Candidate Dara Gruenberg Sets Her Sights on Scarsdale Village Hall
- Tuesday, 07 March 2023 23:27
- Last Updated: Wednesday, 08 March 2023 13:34
- Published: Tuesday, 07 March 2023 23:27
- Joanne Wallenstein
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Candidate for Village Trustee Dara Gruenberg already has a long resume of volunteer service to Scarsdale and beyond. In fact, in 2018, Dara received the Scarsdale Family Counseling Rising Star Award for her leadership within the community and volunteerism. In 2021, New York State Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins selected Dara as one of her three Women's History Month honorees in recognition of her Covid relief efforts.
Now she has turned her focus toward Scarsdale Village Hall, where she is on the ballot for her first term as Village Trustee in an election to be held on Tuesday March 21, 2023 at Scarsdale Public Library.
We sent Gruenberg the following questions in an effort to get to know her better:
Tell us about yourself – including your past volunteer work and your professional life.
I moved to Scarsdale almost 12 years ago with my husband Jon and our very young children. I immediately started volunteering at my daughter’s school which blossomed into a career of volunteerism here in Scarsdale and in Westchester.
I am completing my sixth year as the President of the Friends of the Scarsdale Library. During my tenure, I concurrently co-chaired the Library’s Capital Campaign for the renovation, a public private partnership that, after a decade in the making, has resulted in a beloved resource for the community. I also have the honor of chairing the Village’s Advisory Council on Communications (ACC) and serving as a member of the Village Board of Ethics. Additionally, I am wrapping up my second term as a Vice President at Westchester Reform Temple where I have been on the board of trustees for the last 8 years.
In recent years, I served as a board member of the Scarsdale Forum and the League of Women Voters Scarsdale and was a member of the Scarsdale Bowl Committee. I was also a member of the Citizens Nominating Committee and was co-chair of the Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party Campaigns in 2018 and in 2020.
Outside of Scarsdale, I am the Vice Chair of the Foundation Board at White Plains Hospital and a board member of Feeding Westchester.
Prior to moving to Scarsdale, I worked as an administrator, advisor, Director of Community Service (K-12) and Latin teacher at an independent school in Manhattan. I have a B.A. in Classics from Barnard College, Columbia University and a Master of Education in School Administration from Bank Street College of Education.
What were your most significant achievements as a community volunteer?
Some of the achievements that standout the most are helping transform Scarsdale Public Library for the 21st century; connecting resources to needs for Scarsdale’s COVID Relief efforts; and fundraising for White Plains Hospital, particularly during COVID. I have also taken great pride in chairing the Village’s Advisory Council on Communications (ACC) as it has restructured and enhanced the processes by which our Village engages residents. The ACC also helped rebrand the Village’s interfaces, to optimize communications between residents and Village staff. This work has given me unique and valuable insight into every Village department and how they operate.
I have been most fulfilled by the relationships made with fellow volunteers and professionals. Scarsdale can be a welcoming place to get involved, and I can honestly say that as much as I have given, it is only a fraction of what I have received from the friendships I have made and the satisfaction I have felt from collaborating with others.
Why do you want to serve as Village Trustee? How do you think you can contribute?
I am grateful to the Citizens Nominating Committee for their nomination and their faith in my ability to serve this community as a trustee. I have spent most of the last decade involved civically in Scarsdale and this feels like the next natural step. Because I have spent so much time working with residents and Village staff, both in my roles on the ACC and with the Library, I feel ready to take on this new role. My time with both the Scarsdale Forum and League of Women Voters Scarsdale have also contributed to my depth of understanding about Scarsdale’s budget, our municipal services and operations, and what our residents value most about living here.
The Village has significant infrastructure needs and capital projects on the immediate horizon. These issues are going to require thoughtful solutions and the ability to balance competing demands and interests. We are fortunate to have such capable members of Village staff as well as a talented board and resident volunteers on boards and councils to think through these problems and find solutions. I look forward to continuing to support the village in this dynamic but in a new role.
My favorite part of all of my volunteer work, and I suspect serving as a trustee will afford me the same opportunities, is the ability to collaborate with others and to problem solve. I listen carefully to all sides of an issue and seek to find a path forward that is thoughtful and can integrate multiple viewpoints. I think this will help me greatly as a Village Trustee and has prepared me to be tactical in how I help solve problems.
There are many initiatives pending before this Village Board that are controversial including the pool renovation, the traffic study and changes to the Village Center. How would you prioritize these projects and what would be your process for reaching consensus so that we can move forward?
Investing in infrastructure is essential both for quality of life and also our property values. I am eager to meet with the board and Village staff to discuss the current status of the pool project and next steps. Regarding the Village Center, we have a tremendous opportunity to pilot projects before making any permanent changes. We need to be methodical in our approach as well as conscious of how we spend taxpayer dollars. Traffic issues are chronic. We need to continue to focus on them and continue in our efforts to improve the traffic safety of our village. We must also be cognizant that we have limited resources and I look forward to having prioritization conversations with the board, staff, residents and the business community.
Each year, setting the Village budget becomes more and more challenging. There is increased demand for services, rising costs and on the other hand, pressure to keep tax increases to a minimum. Explain your views on paying for everything we would like.
As you know, approving the annual Village budget is one of the most important duties of the Board. Our Village professionals work extensively with the Board, spending a great deal of time scrutinizing spending rationales and seeking savings opportunities as well as balancing service expectations against overall costs to the taxpayer. I have seen great process improvements made over the last several years that have improved transparency and have allowed for more input.
I do not see a scenario where we can pay for everything we would like, which is why effective communications between village government and residents is so essential. We always have to start with what we need and then figure out how to pay for that and then figure out what we want and how to prioritize those wants.
Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party cordially invites community members to stop by for a candidate meet and greet on Sunday, March 19th from 3:00 - 4:30pm at the Scarsdale Public Library. This is an opportunity for residents of the village to meet the candidates for an informal gathering. The candidates are Justin Arest for Mayor; Sameer Ahuja, Karen Brew and Dara Gruenberg for Village Trustee; and Cynthia Dunne for Village Justice. The event will take place in the Scott Room. Refreshments will be available. As a reminder, the Village election is on Tuesday, March 21st at the Scarsdale Public Library from 6am to 9pm.