BY CAROL MCILMURRAY
Supervisor Hoehmann was sworn in by Judge Craig Johns and then gave a State of the Town address to an overflow crowd of residents and town officials at the Town Hall’s first-floor auditorium on Monday, Jan 4.
Hoehmann (R.), 50, a councilman since 2009, defeated six-term incumbent Alex Gromack (D) in a major political upset with large support from the Reform Party line.
“This is a big night for Clarkstown and a turning point for Rockland. In just two years [County Executive] Ed Day (R.) has delivered real change for the county and I am confident in George Hoehmann’s plan for Clarkstown,” said Rockland GOP party leader Lawrence Garvey.
Also sworn in were councilmen Frank Borelli (R.), who was re-elected, and newcomer John Noto, Jr., (R.), who defeated Deputy Supervisor Councilwoman Shirley Lasker (D). Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner (D) has two more years on her current seat before she is up for re-election in 2018.
For the first time in almost three decades, the GOP holds a majority at Town Hall. GOP majority will increase to 4-1 when Hoehmann’s vacant seat on the five-person Town Board is filled by political appointment.
Outside the council, Clarkstown swore in Justin Sweet (D) as Town Clerk, David Ascher (D) and Howard Gerber (D) as town justices and Frank DiZenzo (R) as superintendent of Highways.
During his 15-minute speech, Hoehmann vowed to streamline the budget and reduce taxes so families and seniors can stay in their Clarkstown homes.
“First, with two credit downgrades in the last six months, it is clear that our government has become too big, too costly and has too much bonded debt,” said Supervisor Hoehmann. He continued, “Across our town, families do the difficult work of making ends meet, making the hard choices to do more with less…it’s now time that Clarkstown does the same.”
Hoehmann laid out his plan to reduce overspending by a “top-to-bottom” review and the elimination unneeded positions.
Hoehmann has already reduced his own supervisor staff by two members and paired down the Town Attorney Office from eight attorneys to just two lawyers. Lino Sciarretta replaced Amy Mele as town attorney, and only First Deputy Attorney Paul Schofield remains from the prior attorneys staff. In other administrative moves, former Clerk of the Works Ed Lettre, Comptroller Ed Duer and Assessor Cathy Conklin have moved on. No word yet on whether Lettre plans to continue running the Rockland County Conservative Party or if he will retire and move to his beloved Florida estate.
“The reduced staff means no in-house sick days or pensions. It’s not something we like to do, but we have to do to save taxpayers money,” said Borelli. He continued, “The retirement and the resignations of employees [will] give us an opportunity to restructure and improve government services.”
Hoehmann also spoke of an upgrade to the town-owned 107-unit Middlewood Senior Complex and the possible construction of a second town senior complex through grants and private partnerships. Hoehmann proposed to combat illegal housing in Clarkstown by creating a “civil compliance unit.” This follows a 6-month stay on residential development passed in September.
Hoehmann also touted releasing town financial numbers through open government software and creating a volunteer audit committee to oversee municipal spending. Howard Hellman, head of Hoehmann’s Transition Team, was in attendance at Monday’s meeting. He said, “I am excited for the opportunities that George will bring. He has great vision and leadership skills.”
Robert Reicher, 15, who is presently too young to vote, said he helped with the campaign and it inspired him and his friends to start their own Young Republicans group at Clarkstown North High School. Reicher said senior housing problems and taxes were the biggest issues in town and he “wants to get involved now so he can help senior citizens afford to stay here.”
Clarkstown Council next meets on Feb 9 at 8 p.m.