Village of Montgomery residents will go to the polls in March to elect a village trustee. Whether or not they will also be voting for a mayor at the same time is apparently yet to be determined.
Steve Brescia, the current mayor, will assume the office of Town of Montgomery Supervisor on January 1, 2024. By law, he cannot serve both elected positions at the same time, but the mayor has been vague about when he plans to resign his village position and signaled that he might try to hold both jobs for a short while.
“It probably will be around January 10,” Brescia said at last week’s village board meeting, when pressed by Don Berger who had previously asked him for an “exit plan.”
Brescia had previously indicated that he would resign his position as an Orange County Legislator on December 31, 2023. That position will be filled by an appointee of the town boards of Montgomery and Wallkill, who will stand for election next November.
As for the mayor’s position, it all depends on when he vacates the office. If Brescia resigns on or before January 4, a board-appointed acting mayor will serve until the March 2024 elections. If he waits until after January 4 to resign, the board-appointed mayor will serve an entire year, until the March 2025 elections. Speculation is that Brescia would like to choose his successor and guarantee that person a full year in office, avoiding a special vote this year.
Berger, who has often clashed with the mayor over the years, questioned him last week.
“On October 17, during public comment, I brought up the topic of your exit plan and what the plan is. I haven’t heard anything,” Berger said. “I was hoping you would have that at this meeting, and I requested it at the October 17 meeting.
Berger also strongly urged the board to hold a special election to fill the mayor’s seat, a subject which Berger thoroughly researched and raised at previous meetings.
“I really don’t believe that you or the board should determine that; I think the residents should determine who the next mayor is. I’m sure there are people out there that might be anxious to run. I think you should be able to give them the opportunity to run,” he continued.
Brescia said if he waited until after January 4 to resign, there would be no special election this coming year.
“So the four members, remaining members of this board, would appoint my replacement,” Brescia said. “….I would hope that they do it after the reorganization in April. And that person would serve as mayor for one year, then it would be an election next year for two years, for the remainder of my term. So if we didn’t have that with you, we’d have to have a final election under 2025 for one year.
Berger also questioned Village Attorney Will Frank.
“Have you consulted with the Board as to what their options are and something like this? Have you considered that, hey, let’s have an election here,” Berger asked “That’s what the people want. They want an election. That’s why America, the United States Constitution, is all about them.”
“You don’t have to tell me what’s in the Constitution with all due respect,” Frank replied. “I think that’s a little bit patronizing.”
Frank said he has had conversations with the village trustees and that the “choices that are made will be made and they will be made legally. That’s all I can tell you.”
Brescia said he’s spoken with the New York State Conference of Mayors and was told he doesn’t have to resign until the village budgetary process commences.
“I know Trustee (Randi) Picarello and others are interested in running for mayor. I think one more year under the belt for her and her relationships with the board and the good work that she’s been doing would help,” Brescia said.
Brescia said he was leaving the village in good hands.
“I might not be the most organized guy in the world, but I know how to move the needle,” he said. I’ve done that, whether it’s construction projects like the Senior Center or infrastructure in the Village. And I said this before, we’ve done more infrastructure improvements in the Village with government in the last 30 years than had been done in the past 75. And I can guarantee you that. I know a lot of people. I know how to network. Sometimes I can be a little negative. But I will probably make some kind of exit statement. But I’m not going to draft up an exit plan. I’m just not going to do that. You can ask me questions, and I’ll be willing to answer. But I know I’m going to get calls from Village trustees and others about who do I call for this or what I call. And I don’t pretend that I know everything, because I certainly don’t. But I think it’s going to be an easy transition. And the only question is whether there’s going to be an election in March or in 2025.”
Picarello directed the question, once again to the attorney.
“The issue is,” Frank said. “(He) cannot hold both offices simultaneously. That’s the bottom line. Does that answer the question?”
Picarello said she’d like more open discussion amongst the board.
“I want to know exactly what’s going to happen and what the plan is,” she said, “because I’m not going to participate in something that is anything less than on the up and up.”
Earlier in the evening, the board accepted the resignation of longtime village trustee Walt Lindner (see related story) and appointed Kevin Conero to replace him. Conero will be on the ballot for a special election in March.