Besides the supervisor and a town justice position, voters in the Town of Cortlandt will be heading to the polls on Nov. 7 to decide on two of the four Town Board seats that are up for grabs this year.
With Councilman Frank Farrell opting not to seek another term after 28 years of service, the lone incumbent in the race is Robert Mayes, who is vying for his first full four-year term. Joining him on the Democratic line is political newcomer Joyce White.
Looking to end a long Republican drought on the board are Ryan Mulcahy and George Pappas, who will also appear on the Concerned Taxpayers line.
Each seat carries an annual salary of $27,450.
Mayes, a fifth-generation town resident, was appointed in February 2022 to fill a vacancy created when Supervisor Dr. Richard Becker succeeded retiring Linda Puglisi. Last November, he won a special election to serve the final year of Becker’s unexpired term.
An attorney at the state Department of Corrections and a former Westchester assistant district attorney in, the former Lakeland Board of Education trustee said he is running because he is “fully committed to Cortlandt.”
“I am running for re-election because I believe my strong track record of pragmatic advocacy for our community makes me best suited to help Cortlandt continue to thrive as a family-oriented community,” Mayes said. “I have lived here nearly all my life and have chosen to raise my family here. My personal history, combined with all that I’ve learned through years of community engagement, has deepened my understanding of where Cortlandt has been, where it is now and where it can go.”
Mayes, 43, said he has “kept an eye on the bottom line” and spearheaded an effort to modernize Cortlandt’s approach to maintenance of the town’s parks and athletic fields. He also views public safety as a top priority.
“The most pressing issue is always the budget,” he said. “I believe in prudent fiscal management that incrementally raises revenues during periods of strong economic growth to avoid large, painful tax increases during downturns. We need to responsibly encourage growth in a post-pandemic world and beyond.”
Mayes said the board’s vote earlier this year to unanimously approve zoning for the Medical Oriented District (MOD) was “appropriate given the MOD’s location on a state road, its proximity to the hospital, and it being one of the few areas in town with existing sewer capacity.”
“There are more than 40,000 people who call Cortlandt home, and I will never forget each and every decision I make affects each and every one of them,” he said. “I strive to make sure every resident knows not only the ‘what’ about government actions, but also the ‘why.’ Bottom line: Cortlandt will always get my all, and it will get it with complete transparency.”
Mulcahy, 50, has been an eighth-grade social studies teacher in the White Plains School District since 1998. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Mulcahy took a leave of absence to serve as a military police officer in the U.S. Army. He served for 27 months and returned to teaching after his father was diagnosed with leukemia.
Mulcahy grew up in Crompond and now lives in the Amberlands. His mother ran unsuccessfully for the same position in the early 1970s.
“I have witnessed a great deal of change, and what I have seen are some things I have not agreed with,” he said. “I think we have gone too far. You can reach a tipping point. People move to the Town of Cortlandt to try to get away from urban areas. I think development for the sake of development is not a good thing. As an elected official, you are supposed to represent the people who are your constituents.”
“I want to serve my community and make a difference,” Mulcahy said. “I want to help our community head in a direction I think it needs to go. I’m an independent person with my own ideas. I’m going to vote my conscience. I believe everybody should have a voice at the table. Everyone should be represented. We haven’t had that in 30 years.”
Mulcahy said there are “serious problems” with the projects being proposed in the MOD
“You have to think big picture. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he said. “When we walk around that area, those people are not happy. I would not have voted to rezone the MOD. It’s not called a 99-home Medical Oriented District. What about the quality of life of people around the MOD who have been there for decades?”
Mulcahy said he would explore the possibility of having a school resource officer in every school in the town.
“There’s always ways where you can manipulate a budget,” he said. It’s no good if the SRO is not in the building. The problem is inside.”
A proponent of term limits, Mulcahy said a Town Board member should be limited to eight years.
“I don’t want to be a career politician and I don’t think anybody should,” he said. “I would say there is complacency and the same old ideas in the Town of Cortlandt. My parents instilled in me a work ethic and that people of all backgrounds, differences, religions, etc., should be honored and respected and treated equally.”
Pappas, 55, has lived in Cortlandt since 1999. He coached in the Cortlandt American Little League for 12 years. He is employed as vice president of sales for an IT company.
He has had dealings with the town for several years regarding a deteriorating dam in Wallace Pond, but he stressed that is not what motivated him to seek elected office.
“It kind of showed me how things work,” Pappas said. “This isn’t the way you’re supposed to deal with constituents. This issue persists and makes me realize we need a change in this town to really get things done. I’m not a politician. I’m a problem-solver. I’m just a person that cares about people. I don’t have any other aspirations. I just want to come in and do the right thing.”
Pappas said he doesn’t think Cortlandt needs any more high-density housing. With a father in an assisted living facility in Florida, Pappas sees the need for the assisted living project planned in the MOD, but disagrees with the way the Town Board handled the issue.
“I don’t see how it was rezoned for that magnitude of development; 98 percent of the people in that area are livid,” he said.
Pappas said he has heard a lot of concerns about petty crimes in Cortlandt and doesn’t think the recent hiring of a community police officer is enough.
“We should have better response time,” he said.
A supporter of term limits, Pappas thinks it’s time for some change on the board.
“People are seeing the differences in this town made by the decisions made by this board,” Pappas said. “At the local level it shouldn’t be about party. We’re hoping people see through party.”
White, 42, a Lakeland High School graduate, is a healthcare director of business development and marketing.
“My skills in business have proven I can definitely be an asset,” she said. “I understand how to debate. I understand how to listen to issues and people’s concerns. It’s not about party, it’s about perspectives.”
White said development in Cortlandt “has to be a healthy balance.”
“Our town is so big. It’s all about what’s being built and brought into our community,” she said. “It really depends on where you live in this beautiful town.”
She feels the board paid close attention to all the concerns that were raised regarding the MOD.
“Change is always uncomfortable. Whatever is built there should be affordable housing,” White said. “We need to pay close attention to our nurses, teachers, blue collar workers. Everyone should be able to live here comfortably.”
White is also hoping to focus on parks and recreation in the town, upkeep and public safety.
“It’s a good time to do it,” she said of running for office.
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/