Larchmont’s next mayor , Josh Mandell, is getting a break – at least on the political front. As the only mayoral candidate, he has been spared the ordeal of sloshing through late winter snowstorms to knock on voters’ doors. “It makes it easier for me,” he admitted, “but I would have liked to have been engaged in a vigorous debate of ideas – I was a debate geek in college.”
Mr. Mandell was nominated by the Larchmont Village Democrats at their January caucus and is “running” for election with Marlene Kolbert, a four-term incumbent, and Jaine Eney Elkind, 52, a real estate lawyer and long-term chair of the Mamaroneck Town Board of Assessment Review.
|Election Day in Village of Larchmont
Tuesday, March 16
Polls are open: 6 am – 9 pm
All voting will take place in the Larchmont Fire House
With the electoral outcome assured, Mr. Mandell is already looking forward to governing. “I’m tremendously excited about working with the board and our new trustee, Jaine Eney Elkind,” he said.
Being Mayor Will Be A Full-Time Job
Mr. Mandell will ascend to the mayor’s seat after less than a year as a trustee. Mayor Liz Feld, the only Republican on the board, tapped him to fill the vacancy left last June when Jim Millstein left to serve in the Obama administration.
His last ten months on the board have given Mr. Mandell an education in municipal governance, but he admits, “The mayor has many more responsibilities than a trustee.” Although Larchmont’s mayor is an unpaid volunteer, “the mayor really needs to treat it as a full-time job and must be there on a day-to-day basis to oversee the day-to-day operations of the village,” he said.
The time commitment will not be a problem for Mr. Mandell, who mostly works from home managing personal and family investments. Previously, he spent almost 20 years on Wall Street, ten on the “sell” side with Salmon Brothers and 10 on the “buy” side as a portfolio manager for institutional and high net worth clients.
Now 42, he moved to Larchmont four years ago with his wife, Ravit, and their three children, 11, 8 and 6.
Challenges: Business District, Flooding, Affordable Housing
Going forward, Mr. Mandell faces the challenge of governing a small village with a limited tax base during an ongoing recession.
He’s also heaped on his plate three difficult priorities: shoring up a shaky business district; handling long-term flooding woes and meeting county and federal demands for new affordable housing units when previous administrations were unable to produce any.
“Obviously, we have no control over rent or the state of the economy,” he said. “But we can rededicate ourselves to cleaning up the business district in order to provide an environment that is attractive to potential new businesses.”
To that end, he was optimistic about upcoming renovations to the sidewalks, curbs and lighting along Palmer Avenue, funded mostly with federal Transportation Department grants which Trustee Anne McAndrews was instrumental in securing.
Flood mitigation will be another top concern for the Village Board, he said. “This is a major infrastructure project that will require significant amounts of financial assistance from outside governmental agencies,” he said.
The Larchmont Village Board has been looking at proposals to mitigate flooding in the Pine Brook area which are estimated to cost $10 to $14 million. “I expect to continue the process of trying to acquire funding for this effort,” said Mr. Mandell. “Nothing will happen without all the money.
And even after getting the money, he noted, there will be a lot of disruption and need for coordination with the impacted homeowners.
Creating affordable housing will be another important task for the new mayor and board. Mr. Mandell noted that Larchmont has a pre-existing commitment to build 35 units of new affordable work force housing.”During the next administration we must begin to make progress in fulfilling this obligation,” he stressed.
Asked how this could happen, given that no affordable units have been built in many years, he said, “I don’t believe the village should be in the housing business, so I envision this will be accomplished through partnership with property managers and private developers.” He added, “I’m not looking to put condominiums on the balance sheet of the Village of Larchmont.”
He said there have been meetings and conversations between Larchmont and interested parties, and “I’m hopeful that progress will take place in the coming year.”
And More on the To Do List
Mr. Mandell is also hopeful things will work out at the fire department, although he is not ready to discuss a permanent solution to replacing the outgoing fire chief, Richard Heine, who announced his retirement last month. Mr. Mandell joined the fire department as a volunteer in 2007 just as many long term volunteers were resigning in protest at the hiring of a paid chief.
For the near term, after Chief Heine’s departure, Mr. Mandell expects leadership of the department to be split between a career officer – supervising the paid staff – and a volunteer deputy chief, overseeing the Fire Council and volunteers.
As for additional administrative support at Village Hall – a priority of the last administration – Mr. Mandell said he thought there was “enough at this point.” He added, “We’re in a very different spot in this era – we have to learn to do more with less. This is not the time to add to the head count at Village Hall.”
On other questions, Mr. Mandell asked for some time for things to develop. The budget for 2010-2011 is being put together and will be unveiled soon. Also coming soon is a report from the tri-municipal task force that is studying consolidation.