After a heated campaign, Hembury wins Montgomery’s mayoral election

Posted 3/27/24

A tense campaign that spilled onto the social media pages and into the village hall meeting room has ended with Trustee Mike Hembury winning the mayoral election in the Village of Montgomery.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

After a heated campaign, Hembury wins Montgomery’s mayoral election


A tense campaign that spilled onto the social media pages and into the village hall meeting room has ended with Trustee Mike Hembury winning the mayoral election in the Village of Montgomery.

Hembury defeated fellow trustee Randi Picarello by a margin of 635-511 last Tuesday. He will serve a three-year term to complete the unexpired term of former Mayor Steve Brescia, who resigned in January to become the Town of Montgomery Supervisor.

Hembury, a former village trustee who served on the board for 13 years, was enthusiastic about winning the mayor’s term but did not consider the occasion his most momentous.

“It was cool, but not as cool as seeing both my daughters being born,” he said. “Now that was cool.”

Hembury gave a special mention to his family, who assisted him with creating and managing his social media, ensuring smooth operations throughout his campaign.

“It was conducted very professionally. My wife and daughters kept it professional online. I never had a Facebook page until recently,” he said.

Hembury thanked the community for trusting him with the mayor’s position and asserted that he would keep the village on track, address residents’ needs, and above all, uphold everyone’s safety.

“I want to continue on the road we’ve kept going on and make sure residents are safe. I’m glad we made our village a non-sanctuary,” a reference to a resolution passed just prior to the election, declaring Montgomery a “non-sanctuary” village.

Picarello, executive director of the Business Council of Greater Montgomery who joined the village board last year, was happy with her team’s output for her campaign regardless of the results.

“I could not be prouder of everything, the amount of work everyone put in. We kept it clean and with integrity,” she said. “When it got dirty, I told my daughters to look inside of themselves and see the right thing to do.”

Picarello will continue to serve the village as trustee.
“I thought this was the right place and time for my experiences, but it doesn’t shift my priorities,” she said. “I don’t need the title of mayor to keep supporting the community, and I still have my responsibilities as trustee.”

In the days prior to the election, social media posts circulated by Village of Montgomery resident Robert Saladin accused Picarello of sending a racist text message. On Wednesday, the night after the election, he doubled down on the criticism.

Saladin appeared before the village board, demanding the removal of Picarello as a village trustee.

“I’ve been a resident of the Village of Montgomery since 2014. I’m here to ask the Board if there’s a process in which to remove a sitting member of the Board, specifically Trustee Randi Picarello. While doing my research, and to her as a candidate, I came across a plethora of information,” Saladin said “The material I discovered is not an opinion, it is information and data. The text messages that I was about to read, I’ve changed my mind on with respect to the multiple generations of people here not to do it.”

Saladin said that the material he possessed “was said a handful of years ago, and not all in the same year.”

A redacted screenshot, purportedly of a text conversation involving Picarello was emailed to the Wallkill Valley Times shortly before the election. The text could not be independently verified.

None of the village officials responded to Saladin’s comments during the meeting, but Picarello issued a statement on Sunday.

“Rob Saladin’s request for my resignation at the March 20th meeting was a predictable maneuver consistent with the techniques of national level politics and fear mongering used throughout this election by my opponent, Mayor-elect Mike Hembury and his supporters. It is unfortunate that this is what a few people in our tight-knit community have resorted to. The damage it has and will continue to create is much more pervasive than their group has considered,” Picarello wrote.

“Their attempt to win at all costs epitomizes the very issue I have consistently raised: a glaring lack of foresight and long term planning.

“These theatrical displays have only succeeded in doing one thing: dividing our village on topics like mental health, bullying, truth, racism and sexism when we should be focused on grants, infrastructure, budgets and youth initiatives. This short-sightedness fails to recognize that they have now discouraged many future leaders, a long term and significant detriment to the Village of Montgomery.”

Picarello said Saladin had made an in-kind donation to her opponent’s political campaign.

“I have no direct comment on Mr. Saladin’s accusation and request,” she added.

Trustee race
In addition to the mayoral race, there was one open seat on the village board of trustees being contested. Kevin Conero was the winner of that seat, defeating Cynthia Nokland by a margin of 587-520.

Conero, who has worn various hats in the village government for over 30 years, was pleased that residents gave him another opportunity to serve them as a trustee.

“I felt very happy and confident to win the trust of everyone in the community, giving me the chance to continue working to make the village a place everyone wants,” he said.

Throughout his campaign, Conero spoke with numerous residents who gave him a greater understanding of the community’s needs. He seeks to continue providing the necessary services to the village while maintaining taxes.

“I conducted my campaign in a positive way. I knocked on a lot of doors, I met a lot of great people, and I experienced the things that people want,” he said.

Conero looks forward to his term on the board and hopes to work together with residents on different ideas and challenges for the village’s greater good.

“I want to thank residents for their support. I’m always available and approachable to residents if they have new ideas or issues, we can work through them,” he said.

Nokland, a longtime resident and volunteer of the village, was ecstatic when she saw how many residents voted in this year’s election, regardless of the results.

“I was amazed at the turnout and the number of people who voted. I was overjoyed for everyone that came out, even if all of it wasn’t for me,” Nokland said.

Nokland, between the experience and support she gained from her first campaign, seeks to run again for the board during the next election. Until then, she will continue what she does best: volunteering for the community however she can.

“The overwhelming support from people makes me want to run again next time,” she said. “I learned a lot of valuable lessons, and I can take with it the good and the bad.”

Nokland hopes that residents continue to participate in future village elections, stressing how much their vote for any candidate matters.

“Keep voting, your voting counts,” she added. “Don’t give up.”