By ASHLEY HELMS
A familiar face in local politics will soon be added to the all-Democratic Mamaroneck Town Council.
Former Village of Mamaroneck Trustee Tom Murphy, a Democrat, was expected to be appointed to the Mamaroneck Town Council following the resignation of longtime Democratic Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner on Feb. 1, after press time. The appointment has caused a stir amongst former town officials, who say Murphy’s appointment may not bode well for the unincorporated area.
News of the appointment broke last week, causing former town supervisors, including Republican Valerie O’Keeffe and Democrats Elaine Price, Caroline Silverstone and Dolores Battalia, to disagree publicly over the appointment.
O’Keeffe, who served as town supervisor from 2000 to 2011 as the lone Republican in town elected office over that time, said that, since Murphy, 52, lives in the Village of Mamaroneck and sitting Councilwoman Jaine Elkind Eney and Supervisor Nancy Seligson live in the Village of Larchmont, the unincorporated town would lose its majority representation on the board.
Price, who served as supervisor from 1995 to 1999, agreed with O’Keeffe’s stance. O’Keeffe and Price argue that, if a majority of council members don’t live in the unincorporated area of the town, as current council members Ernest Odierna and Abby Katz do, it would affect voting on a budget that could potentially levy taxes in an area it does not represent.
The loss of Wittner as a resident of the unincorporated area on the council means a loss of majority leadership.
O’Keeffe said the unincorporated town only has one form of government, the Mamaroneck Town Council. Council members who live in the two villages have representation from the two village boards, currently led by mayors Norman Rosenblum in the Village of Mamaroneck and Anne McAndrews in the Village of Larchmont.
“That would mean a majority of the people on the Town [Council] would be voting on the board and levying taxes in an area that they don’t pay to. That’s why it’s not a good idea [to appoint Murphy],” O’Keeffe said. “If Abraham Lincoln or George Washington lived in the Village of Mamaroneck I still wouldn’t think they should be added to the board.”
In response, Murphy, who worked as an elevator mechanic, said that anyone who is elected or appointed to the council has the responsibility of protecting the town and its interests and said he thinks O’Keefe simply wants a Republican candidate appointed.
Once appointed, Murphy will have to run to keep his seat in the November 2014 election.
“If I haven’t done a good job, the people won’t elect me,” Murphy said. “I want to be a town councilperson so we can work on issues like shared services. I want to work on what unites us, not divides us.”
Contrary to what Murphy said, O’Keeffe said she isn’t pushing for a Republican candidate, but would rather see someone from the unincorporated town on the council. The former supervisor said there are plenty of qualified candidates who live in the unincorporated area.
“There are plenty of public servants who live in the town. I find it impossible to [believe] that they can’t find someone,” O’Keeffe said.
Democrat Caroline Silver-stone, who served as town supervisor from 1990 to 1994, said a candidate’s residence shouldn’t play a part in their appointment to the Town Council. She said doesn’t think there should be a designated amount of unincorporated area residents on the council and the decision of who to appoint should be left up to the current Town Council.
“I was on the town board for eight years as a [councilwoman] and as town supervisor for four years. In those 12 years, I never heard any member of the [Town Council] take a parochial view of the village or unincorporated area,” Silverstone said. “It’s too small of an area to split things off.”
Supervisor Seligson said town administration officials contacted almost a dozen people that had been involved in the town and were interested in joining the council.
“We chose the best available candidate at this time and we’re excited to have him join us,” Seligson said.
In 2013, Murphy ran for the county legislator seat in District 7 that was vacated by Judy Myers, a Larchmont Democrat, who announced she would not seek re-election. Murphy was defeated in a Democratic primary by Rye City Councilwoman Catherine Parker, a Democrat who went on to win the general election in November.
Murphy served on the Vill-ge of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees between July 2001 and December 2001, and again from 2004 to 2009, also serving as deputy mayor. He entertained the idea of running for supervisor, looking to unseat O’Keeffe in 2010, but pulled out of the race at the last minute.