Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Mayor and Council members sworn in for new terms

Inauguration at Central Firehouse
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  • Common Council members at the Central Firehouse where the first work session and meeeting of 2024 was held. Photo by Marina Hodges

  • City Singers opened the ceremony with a rendition of America the Beautiful as Common Council members processed into the room. (All photos by Colin Smith)

  • Bria the Artist last sang the national anthem at her 2011 Peekskill High School graduation.

  • Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins told the council that the sun always shines in Peekskill.

  • State Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg said how Peekskill has heart and it was the reason so many state dollars were flowing to the city.

  • Mayor Vivian McKenzie taking the oath of office from her husband Eric. City Manager Matt Alexander holds the bible.

  • McKenzie delivering her remarks, noting the accomplishments of the past two years.

  • Deputy Mayor Patricia Riley’s husband Kevin swears her into another term as a councilmember. Sepp Spenlinhauer holds the bible.

  • Riley in her remarks gives a definition of service, integrity and experience.

  • Judge Reginald Johnson administers the oath of office to Councilwoman Kathie Talbot.

  • Talbot, who is the city liaison to the Paramount and the Conservation Advisory Council, speaks of progress she’s seen in her 12 yeas on the council.

  • Brian Fassett takes the oath of office from his husband Sepp Spenlinhauer while family members hold the Constitution of the United States.

  • Fassett, who moved to Peekskill eight years ago, spoke of the welcome he’s received in this community.

  • Judge Reginald Johnson is taking the oath of office from his wife Pamela. His daughter is holding the bible, open to Psalm 91.

  • Judge Johnson noted that judges usually don’t get to make speeches.

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It was a veritable love fest at Monday’s City of Peekskill Inauguration ceremony for three council members and the mayor.  Numerous standing ovations formed the backdrop as Peekskill’s virtues as a caring city were extolled by visiting dignitaries who recognized the upward trajectory of the Friendly Town. 

The all Democratic team who ran unopposed in November took oaths of office before a crowd of some 100 family members, supporters, city staff and the public at the Central Firehouse in a two-hour work session and meeting which included speeches by the newly sworn in. 

Mayor Vivian McKenzie began her second term as mayor and was sworn in by her husband Eric. She was followed by Councilwoman Patricia Riley, who was named the deputy mayor in one of the three resolutions the council passed during the voting part of the meeting. Council member Kathie Talbot took the oath of office from Judge Reginald Johnson as she began her 12th year as a councilwoman. Brian Fassett was accompanied by his family as he took the oath from his husband Sepp Spenlinhauer. Judge Reginald Johnson took the oath of office, beginning his second ten-year term, from his wife Pamela who is a trustee on the Peekskill Board of Education. 

The City Singers, an a capella group from Peekskill High School opened the program with a rendition of America the Beautiful while council members processed into the large meeting space on the second floor of the firehouse. 

Peekskill City Manager Matt Alexander was the master of ceremonies, noting that he watched the ceremony from two years ago to get cues from former Mayor Andre Rainey who performed that duty at the 2021 inauguration. Visiting officials from Westchester County and the state were acknowledged and welcomed including: Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, County Legislator Colin Smith, Mt. Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, Cortandt Supervisor Dr. Richard Becker, NYS Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg and a representative from Congressman Mike Lawler’s office. Cortlandt town board members James Creighton and Robert Mayes were also present with former Peekskill mayors Mary Foster, Andre Rainey and former Peekskill council members, Mary Beth McGowan, Joseph Schuder, Drew Claxton. 

Alexander noted that Peekskill is much more than its civic leadership and  partnerships with the nonprofit community and volunteers contribute to getting things accomplished. 

Reverend Frances Campbell of the Archer Memorial AME Zion Church in Windsor, CT gave the New Year’s Greeting and used the metaphor of a flight taking off for departure in 2024 as her message. She said attitudes and actions need to be locked in the upright position. She continued the metaphor by advising attendees that self-destructive behavior needs to be turned off and when the plane is losing altitude, passengers are advised to pull down a prayer and assist other passengers. According to Campbell the ‘plane’ is cleared for takeoff with a destination of love and stops at peace and joy. Passengers should not leave behind hopes and dreams. 

Campbell introduced Mayor Vivian McKenzie who took her oath of office and gave a short speech about the accomplishments achieved during her two-year term. She referenced the recovery from Covid that impacted people’s pocketbooks and purses and mental health along with small businesses, the divisive national political arena and horrific climate changes while the city of Peekskill held its own. Tackling food insecurity and completing an affordable housing project at 645 Main which she said is a mode for what a public private partnership for affordable housing can look like. 

She referenced grants the city is receiving to restore infrastructure and hire more firefighters, make parks accessible to all people, especially those with disabilities along with youth programs and a newly formed Civilian Complaint Review Board of community stakeholders. Calling the city’s employees the most important asset, she referenced the city’s Quality of Life Task Force that meets weekly to work on those issues. 

The city welcomes everyone with its events, highlighted by the 2023 New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and fireworks display in downtown that saw the largest crowd ever. “People like it here and they want to be here,” said McKenzie. “Peekskill is a diamond in the rough and we continue to grow brighter. 

Patricia Riley referenced the role of service, integrity and experience in her remarks and talked of service being instilled in her as a child. “A public servant is a call and it comes with slings and arrows and you have to learn to navigate,” said Riley who spent 32 years as an educator. 

In her remarks,  Kathie Talbot noted that along with her grandfather and father, she was born in Peekskill and her deep roots contribute to her love of the city as she begins her fourth term as a council member.  She recalled the growth she’s seen in her 12 years on the council, remembering the devastation the 2008 recession caused. She referenced the city now being in a ‘golden age’. “The biggest change I see is the level of professionalism and the teamwork at City Hall.” 

“As Peekskill continues to change and grow we have to embrace the new people while keeping our arms around those who have been here a long time. That’s a challenge but it’s doable,” said Talbot, adding “that combination is our future.” 

Councilman Brian Fassett had his family come forward and surround him while he took the oath of office from his husband. In his remarks he acknowledged that he wasn’t born in Peekskill but found the city after searching for a community where he could live and relocate his business. “Eight years ago we were enamored with the historic Main Street building (the former Evening Star newspaper headquarters) and we moved our business there.” Fassett referenced his membership on the downtown Business Improvement District and Peekskill Pride, the nonprofit he founded as examples of his passion for this city. He spoke of the welcome he received in Peekskill and how it can demonstrate to the world what Peekskill can become. “The renaissance is upon us.”    

Judge Reginald Johnson took his oath of office on a bible opened to Psalm 91 held by his daughter. He acknowledged that as a judge he often doesn’t get a chance to speak as politicians do and he was taking the opportunity to thank God, his family and specifically his wife of 32 years. 

During his ten years on the bench he’s had the privilege of performing weddings, watching graduations from drug court which utilizes incarceration as a last resort and works to keep as many tenants in their homes to avoid evictions. He stressed that those who had business before the court would be treated with respect, impartiality and compassion. 

Bria the Artist who sang The Star Spangled Banner after the Pledge of Allegiance was called forward to end the program with a rendition of  A Change is Gonna Come.  She told the audience that the last time she sang the national anthem was at her Peekskill High School graduation in 2011. 

Reverend James Perry, senior pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church and president of the Peekskill Area Pastors Association offered the benediction, noting that he was blessing the community to be sent forth in unity.

 

  

 

  

  

 

 

About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante