My husband and I have owned our home in the Town of Washington for more than two decades. Yet in the eyes of some folks in the community, we are newcomers — even outsiders — and will likely always be.
The scenario I recently experienced in my town gets replayed in varied, but remarkably similar ways in many of our towns here in the Hudson Valley. The specifics are different, but the underlying impulses are often the same: Fear of change; distrust of people from different backgrounds; economic inequity and insecurity; and plain old power struggles. But the bottom line is we need each other. For the future of our cherished communities the old guard and the newcomers need to find common ground and figure out how to work together.
To the Editor
Last week a letter from Town of Washington Supervisor Fussy Prisco was sent to me. It was not sent to my home in Millbrook, where I live full time, but to the apartment in NYC where my husband lives during the week. It said, “I appreciate your willingness to serve on the Town Council, and complete the term left vacant with the resignation of William Murphy. The Town Board had a very lively and spirited discussion, as we had very qualified people expressing their interest. The Town Board has appointed Karen Mosca to fill the unexpired term.”
I really don’t know if the Town Board had very qualified people expressing their interest, because I was not one of them. Despite the polite letter from Fussy, I never expressed interest in or spoke to a soul at the Town of Washington board about my willingness to serve. I never submitted a letter nor was I ever interviewed for the vacancy left by Willie Murphy’s resignation. In fact, I never read or saw any announcement that the Town of Washington Board was looking for members of the community to submit letters of interest.
I can’t help but feel used by the town leadership. That letter felt to me like an effort to create a paper trail suggesting this was an open process, which it doesn’t appear to have been. I don’t know if anyone else got a letter like the one I got, but I hope they were at least interviewed!
My hunch is that the Town Board — and whomever advises them on such appointments — had already decided who they would appoint. This has a been a pattern for the 25 years that I have lived here. Sitting members step down mid-term; an insider gets appointed by other insiders; and the appointed person runs as an incumbent in the next election. Too often it is the same people, or members of the same families, that keep being appointed to the decision making boards in the town.
My strong reaction to the letter may have something to do with the fact that early on I volunteered to serve on the Comprehensive Plan Committee for the town. While not selected for the committee, I was asked and agreed to serve on the subcommittee on cultural and municipal resources. That subcommittee never met. Despite my efforts to be more active, my whole involvement was a series of emails exchanging information. Yet, every time the Comprehensive Plan Committee appears in large community meetings my name is read as a member of the team, suggesting my active participation.
Like many others, I love this community and willingly volunteer to keep it vital. I helped organize two of the most successful Millbrook Community Day in many years. I serve on the Millbrook Education Foundation and other regional organizations. I strongly believe a healthy community benefits from an engaged population and diverse points of view. The failure of our town leaders to be open, transparent and inclusive in their appointments does us all a disservice.