people that vote us into these offices and trust us.”
Puglisi, who choked back tears when referencing her grandsons, Oliver and Jeremy Tam, and late father, a veteran and an historian, thanked the town’s 42,000 residents and more than 200 town employees for returning her to the position she cherishes.
“I love Cortlandt. It is an honor and a privilege to be town supervisor. Cortlandt is not just a place, it’s a home,” she said. “It’s not about the position, it’s about the purpose. I have tried my best over the last three decades to work hard for everyone. It is a team effort. I call it our Cortlandt family and it really is. We will go forward and make the town even better.”
Contrasting Puglisi’s longevity was Town Justice Maritza Fugaro-Norton, who was sworn-in for the first time after ousting 12-year incumbent Dan McCarthy on Election Day.
Fugaro-Norton, who has resided in Cortlandt for the last 14 years and has been a Court Attorney in the Westchester County Family Court for the last 12 years, received 4,833 votes (53%) to 4,234 for McCarthy (47%).
Fugaro-Norton is only the second woman elected town justice in Cortlandt’s history. Two years ago, Kimberly Ragazzo paved the way, defeating 28-year Republican incumbent judge Gerald Klein. The town justice seat is a four-year term and carries an annual salary of $46,054.
“This is really a surreal moment for me,” Fugaro-Norton said. “Wearing this robe today is a long journey of hard work. This was an opportunity to achieve my goal. I know people have entrusted in me a great responsibility. I am truly honored and humbled to be your town justice.”
Councilmen Frank Farrell and Dr. Richard Becker each took the oath of office from Town Attorney Thomas Wood as they were reelected to new four-year terms running unopposed. Puglisi also had a free ride in November.
A 24-year board veteran, Farrell was elected to a seventh term, while Becker will be starting his fourth term.
“I am as eager to continue working as the first day I stood here,” Farrell said. “I’m looking forward to the next term. We need to keep the town moving economically.”
“I think it comes down to trust. It takes time to establish that trust,” Becker said. “We’re all here to help and I think that doesn’t go unrecognized. They always say there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. There’s a third: change. This town board has to try to manage that change as we go forward.”