Jim Millstein has resigned from the Larchmont Village Board as of Sunday, May 17 to join the United States Treasury Department as its “Senior Restructuring” officer. Friday, May 15 was his last day at Lazard Frères, the investment bank, where he was a managing director and co-head of the restructuring group. He began work in the Obama administration on Monday, May 18.
Mayor Liz Feld and the other board members praised Mr. Millstein at their May 18 board meeting. The mayor cited his “dedication, insight, commission and passion” and also his style – “open, direct and unfailingly honest.” Trustee Marlene Kolbert also mentioned his directness and his intelligence, but joked that he “didn’t always have the best political skills.”
“It’s the mayor’s authority and prerogative” to fill vacancies on the board, said Mayor Feld. She hopes to announce a choice at the next public meeting, which is June 8.
“What’s very important is maintaining both the creative balance and the collegial dynamic we have now,” she said after the meeting. She is not working with the local political parties. ”This appointment should not have anything to do with politics,” she said.
|Also at the Board:
Bridge Work at the Sheldrake: Two bridges damaged in the April 2007 floods are slated for repairs. The aim is to start after camp has ended and be finished by mid-September. Bids are going out shortly. Some of the cost will be reimbursed by FEMA. Treasurer Denis Brucciani apologized for the delay, due in part to his assuming his post shortly after the flood. Also, he said, Larchmont has been without an engineer. Woodard and Curran, consulting engineers, are now working with the Village.
New Gazebo for Constitution Park: The Beautification Committee has raised private funds for a new Victorian-styled gazebo that is somewhat larger and easier to maintain than the current structure. The DPW will help with installation, which will begin after July 4.
Less Pesticide: The Beautification and Environmental committees are “getting away from pesticides” and using compost, hand weeding and other sustainable methods to maintain municipal parks, gardens and planters.
Sidewalk Sales June 4, 5, 6: The board approved a request from the Larchmont Chamber of Commerce to put up tables and banners.
Fire Council Elections: Fire Chief Richard Heine was away on military training, but, on his recommendations, the board approved the results of elections for some, but not all, positions. Two elected wardens had zero attendance records and were not approved.
Village Roll? The board is seeking an evaluation of the assessor’s office, which it shares with the Town of Mamaroneck. Larchmont is considering a request from the Town to lessen the assessor’s workload by adopting the Town roll for Village properties instead of maintaining a separate one.
Tennis by July 4: while renovations are being made to the Flint Park courts, Larchmont tennis players may use facilities in Mamaroneck Town. Contact the Town Rec Department for details.
What is Mr. Millstein Going to Do in DC?
As Mr. Millstein explained it, the taxpayers have invested some $700 billion in TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) to avoid a meltdown in the financial system. His job will be to help retrieve some of that money “now that the administration has pulled the investment system back from the brink,” he told the Gazette before leaving for Washington.
Also, in case the government has to put more money in to prevent further collapse, they’d like to have someone like him who specializes in troubled companies, said Mr. Millstein. At Lazard, he ran “the largest restructuring group in the world.” They “specialized in all the big fallen angels”- such as WorldCom.
“It’s truly an opportunity to apply my skill set for the benefit of the government,” said Mr. Millstein. “Who knew that a restructuring guy would be useful to the government? But here it is – the moment has arrived. “
At Lazard Frères, Mr. Milstein represented the United Auto Workers in 2007 when they reached their “historic” (according to the Walt Street Journal) pact with General Motors in 2007.
But his relationship with the auto unions means he won’t be working on the auto industry at Treasury.
The Obama administration is “very scrupulous” in its vetting process, said Mr. Millstein. They want to be sure “if you go to Treasury, you are free and clear of any possible conflict of interest. “
Mr. Millstein has been required to disclose past relationships with anyone who might possibly have business with TARP and to sell investments in financial institutions or other businesses whose interests might conflict with his new position.
In Washington, Mr. Millstein will be reporting to another Larchmonter – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Mr. Millstein said he coached Mr. Geithner’s niece and met Mr. Geithner once or twice in Larchmont, but otherwise it’s merely coincidental that the two come from the same home town.
Although Mr. Millstein’s departure from the Village Board is abrupt, it is not entirely unanticipated. Following last November’s election, he spent a month in Washington as a member of the Treasury Department’s transition team. He was among those helping to ensure that senior appointees had the information needed to get through the confirmation process and begin work as soon as they were sworn in.
On the Village Board, What Got Accomplished? What Was Left?
Mr. Millstein won his first term on the board in 2006 running on a coalition slate with Liz Feld, a Republican, and Marlene Kolbert, a fellow Democrat. He was re-elected in 2008 with the same running mates.
Asked to recall the top three accomplishments of his tenure on the board, Mr. Millstein listed:
- Helping change the pattern of collective bargaining to get employees to begin contributing to the costs of their health care
- Negotiation of a new franchise agreement with Verizon and a renewed agreement with Cablevision that “provided LMC-TV with a sound financial footing for the next 20 years.”
- And “participating – along with a lot of others – in a “phenomenal renovation of Flint Park.”
Mayor Feld also credited him with helping develop a five-year capital plan and with working to restructure the Larchmont Fire Department, which remains the most controversial board initiative taken in many years.
Before his departure, Mr. Millstein had begun raising the issues of service consolidation and municipal consolidation. That will be “the main event in the upcoming election [for Mamaroneck Town Supervisor,” he said. “My early departure is depriving me of the ability to push that.”