Come November, the presidential election won't be the only one that draws people to the polls. Closer to home, six candidates—three Democrats and three Republicans—will be vying for three open trustee seats in the Village of Mamaroneck.
In the next few weeks, Larchmont Patch will be running a series of Q&As with the candidates so you, the voters, know where they stand on issues impacting your community.
This week we'll be presenting the Village of Mamaroneck Democratic Party candidates.
Bio: (from the Village of Mamaroneck Democrats website) Ilissa Miller has lived in Rye Neck since 2003. She has served as a volunteer on the Mamaroneck Avenue Task Force Committee for the Village for more than four years, the President of Harbor Lawn Estates Association for six years and was the co-chair of the Rye Neck PTSA sponsored Spring Fair in 2011 and 2012. In business, Miller has worked in the telecommunications industry for sixteen years. Miller has launched companies, messaged new business models and has extensive experience in international business development. Today, Miller serves as chief executive officer at iMiller Public Relations (iMPR), a telecom marketing, public relations, and business strategy consultancy practice for international clients. She has been married for 10 years with a son entering 4th Grade at F.E. Bellows. She is a trained opera singer who attended the Crane School of Music and earned a B.A. degree in English at the State University of New York College at Potsdam.
Larchmont Patch: What are some of the major issues facing residents in the Village of Mamaroneck?
Ilissa Miller: With the continued economic uncertainty, it's challenging to protect our village character. New developments are important, but cannot be allowed to disrupt our quality of life or create neglect of our public assets and must not affect our public services. We need to plan for long-term financial health by implementing budgets that reflect the values of our village while respecting taxpayers and families.
Safeguarding public and private property with effective flood mitigation is another top priority. The village needs building and zoning codes that are easy to understand and enforce. Furthermore, without knowing what Mother Nature will bring, we must provide information about past floods to our village residents so that they can make cost-effective decision about their homes. And, before our the next flood hits the village, we need a plan in place to provide residents access to emergency funding and assistance.
Finally, I firmly believe that the only way to solve the challenges that our community faces is to insist on greater transparency and accountability from the Board of Trustees. I strongly believe that residents deserve more information, in a way that they can understand it, about how fiscal planning decision are made and our local officials need to listen with more sincerity to the concerns of our community. For example, the knowledge and experience of our residents can be so beneficial, we need to leverage this opportunity by insisting that the recommendations of official volunteer committees be taken seriously.
Larchmont Patch: As a board member, how would you help make the village a better place to live?
Miller: Luckily, Mamaroneck Village is already a wonderful place to live! Right now our biggest responsibility is to make sure that the high quality and diverse character of our community can be maintained for new families looking for the perfect place to raise their children. That means we must plan for long-term financial health with responsible budgets that respect taxpayers. The Democratic candidates are committed to finding alternative sources of revenue to protect our village character without putting more pressure on families facing their own economic uncertainty. We can learn from the successes of our neighboring communities to create more effective and more efficient government. And we must face these challenges together, with village officials working in full partnership with residents and community leaders.
Larchmont Patch: What has your experience working for the Mamaroneck Avenue Task Force Committee taught you about working in public service?
Miller: First, nothing happens without cooperation. Business owners and residents alike want the same things—though they may approach the solution differently. If we work together, and listen thoughtfully to one another, then good ideas flourish and opportunities arise. Second, paths of communication need to be expanded. Community members may have excellent, innovative ideas that have no means of reaching local officials. And Mamaroneck’s Master Plan, which addresses many residents’ questions, is hardly known outside the inner circle of village government. Communicating the village’s vision would engage residents in a way that would be very effective.
Last, being mindful and patient is—not surprisingly—absolutely necessary when weighing the competing concerns of your friends and neighbors.
Larchmont Patch: What made you want to run for the VOM board?
Miller: From my college days, I was an activist who spent summers campaigning. I joined a service sorority, whose activities were solely about fundraising for the community. After starting a family in Mamaroneck, I joined my neighborhood association and served for seven years as president. And when my son entered school, I immediately joined the PTSA. So, some form of community service has been part of my life for a long time. With three incumbent trustees retiring all at once this year, there is an unusual opportunity for some new voices and new energy to enter the public debate. When I was approached to run, I thought about my experience as a business person, as a member of my community, and as a mom, and I decided I could be an effective trustee. Mamaroneck’s government shouldn’t be a mystery to it’s citizens. Our friends, neighbors, and families deserve more transparency, more communication, and more cooperation toward a shared vision of our community’s future.
Larchmont Patch: Although there are many contentious issues in the village, one that seems to have resonated with local residents is a recent violation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the village received for high fecal coliform counts in various spots throughout the village. Do you think this issue is one that can be resolved within a reasonable time frame and, if so, how?
Miller: I understand that there are ongoing studies to try to identify where the contamination is coming from. Until we have more information it’s impossible to estimate a time frame for a solution. Unfortunately, this type of issue serves as an example that we haven’t been keeping an eye on the ball—public property and infrastructure have been underfunded during the economic downturn. And as anyone who owns a car will tell you, poor maintenance creates problems.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misstated the number of trustee seats that are open on the Village of Mamaroneck Board; there are three, not two, open seats. The article has been corrected to reflect the change.