By LIZ BUTTON
New Republican Mayor Joe Sack, with City Council approval, appointed Richard Mecca and Richard Slack as his two new interim city councilmen at the first meeting of the year on Jan. 8.
Mecca, a Republican district leader, and Slack, who is politically unaffiliated, now fill the seats vacated by Sack and new county Legislator Catherine Parker. Both former councilpersons left office with two years remaining on their terms.
“We were looking for the folks who we felt could best serve as part of the council team, regardless of political party affiliation,” said Sack, a Republican. “Our community wants and deserves problem solvers and consensus builders, not political partisans, and we once again feel fortunate to have put together the right mix of people.”
A Rye resident since 1980, Mecca, 59, currently serves as an electrical inspector for the City of White Plains as one of the only municipal electric inspectors east of the Hudson River, he said. He also owned Rye business Mecca Electric for years. Mecca, who was early on rumored to be a favored choice among city Republicans, has been involved in Rye public life for 30 years; at this point in his life, he has a wealth of knowledge gained from his experience in Rye that he would like to contribute, he said. He and his wife raised children who attended Rye City schools.
Until this January, Mecca was a member of the Rye Flood Advisory Committee and in the past he has been a member of the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review, and former Mayor Steve Otis’ Task Force on Master Planning.
Mecca is also a longtime member of the Rye Fire Department and has served as a captain in the patrol company.
Sack said Mecca is a valuable addition to the council as it is now comprised.
“On a council of attorneys and finance professionals, Mecca will bring a different and welcome perspective,” the mayor said.
Mecca agreed, since, as a municipal employee of the city of White Plains, he has been on the other side of a city’s operations. He has seen up close how governing decisions affect the way a city is run and city employees can do their jobs, he said. Mecca is also familiar with state building codes, he said, another plus when the council is dealing with building issues within the city.
Slack, an attorney, is a partner with the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in New York City and has experience advising boards of directors and representing major companies.
Slack, who, unlike Mecca, was not on the public radar as a possible choice, brings a deep connection to the Rye City School District; his wife is Board of Education President Laura Slack and the couple’s three children have attended Rye schools.
Slack, 53, is also currently a trustee of Rye’s school foundation and a former Rye Little League coach.
Slack said he hopes to bring to the City Council some of the energy and the integrity that his wife has brought to the Board of Education.
Slack, a resident since 1996, said he is spending his time getting up to speed on city issues, from the expired police union contract to the Rye Golf Club to flood mitigation.
“I thought there were a handful of important issues that the city was facing over the next six to twelve months and decided that I would like the opportunity to serve the community and tackle them,” Slack said.
Sack said Slack’s “keen mind” and “strong sense of right and wrong” were on display when he went before the City Council in 2012 to urge them to look into a budding controversy in which an employee of Rye TV alleged he had been told to lie to the public about whether or not a fire board meeting had been taped.
“These are exactly the qualities that we need on the council,” Sack said.
During this appointment process, Sack said the council probably considered a dozen different people, including some former public officials.
The two new appointees complete the seven-member council, which consists of Sack as mayor and his Rye United ticket mates Republican Terry McCartney, Democrat Kirstin Bucci and re-elected Councilwoman Julie Killian, a Republican.
Rounding out the council is sitting Republican Councilwoman Laura Brett, who has two years left on her term.
The city charter dictates that, if there is a vacancy in the office of mayor or councilperson, those council members still remaining in office must appoint someone by majority vote to fill that spot for the balance of the vacating party’s unexpired term.
The city has been through a council appointment process before.
In February 2012, former Mayor Douglas French, a Republican, had to fill the seat of former City Councilwoman Suzanna Keith, a Republican and his 2009 running mate, who was moving to Texas with her family.
The council appointed Killian on June 13, 2012 and Killian ran in a special election in November for the right to finish out the balance of Keith’s unexpired term.
Mecca and Slack, if they are interested in maintaining their seats, will have to do the same this fall.
At the time, there was some criticism within the community that the choice to appoint Killian had been long pre-determined by the mayor. After he was elected, Sack said his own appointment process would be different.
But early on, rumors swirled that city Republicans were united in support of Mecca as the party’s choice for one of the two seats. The leak prompted concern from former Mayor French about an apparent lack of transparency in Sack’s appointment process.
Prior to leaving office, Mayor French said that his administration went about appointing a new council person the proper way: When it came to Killian’s appointment, his administration announced the opening to the public three months in advance and those interested in the seat gave speeches before the public.
“It is necessary for the public to know in advance who [these new council members] are and their backgrounds, why they want to serve, and what they will do in office prior to being appointed,” French said. “Anything short of that is back room decision making that is not consistent with good governance.”
Sack said that, as he promised to the public, the lead-up to the appointments of Mecca and Slack was a community process and that, although some Republican committee members brought suggestions to him, the committee did not have any formal role in the process. Sack said he never personally met with the group.