By Tom McDermott and Robin Jovanovich
Rye voters can look forward to a competitive City Council election this fall because both political parties have full slates.
The Republican ticket is headed by incumbent Mayor Joe Sack, Councilman Terry McCartney, both of whom are running for their second terms, Susan Watson, who recently retired after a long career in the investment business and investor relations, followed by several years working at an executive search firm, and Elizabeth Parks, a sales executive at Fortune Live Media.
The Democrats announced their ticket earlier: Josh Cohn is running for Mayor and Sara Goddard, Julie Souza, and Ben Stacks are running for the Council.
Terry McCartney wrestled with running again, because he recently joined a law firm based in northern California. “ It’s not my way to be an absentee,” he told the paper. “But I have always traveled and the more I thought about the things I want to see accomplished in Rye, many of which we’re only halfway through, the more resolved I was to stay on and see them through.”
The fact that so many residents encouraged him to run again was also a factor, he acknowledged.
What he brings to the job, for one, is negotiating experience. “I’ve ended up helping our City’s Corporation Counsel resolve multiple lawsuits,” McCartney said.
As Council liaison to the Recreation Commission and someone whose background includes a lot of coaching, he’s tried to take the lead on ensuring adequate field space. “In 2014 the Council set aside money to hire a consultant. The City had kicked around the idea of creating more fields for 15 years.”
Referring to the hot-button plan to move DPW to the State-owned open space on Boston Post Road across from Rye Country Day School and adjacent to I-95, McCartney cautioned, “It’s very early in the Disbrow plan process. The consultant’s study has yet to be presented to the Council. I think the two public meetings have been excellent. We’ve received a great deal of input from residents. Our DPW staff is terrific but they are working in poor conditions. We need more field space. From the beginning, I’ve said ‘let’s keep our options open.’”
If reelected, McCartney said he would work toward greater improvements at the train station, a parking deck to ensure that small businesses can survive, and restructuring the Fire Department.
Headed off to a meeting regarding the City’s new Master Plan, McCartney said he was very excited about the progress.
Susan Watson says she’s been a libertarian all her life. “I wasn’t a political party person until 2014, when I learned that Congressman Eliot Engel was running unopposed. I wrote my name in. Peter Larr loves to tell people that I came in second!”
Watson understands how much commitment it takes to run for public office having challenged incumbent Catherine Parker for County Board of Legislators in 2015. “I enjoyed the experience, and now that I’m retired I have the time to dedicate to the community I love and chose to move back to and spend my retirement.”
She’s already established herself for the long term, as a SPRYE volunteer and co-president of Rye Newcomers.
“Every level of government has it roles and responsibilities,” she noted, “and as a City Council member, my focus would be improving Rye’s quality of life. That includes addressing our infrastructure needs, the condition of sidewalks, the shortage of parking, and ensuring a good environment for businesses.”
Years ago, the Nobel Prize-winning father of one of her good friends gave her advice that has stood her well: “You don’t have to have all the answers, just ask all the questions.”
In preparation for her upcoming trip to Normandy, Watson is reading historian Rick Atkinson’s work on D-Day. She’ll be battle-ready for the Council campaign upon her return.
According to Mayor Joe Sack, he is running for reelection because “I love the job, and I think I’ve done a good job.” He expects part of the campaign to be about “bread and butter” issues: Union negotiations, maintaining services, maintaining downtown. “Our administration got the ball rolling on fixing the downtown area and got it over the goal line.”
Sack also expects “one-off” types of issues like Crown Castle and United Hospital redevelopment to surface. “These issues need to be addressed in a level-headed way. A mayor doesn’t have the luxury of one viewpoint.” Sack points to his team’s campaign moniker “All Rye” as indicative of a need to listen not just to the “loudest voices” but to be collaborative and to build consensus in making decisions that impact the City.
As for his team, he refers to running mate Terry McCartney as a “Super Star” and expects the combination of their experience and the fresh perspective of Watson and Parks will create a situation where they are pulling in the same direction, something he sees lacking in the current Council. Sack chalks that up to “two new Council members who were at times partisan,” referring to Democratic Council members Emily Hurd and Danielle Tagger-Epstein. “It’s been difficult at times, nettlesome. I want to make sure that we’re working together. That will not be an issue with Susan and Elizabeth. Success equals great teamwork.”
Elizabeth Parks is seeking a seat on the Council in her first run for public office. She hails from Houston, Texas, is a graduate of the University of Texas, and moved to Rye four years ago after 20 years in New York City. Asked why she was drawn to running for office at a time when many pass on the opportunity, she said, “For me, it’s primarily about giving back. My family – husband Andrew and three young daughters who attend Osborn School – has been able to take advantage of all that Rye has to offer. It’s about community service.” Parks also credits City Councilwoman Julie Killian as inspiring her decision to run.
Parks is the Executive Director of Sales at Fortune Live Media and spent time in sales at The Wall Street Journal. She believes her background in communications will serve her well on the Council, and views communication as an area where the City could improve, “Citizens should be made aware of issues.” She has not yet made a “deep dive” into complex issues facing the Council such as Crown Castle, which is an issue she hopes the Council works on every day. “People are passionate about their lives in Rye and real estate is part of that.”