If you ask former Carmel Supervisor Ken Schmitt what his future plans are, he will assure you he’s not going far and that “the wheels are turning.”
At 14 years, Schmitt holds the distinction of having the longest tenure ever held by Carmel’s top elected official. Schmitt did not run again after losing the GOP primary to former police chief Michael Cazzari, who ran unopposed in November.
Schmitt said he has been committed to the Carmel and Mahopac communities for his entire life. Born and raised in Mahopac, he joined the Mahopac Fire Department when he was 16, worked for the New York Police Department as a young adult and then returned to become a sergeant with the Carmel Police Department for 26 years before running for town supervisor in 2007.
“Public service is what Kenny Schmitt is all about,” Schmitt said of himself as he reflected on his long stint as supervisor. “I have a passion for it and I’m a hands-on guy. I’ve been out in the field a lot, getting in the trenches, operating machines. I get involved in everything.”
As supervisor, he accomplished some milestones for Carmel. Among those was supporting the Carmel Police Department with federal and state funding. “One of the most important things you can do for law enforcement as a supervisor is provide the police with the resources they need to do their jobs,” he said. “That includes the highest level of training and the latest equipment. It’s what the department needed to protect the community and it’s why we are ranked 23rd among the safest towns in the country for our size.”
Most challenging for Schmitt was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. When the country shut down in March of 2020, Schmitt said his town board and town employees realized the enormity of the public health crisis and they took immediate action.
“I started meetings with the Putnam Department of Health, participated in daily zoom calls and shared what we needed to do here with the town,” he said. “It was very difficult dealing with the pandemic early on because it was evolving so quickly. We had to learn how to keep people safe while providing services to the residents.”
Schmitt said they reduced the town workforce 50 percent and kept what they deemed essential workers. He said Councilman Frank Lombardi was key in helping coordinate new protocols while keeping the town running.
“It was a very tragic and sad time and probably the most difficult time of my tenure,” Schmitt said. “We are still dealing with [COVID] now but we have the protocols in place such as testing our officers and having our staff wear masks.”
One achievement Schmitt said he was extremely proud of was building the 9/11 memorial in Carmel to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on four major American sites, including New York City’s World Trade Center.
Schmitt’s hope is that future generations will acknowledge the countless innocent lives that were lost. “I took that on and we started the project in 2010 and completed it in 2012. We used artifacts from Ground Zero. I felt strongly that we needed something to remind people of that tragic day,” Schmitt said.
Actively advocating to upgrade the infrastructure for Carmel’s Water District #2 was always extremely important, said Schmitt. “We always have to make sure the infrastructure is capable of delivering quality water to residents and that means re-aligning and replacing water mains in the hamlet and upgrading to a microfiltration plant. It was also important to meet with the community to keep them informed.”
Schmitt said the total cost to upgrade the water district would probably be around $35 to 40 million. “You have to pay attention to infrastructure needs because it could be costly if all of the upgrades have to be paid for at the same time. That’s why we have a long-term improvement plan to deliver quality water at the tap,” he said.
Taking the initiative to add an extra layer of security in town hall, four years ago Schmitt created a small, visible police force known as Special Police Officers (SPOs). “At the time there were people who didn’t like government and we saw attacks and threats against government agencies. The SPOs are retired cops who are in the town hall lobby five days a week to protect the staff and the public,” he explained.
Schmitt plans on being as helpful as possible in passing the torch to Cazzari. “I will be meeting with Mike to brief him and update him, show him all the files and discuss the ongoing projects,” he said.
Exiting public life is unlikely for Schmitt. “The voters had a lot of trust and support in me and I had a great run and met so many wonderful people, some of whom became my lifelong friends. I’m not saying goodbye and although I’m leaving town hall, I might be back at some point, who knows?”
With his background in municipal government and law enforcement, Schmitt said he still had much to offer. “There’s going to be another chapter after I leave here, but I can’t discuss that part of my journey. But with my four decades of experience, it makes for a very attractive resume.”
Abby is a local journalist who has reported on breaking news for more than 20 years. She currently covers community issues in The Examiner as a full-time reporter and has written for the paper since its inception in 2007. Read more from Abby’s editor-author bio here. Read Abbys’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/ab-lub2019/