When Michael Smith (R-Greenburgh) ran for the Board of Legislators’ District 3 in 2011, he was a political newcomer facing mainstay Democrat and former Pleasantville Mayor John Nonna. He pulled out the victory with 51 percent of the vote.
Smith is now the incumbent, and even though a Democratic challenger has yet to be announced, he is confident he can retain his seat.
Smith, 56, officially announced his intent to run for a second term last week outside Elements Restaurant in White Plains. The Republican’s district encompasses the towns of North Castle and Mount Pleasant, including the villages of Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow, and portions of Greenburgh and Harrison.
“We need to make it so that our children have the ability to move back to Westchester when they go to college, and then so they can pay the property taxes,” Smith said in an interview Thursday. “That’s what my mission is. I’m going to focus on that for the remainder of this term and for the next two-year term.”
Smith, a CPA and chartered financial analyst serves as chief financial officer for Berkeley Educational Services. He said he would continue to support County Executive Rob Astorino, who is also facing re-election, regarding affordable housing settlement issues with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The settlement mandates Westchester build 750 units of affordable housing by 2016, with the source-of-income legislation a main sticking point.
Smith said he supports much of what Astorino has fought to do in his first term in office, such as reining in taxes and maintaining the AAA bond rating for the county.
During negotiations for the 2013 county budget, Smith said his work with Astorino is an example of his commitment to keeping taxes low in a county that has been the highest taxed in the United States. He said he worked to find compromises with a reasonable budget while eight legislators, all Democrats, walked out of the room.
“It’s disgraceful that people who are getting paid to do this work actually walked out on their responsibility,” Smith said. “I stayed in the room. We negotiated. We came with a budget that was difficult and challenging but fair and appropriate and in the best long-term interest of Westchester County taxpayers.”
While Smith praised Astorino, he didn’t mince words when referencing his disapproval for some of his colleagues on the Board of Legislators. Smith accused Democratic lawmakers of intentionally holding up capital projects to make it appear as though Astorino “wasn’t doing his job.”
Press releases sent out by the Board of Legislators, which Smith said are taxpayer funded, has also been a source of frustration for him.
“They put more effort into their press releases…than into actual efforts,” he said.
Smith’s solution for greater efficiency is to replace Kenneth Jenkins as the board’s chairman. Smith said the new chairman must be willing to accept a difference of opinion and promote public discussion rather than stonewalling it.
As of Monday afternoon, no one from the county’s Democratic Committee returned calls to answer questions regarding a potential challenger in the race. Smith said he isn’t aware of anyone in particular but expects a challenger to emerge.
Regardless of who that challenger may be, Smith is confident he will remain in office. Throughout last week’s interview, he indicated his certainty of victory by saying “when” he gets re-elected, rather than “if.”
“I will continue, in the next session when I get re-elected, I will continue to passionately advocate for long-term financial discipline in Westchester County,” Smith said. “Advocating for good long-term decisions that are in the interest of all taxpayers.”