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Accolades at Village Hall for Retiring Trustees Deb Pekarek and Marc Samwick

PekarekMarch 27 marked the last Village Board meeting for Deb Pekarek and Marc Samwick who both completed two terms of service for Scarsdale Village Trustee. In the March 20 election, two new trustees, Justin Arest and Lena Crandall were elected to take their places at the dais and Jane Veron was re-elected for a second term.

After a celebratory dinner the trustees assembled for their final meeting. Pekarek and Samwick made remarks about their years on the board and thanked many who they worked with. In turn, the Mayor and remaining Board members lauded the two departing trustees. Samwick was thanked for his diligence in the area of finance and budgeting while Pekarek was noted for her commitment to sustainability and her ability to listen and compromise. Here are excerpts from their remarks; you can listen to them in their entirety here:

Scarsdale’s newest sitting Trustee, Seth Ross, spoke first and said he originally met Samwick when Samwick was coaching and “got to know (him) as an involved parent and a little league coach who was there not only for his own child but also for the others who were there to have fun and to learn and grow. Turning to now, he said, “Your strong background in finance, land use, and a number of other substantive areas has been a great resource for the village, but what most impresses me is the same natural tendency you showed when I first met you to devote yourself and your time and energy and expertise to the common good. You have been a shining example for me as a new village trustee.”

About Deb Pekarek he said, “I’m not sure that anyone else has upheld the values and standards of conduct of this community, and modeled the qualities that make Scarsdale special, the way that you have. Your grace under pressure, your unflappable nature, and your readiness to take on sometimes contentious issues and situations and to foster dialog rather than confrontation not only make you who you are but play a really significant role in making Scarsdale what it is.”

To both departing trustees Ross said, “You will both be missed on this board, but the good you have done will benefit us all well into the future and, of course, in hope to see you both continue as active and involved members of the community. “

Jane Veron said, “Deputy Mayor Samwick, it is hard to imagine a Village Board without you. Your service has been a priceless gift to our Village. For four years, you have shared with us your quick mind, your keen insight and your strong leadership. Your ability to synthesize vast amounts of information, consider competing interests, and get to the heart of an issue, in mere nano seconds, was truly awe inspiring. …You made your mark in so many different ways, but perhaps most significantly was the way you shepherded the Village budget. No one knew the numbers better than you. You examined the intricacies of each line item, department by department, and extrapolated forward, feeling the enormous responsibility of setting taxes for the residents.”

She continued, “ You showcased your extraordinary capabilities as Finance Chair although I saw them at work in every area you touched. As Land Use Chair, you set in motion a project that will have a lasting positive impact. With you and former Mayor Jon Mark at the helm, the community listening effort to imagine the future for the Freightway site produced exciting possibilities. Your role in engaging diversity of perspective and extensive outreach cannot be overstated. You showed a deep sensitivity to all views, and our town will be better off for it. Similarly, you listened and responded to the challenges faced by Land Use boards and kicked off the discussions to articulate priorities for fixing. You care deeply about our heritage, preservation and character.”Steve and Marc1

Turning to Deb Pekarek, Veron said, “Trustee Pekarek, you have brought to our board a very special combination of energy, passion, intelligence, and commitment. Nothing is ever too much for you, and from your first day until your last, you have served with unwavering dedication and drive. You care deeply about our Village, and it shows in everything you do. No matter the issue, you research, consider, question, and integrate vastly divergent community input. Always prepared, you provide meaningful, insightful perspective that benefits all of us. “

…”Deb, I have been so impressed by your leadership as Chair of Sustainability, liaison to the CAC, advocate for our parks and trees, and general supporter of healthy living. In such short order, you have helped Scarsdale make huge leaps forward. What began as aspirational is now going to be common practice in our town, be it food scrap recycling, knotweed control, or biking path linkages. You have educated us on invasive species, raised our awareness on grass and leaf mulching, and supported LED lights. “

Telling the board that he left his written remarks at dinner, Carl Finger spoke without notes and thanked Pekarek for keeping him in check during his first two years as trustee. He called her “dedicated, prepared and thoughtful,” and noted her advocacy for sustainability, willingness to compromise and ability to get things done.

To Samwick Finger said, “You go through everything with a fine toothed comb. Your comments are always well taken and you are not afraid to ask the difficult questions.”

Finger continued, “Between the two of you, you always have our goals as a board and a community in mind. You allow us to work together as a team. You resolve positions and allow us to reach consensus. I hope we can continue in this vein. I appreciate your service, everything you have taught me and your involvement in the future.”

Mayor Dan Hochvert said he has “known Deb for ten years and met her when she led the Greenacres Neighborhood Association.” He said she was “organized and had an agenda. The results were improved.” He said, “I worked with you on the Harwood Project where you dug up the big knotweed. It has blossomed because of the work you have done. I hope you will continue to call me to talk about things that are going on in Scarsdale.”

He complimented Samwick on noticing the details about Village Finance and “money well spent.” He said, “You did more than your share.” He called him an active participant on the Freightway Steering Committee.”

He asked both Pekarek and Samwick to remain active in Village affairs.

In her farewell remarks, Deb Pekarek said it was a bittersweet goodbye and thanked everyone she has worked with saying, “It has been a real treat to get to know you all better and to work with an impressive group of community and staff folks.” She thanked her husband Jon who “generously supported and applauded me these past four years. And faithfully turned in to cable every Tuesday evening!”

She thanked Seth Ross for “lending your deep, thoughtful, deliberative style and provided the Board wise council….Your contemplative style will continue to assist the board and I look forward to your thoughtful voice.”

She called Matt Callaghan “the consummate gentleman, always jovial, and kind. You look dapper in your uniform.”

She said Jane Veron was “awesome” and handled tasks with “verve, intelligence, a can do spirit and a generosity and enthusiasm that is to be emulated. …The Farmers Market, a personal favorite, has been a wonderful addition to our community. And the Communications Committee has provided great suggestions on more effective platforms to use to inform our community of current initiatives and to provide more timely information that answers questions with accurate information.”

Pekarek thanked Carl Finger for his work on the Tree Code, saying “Your guidance and thoughtful consideration of this code, modifications, debating the pros and cons, has been helpful, serious and wise… as Chair of Finance you have navigated the budget process with skill, depth and focus on short term and long-term expenses, revenues, capitol improvements, and operating budgets”

Turning to Mayor Dan Hochvert she said, “You are a made in America original! Down to earth, practical and a boots on the ground guy. You are the heart and soul of all who live here and you believe that all of us have things to share and can make a contribution to the community. And because you are ever-present, generous with your time no matter what the event - a dinner, a walk in the neighborhood, or digging up weeds and irrigating an 11-acre newly planted wetland plot – you are a visible presence in our community and a splendid” mayor."

She complimented fellow trustee Marc Samwick on his “deep knowledge of financial statements, budgeting processes, and facility with numbers, (that allow him) to challenge the underlying nuanced details of the Villages operating and capitol budgets, bonding philosophy, fund balance application during budget season and the glee you derive when talking about BANS with The Village Treasurer is almost infectious! It's a different language but one you speak fluently! She thanked him for his work on Freightway Development and employee compensation saying, “I look forward to your future involvement and leadership in Scarsdale.”

She called her service “A postgraduate degree in municipal government,” and commenting on Scarsdale she said, “It seems to me that we are by and large a community who gives back, Non Sibi, all the time, in so many ways. I have been only one volunteer, in a huge sea of volunteers, committed members of this community who are determined to make this place, this neighborhood, just that, a neighborhood. And many, many of us add to the fabric of our Village in a Park…. I am happy to call Scarsdale home, happy to call you neighbors and happy to have served this truly grand and dynamic place called Scarsdale. “

Pekarek finished with a quote from the Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield…“ The beginning is never where you think it is. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole. Our lives are the continuation of someone else’s story.”

In his final remarks, Marc Samwick said, “The past four years have been very rewarding on many levels…. we are very fortunate to have such a wealth of volunteers and professionals working tirelessly on behalf of our village.” He thanked the professional staff, the police and fire department, SVAC and Village Manager Steve Pappalardo.

He highlighted the work of the volunteers to raise funds and plan the library renovation, the Communications Committee to increase notifications and create “Scarsdale Official,” and the Freightway Steering Committee to make plans for the development of the Freightway site.

Samwick said, “On a personal level, I have learned and benefited greatly from my time serving as your representative. I have grown – even through difficult times and issues – and met so many people that I now call friends. … I would also like to acknowledge the support of my family. I could not have undertaken being a Trustee without the full-fledged support of my wife, Cynthia. Thank you Cynthia for being endlessly patient with countless meetings, phones calls and village events.”

He made comments for his fellow Trustees:

About Seth Ross he said, “You have consistently handled yourself with poise and your thoughtful, active listening skills are an example that future Trustees and village residents can learn from – I know I have. Our community has also benefitted from your legal and logical intellect.”

About Jane Veron he said, “You have established yourself as a tireless advocate for our Village – from encouraging more open communication using a wide array of tools to communicate with residents, to seemingly single-handedly breathing new life into our Village Center, to filling every vacancy on every board and council, to walking door to door to meet with every merchant in the village center to discuss parking to so much more. … I would also like to personally thank you for your instrumental work in getting the farmer’s market off the ground. Cynthia and I thoroughly enjoy the eggs we get from Marty at Kiernan Farms and the sourdough bread we get from Orwashers each week. I admire and appreciate all that you do for our village and it has been a privilege to work with you.”

About Trustee Callaghan he said, “You bring passion and independent thought to all that you do as a Trustee. The dedication you bring to the Fire Department is above and beyond…You bring the same passion to all that you do - from Parks and Recreation to SCAV to the Advisory Council on Senior Citizens.”

Turning to Carl Finger he said, “You are passionate about Scarsdale, the town you grew up in and have lived in for most of your life. …Your legal background and logical thought process has benefitted the village. Though understated, particularly during your 1st term, you have quite a sense of humor – which is always present and probably not fully appreciated by those who are not sitting next to you.”

He told Mayor Dan Hochvert that he “dove right into being Mayor,” and said, “You are incredibly hardworking and diligent. I can’t recall the last time I was in village hall when I didn’t bump into you…. our community is a better place for your effort, inclusive spirit and consensus-building approach.”

And to Deb Pekarek he said, “You are a genuine and caring person who deeply considers what’s best for others and the community. You also showed real grace and dignity during your reelection process. You spent part of your career as a teacher and you have certainly taught me many things – from handling difficult situations to balancing the needs of different segments of our community to being humane when managing the issues we faced as a Board.”

Also giving thanks to the Trustees were Diane Greenwald on behalf of the Library Board of Trustees, personal appreciation from Michelle Lichtenberg, Andrew Sereysky, who presented certificates of thanks on behalf of President of the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, Janice Starr on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, newly elected trustee Justin Arest and Matt Miller

Both departing trustees were presented with engraved silver plates and posed for photos.

Summing up, Diane Greenwald said, “Volunteers get paid in appreciation so the pay is low– but today I hope you feel well paid.”

Photo Credit: Village of Scarsdale
Pictured at top: Village Manager Steve Pappalardo and Deb Pekarek
Pictured right: Village Manager Steve Pappalardo and Marc Samwick

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