Six candidates, three open seats, one election

By Jared Castañeda
Posted 2/27/24

As March rolls around and the Village of Walden annual election inches closer, six candidates prepare themselves for the chance to serve a two-year term on one of three open trustee seats. Village …

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Six candidates, three open seats, one election


As March rolls around and the Village of Walden annual election inches closer, six candidates prepare themselves for the chance to serve a two-year term on one of three open trustee seats. Village election will take place on Tuesday, March 19.

These are the candidates’ stories:

Willie Carley
Originally from Oakland, California, Carley joined the military in 1985 at the age of 17 and served as a nurse for 20 years, including time spent stationed in West Point. He retired from nursing in 2006 and moved to New Windsor, where he began working in diversity management and became heavily involved with the Red Cross and FEMA. Throughout his service, Carley attended several schools and received his Associate’s from Columbia College, Bachelor’s from St. Mary’s University, Master’s from Jacksonville State University, and Master’s Doctorate from Capella University.

Carley also helped found A Little Bit of Help, an organization that provided mentor services for adolescents who wanted to get involved in their local governments and communities.

“Hobby-wise, I was always involved with mentorship, so we started a group called A Little of Help, I worked on that for a couple of years. It’s dormant now but we’re getting ready to start that back up,” Carley said. “The goal with A Little Bit of Help was to help mentor youth to be involved with not just government but just community activities in general.”

Around 2008, Carley and his wife moved to the Village of Walden, where they have lived ever since. During this time, he became acquainted with Brian Maher, former mayor of Walden, and joined the village board as a trustee in 2009. He stepped down in 2013 to focus on pastoring for the Tabernacle of Faith Christian Fellowship, a church previously located in Walden before he rejoined the village board in 2021 as deputy supervisor.

Carley’s biggest motivation for becoming a trustee is community service: he greatly enjoys meeting and working with people of all kinds, whether through the church or the Walden Rotary, and he sees the position as another opportunity to serve the village.

“The number one thing is community service. I believe in community service, being part of our community, and wanting to make change,” he said. “I believe personally that you got to be a part of it; you can’t say you want to make the change if you’re on the sideline. So I’ve always been an advocate of getting my hands dirty and be willing to know the work.”

Carley strives to find a balance between what the residents need and what the board feels is right for the village. He wishes to continue working with the trustees to update the village’s laws and policies and make himself easily accessible to the public. He recently created a Facebook page to give residents another avenue to reach out to.

“The goal is to have people sign on and then whatever their complaints are, whatever that topic is, if they want to address it, we can address it,” he said. “That’s what I’ll use to gauge different topics people may want to get involved with or address.”

“Most importantly, Carley encourages all residents to voice their concerns and input to the village board, regardless of how critical they may be.

“Please reach out to the trustees, because if there’s a concern you have and we don’t know it, there’s no way we can address it. Some people like people to voice their opinions, but I welcome their opinions,” he said. “Bad or indifferent, it doesn’t really matter to me because I can sift through the nonsense.”

“Hopefully we can get some traction with the Village of Walden and say ‘Hey, you got some concerns, you got some issues. We can talk behind the firewall, and then I can bring it up in public,’” he continued.

Jose De Jesus

De Jesus lived and worked in Westchester County before moving to the Village of Walden in 1992. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Fordham University in 1980 and Master of Public Administration from Long Island University in 1991. De Jesus served 27 years in Westchester County’s Administration of Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services, worked for Yonkers and Putnam County’s governments, and taught various subjects at a few colleges.

“The area that I work in, mental health and developmental disabilities, people tend to say ‘Well, that person with a disability, he or she cannot do this or cannot do that.’ And they tend to write people off,” he said regarding challenges in his industry. “There were situations where we fought hard to get funding, even if it was for something simple as a ramp for a person to get into their home.”

After moving to Walden, De Jesus was appointed to the village planning by Andrew Uszenski, a former mayor, and served 13 years: first between 1993 and 2022, then again between 2009 and 2013. He was also a village trustee from 2002 to 2008 and the chairperson of the comprehensive plan committee. Currently, he operates the Driver Safety Institute in the village and provides classes on accident prevention and safety.

“When I was appointed back in ‘93, Andrew Uszenski was the mayor. Knowing that I had experience from the City of Yonkers, he urged me to apply to that and I did,” he said regarding the planning board. “Even though I’m not on the planning board or village board now, people come to me looking for assistance, and I try to do what I can to assist those individuals.”

An enjoyer of the village and its residents, De Jesus seeks to join the board of trustees once more and apply his skills for the betterment of the community. From his past positions, he has a firm grasp of government, finances, and engagement with both officials and residents. If elected, De Jesus would first analyze the village’s inner workings, determine the issues or things that need to be addressed, and work with the board to find solutions.

“I have to see what is going on internally and what needs to be done. For example, we have a big traffic issue right now, I think it starts at four o’clock,” he said. “Thing is, is there a way to harness that? In terms of people coming into the village. What can be made available for those individuals to stop in Walden do a little shopping or visit the restaurants?”

De Jesus hopes that the residents consider him and his qualifications for the position, but he asserted that he is only one member of the team who needs to collaborate, through agreements and arguments, to find the best answers to the community’s needs.

“I bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the process of government work, understanding that it is not a one-person job but a network of the entire board,” he said. “There are times they’re going to be disagreements over issues, but the best solution has to prevail.”

Liz Kyle
Originally born and raised in Queens, Kyle moved up to the Village of Walden in 2002 as a teenager. After graduating from Valley Central High School, she became a military police officer and was deployed to Iraq twice, serving nine years in total. After being medically retired from her position, she studied graphics design at SUNY Orange, did bookkeeping for Virtual Back Office in the village, and freelanced for various local organizations and political campaigns. Outside of work, she loves reading, writing, drawing, shuffleboarding with her husband, and spending time with her children.

“I was active duty military for about nine years. I joined the army at 18 and then I was medically retired; that was 2018 I believe,” she said regarding her military experience. “After I came back from Iraq, I moved duty stations and then I was put in charge of police records and then also human resource management.”

Kyle considers Walden her “forever home” and loves its community and activities, from attending events like the harvest festival and Christmas tree lighting to participating in VFW as a member and watching her kids play in the Little League.

“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve walked or ridden bikes on the Rail Trail. I just love everything about Walden and the whole community,” she said. “It’s where the community as a whole I feel does a really good job of putting in the time and effort to keep it a close community.”

Kyle wishes to return the favor to the village and decided to run for trustee. Through her time in the military, she acquired several skills, particularly leadership, team building, time and resource management, and conflict resolution, and she believes her experiences could be put to great use as a board member.

“I feel there’s a lot of qualities that I have from the military that I think carry over very well to a position like trustee,” she said. “Just being a leader going into combat, I developed the skills to have quick decision-making, good communication, and teamwork. I’m able to work under pressure, although obviously not at that same level.”

As trustee, one of Kyle’s focuses would be the village budget, ensuring that taxpayers’ money goes towards their needs and issues. She wants to strike a balance between old and new, preserving the village’s deep history and supporting the Walden Historical Society, while also giving business and tourism opportunities to grow. Kyle has also already spoken with numerous residents, current trustees, and other candidates to build relationships so that she and the community could work together toward common goals.

“I’m definitely in this for the right reasons. I have never been involved in politics before, but this is just my love for the village and for my community and my wanting to give back,” she said. “I want to hear what people’s issues are and I want to make Walden better than I think it is already. I think I can do that.”

Becky Pearson
Raised on Phelps Woodside Farm, Pearson has lived in the Village of Walden for over 60 years. Following her graduation from Valley Central High School, she earned her degree in physical therapy assistant from SUNY Orange and worked in private therapy for Harmarville Rehab Center, among other practices. After her two sons were born, she began working for Millspaugh Furniture in the village and took on several roles in the store for 38 years. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, biking, volunteering, and spending time with her family.

To Pearson, Walden is her home and a village embedded with history, camaraderie, and local business.

“I love Walden and I have always called it home. I love the people, the old timers that tell us the history of days gone by and lessons to be learned for the better,” she said. “We have wonderful shopkeepers that are concerned about the village and help promote us too. Most of us still watch out for our neighbors and help when needed.”

Pearson served as Walden’s mayor between 2005 and 2009; during her term, she helped the towns of Montgomery and Shawangunk complete the Rail Trail, worked with volunteers to establish playgrounds for Bradley Park and Wooster Grove, and assisted the Walden Rotary with adding a bandstand to Wooster Grove. Besides the village, she is a member of the Walden Historical Society, a member of the Walden Community Council, and a former member of the Walden ZBA.

“I was on the Walden zoning board for over 10 years volunteering as a member, and the chair of that board for at least seven of those 10,” she added.

Pearson rejoined the village board as a trustee following the 2022 election, and she hopes to continue serving and representing Walden’s residents through another term. She asserted that her knowledge of government, research of other municipalities’ policies, and determination to discuss all issues would prove valuable traits for the board.

“The manager form of government can be confusing for many,” she explained. “Being the former mayor and ZBA chairperson, I attended many programs and educational instructions that help with the running of the village government.”

“I do many hours of research and look at different communities’ laws to compare to what we have or are doing, and I will speak with passion on many issues that many fear will upset the apple cart,” she continued. “I prepare for every meeting and will always speak the truth.”

If re-elected, Pearson would continue working with the board to update the village code, add more activities to the community center, and secure more grant funding. She thanked all the residents who supported her and encouraged everyone to engage with the community, whether it’s attending board meetings or joining local volunteer groups.

Bill Taylor

Taylor worked in several locations across the United States before settling down in Walden 38 years ago. He graduated from Colonie Central High School in Albany, studied architectural drafting and design at Chicago Tech, and served four years in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. Following his service, he worked in commercial nuclear power for 37 years, 24 of which were spent at Indian Point Energy Center. He retired from Indian Point in 2009 and became a safety manager for First Student, a bus company that serves Montgomery and Wallkill’s school districts, and oversaw quality assurance and auditing at the World Trade Center.

“I ended up getting involved in commercial nuclear power, providing quality assurance, engineering, auditing, and oversight for local state and federal agencies throughout the country,” he said. “The last 24 years I spent in that industry were at Indian Point, working on quality assurance. As a lead auditor, I held the positions of safety manager, human performance manager, and security liaison.

Taylor enjoyed living in small towns and villages throughout his life, and Walden is no exception; he particularly appreciates the residents he has met and interacted with. As a way of giving back to the community, he joined the village’s planning board in 2023, in addition to being a lifetime member of Vietnam Veterans of America and VFW.

“I wanted to pay back the village for the wonderful life that they’ve afforded me and my family since I moved here,” he said. “I felt it was time that I took some of the skills that I’ve learned over my working career and hopefully provide them to the village as best I possibly could.”

This same motive applies to his campaign for village trustee, and he wishes to be an authentic representative of the community. His most defining qualities include his knowledge of codes, his willingness to tackle any problem with an impartial mindset, and his face-to-face approach when working with residents and officials. If elected, he would focus on issues related to the village’s population growth, such as traffic and code enforcement.

“I’m very familiar with codes, specifications, and procedures, and those I feel lend themselves very well to what the village trustee may be exposed to,” he said. “I deal with any issue that’s presented to me in a fair, consistent, and honest approach. I’m an avid believer of getting out and doing face-to-face.”

Cheryl Baker
Baker grew up in the Town of Wallkill before hopping over to its neighboring municipality, Walden, in 2005. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in law and psychology, along with a paralegal certificate, from Marist College. In her downtime, she enjoys gardening, hiking, reading, and brightening residents’ days with Tilly, her service dog.

“I am a huge animal lover and find it most rewarding to visit nursing and group homes with my service dog Tilly and volunteering our time to assist elderly members of our community. I and Tilly can always be seen at community events,” she wrote in a 2022 interview.

One of Baker’s biggest passions is volunteer work, and she has dedicated herself to numerous facets of the community. Some of her endeavors include completing training for the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team and FEMA, delivering test kits to residents of Walden and the Town of Montgomery during the COVID-19 pandemic, and helping residents recover from addiction through Hope Not Handcuffs. Last year, she worked on the Walden VBA committee, a group that adorned Main Street with banners of local veterans, as part of the Hometown Heroes project.

“I am the type of person who sees a need and fills that void,” she wrote in 2022.

This outreach attitude also applies to Baker’s time as trustee; she joined the board in 2020 and served for an 18-month term. She adored the village and sought to continue supporting the community through its government.

“I originally ran for trustee with the desire to make Walden the kind of community that our citizens want and deserve,” she wrote in 2022. “I have worked to keep our budget under the tax cap and bring in new businesses. I believe in promoting an open form of government where resident’s concerns are heard and addressed.”

Baker did not respond to a request for comment on her current candidacy prior to deadline.