Please take a look at my newly-redesigned website. In addition to a fresher overall appearance, there’s also some new content, including a robust Issues page with details on the City’s recent accomplishments, information about early voting, and other links related to the upcoming election. The core of the site, however, remains my blog, which I will continue to update regularly with municipal, personal, and political news and views.
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Yesterday, Nita Lowey announced her decision to retire from Congress at the end of the current term. In the hours since, countless leaders have offered public tributes to Nita’s service, all well-earned. For Nita has, indeed, been a truly exceptional representative — effective, principled, tireless, often courageous — with an astounding record of accomplishment for our region and nation. Few, if any, officials in Westchester’s history have achieved as much or enjoyed anything close to the same level of esteem and affection across a span of decades.
I confess, however, somewhat selfishly, that my thoughts about Nita’s retirement have been less about the public record and more inward-looking, personal, even emotional.
Nita gave me my first job out of grad school as Deputy Campaign Manager for her 1992 reelection. From there, I went on to join her staff, mainly as a speech-writer, beginning a professional relationship that continued in different ways for about 20 years, most of my adult life. Outside of family, I can’t think of any person who has had a more profound impact on who I am today.
Some elected officials have a private persona that differs significantly from their public image. Not so Nita. Up close, as a boss, she is every bit the same kind, warm, empathetic — and, make no mistake, also tough and shrewd — figure that she appears to be from afar. One telling memory: Nita visiting with a family who had just lost a child to a random act of violence. I was “staffing” her, watching silently from a respectful distance. With the family, she was strong and comforting, just what you would hope for from a leader in an impossibly difficult moment. And then, afterwards, as we walked back to the car, her voice and composure broke as she murmured “he was a good kid.” A small moment, almost trivial in the context of a career with so many towering achievements, and yet, for me, indelible and moving still now, even as I write. There are too many people in public life who feign humanity with the spotlight on and snap into cold self-absorption with the spotlight off. With Nita, the humanity is never, ever an act.
Because of these qualities, she fostered a fiercely loyal community of staffers over the years, who maintained relationships with her and with each other long after they had moved on to other positions. Today, I can still count friends, many friends, good friends, whom I know through Nita. And across this network, the news of Nita’s decision has fallen like a lightning bolt, prompting reflection, story-telling, laughter, tears, and, above all, gratitude.
It almost goes without saying that most of what I know about public service, I learned directly or indirectly from Nita. And although I have never come close to matching her accomplishments, graciousness, energy, or uncanny ability to read people, I have tried my best. If more of us in public life adopted Nita Lowey as a model, our world would be a far, far better place.
This is not a eulogy. Nita is happy and healthy. She has more than a year of hard and important work left in her term. And, if there is any justice, she will have many years after that to enjoy life and family. So it is not a time for good-byes. It is a time instead to say a simple, heartfelt, fervent: thank you.
So how can I not post these photos from the groundbreaking of the Humane Society’s expansion? The Humane Society of Westchester serves our entire region, but I am proud that it is located in New Rochelle and grateful for the terrific work of its staff and volunteers. And that puppy was really, really cute!
Thank you to everyone who supported my 50th birthday brunch yesterday afternoon. We had a wonderful crowd of several hundred friends and neighbors present, plus many others who couldn’t make it in person, but contributed to the event from afar. It was a deeply gratifying way to celebrate a personal milestone, as well as an encouraging (albeit informal) launch to this year’s reelection campaign. I feel very privileged to serve our community at a moment of great progress, and to work in partnership with so many people I admire.
If you haven’t already RSVPed, please join me at my 50th Birthday celebration on Sunday, June 2nd. You can reserve a ticket online or download the invitation as a PDF. This will be the main fundraiser for my reelection campaign, and I am very grateful for the contributions of friends and neighbors. Hope to see you there!