This is the first in a series of profiles of the candidates running for office in the upcoming Philipstown election in November. Two candidates are vying for the position of supervisor. Four candidates seek two available seats as trustees on the town board.
Nancy Montgomery is an incumbent Democrat seeking re-election to the Town board after serving one four-year term in office
Community roots and early career
Montgomery’s family moved to North Highlands in the late 1950s. She is the youngest of nine children and has three sisters and five brothers. She attended Haldane and was an active member of Our Lady of Loretto parish, attending CCD classes there. After high school she attended SUNY Purchase College where she studied literature. “I worked in Westchester County after college, managing a home for developmentally disabled adults,” Montgomery said.
She also helped start up and then managed a transportation company for the adult homes. When she moved to Oregon, she managed three restaurants perched atop Mount Hood with a total staff of 70. She now works at the Riverview Restaurant in Cold Spring, having first worked there as a 20-year old. Montgomery is married to Jim Lovell, a corporate media producer. They have four children and live near Lake Valhalla in North Highlands.
Motivation and strengths
“When I came back from Oregon, the Philipstown Comprehensive Plan was just starting. I attended a Philipstown 20-20 Forum and thought it was amazing,” Montgomery said. “I wanted to be a part of it.” Initially she got involved with Philipstown Recreation where she managed the Music Tracks concert series at The Depot Theatre. “Prior to being elected, recreation was my focus. Now my role is to help find ways to fund it,” she said. Montgomery co-founded Friends of Philipstown Recreation along with Bob Bickford and Claudio Marzollo. “It was mostly common sense. We had to find a funding mechanism. I don’t take any credit for it.”
Eventually Montgomery was approached by friends, Philipstown political leadership and the local Democratic Committee – who asked her to run for a seat on the town board. “I said ‘sure’…I was kind of naive,” she said. After winning the primary she was elected to a four-year term. “My dad was always involved civically. I’ve been around (civic life) forever. If you’re going to live somewhere you have to contribute,” she said. “I’d say I’m a consensus builder. I’ve had experience in all aspects that make up a community. I’ve had four years as a town board member – including two as deputy supervisor. It takes a while. There are a lot of aspects to running a town. I work really hard to ensure that families can continue to live here – by presenting responsible budgets,” Montgomery said.
Most significant accomplishments
Montgomery doesn’t hesitate when asked about her most important accomplishments. “The new zoning…being involved from the beginning as a resident, sitting on the Zoning Advisory Committee as it developed. As a board member – seeing it adopted – I feel that is my greatest accomplishment.” [CLICK HERE TO SEE A SHORT VIDEO OF MONTGOMERY]
She also lists the recent and highly controversial study of local fire departments as one for her top projects. “I’m proud of it. I took a great risk in opening the conversation. Everybody told me not to touch it. But it had to be done.” Montgomery feels the issues go much deeper than local fire protection. “We can’t sustain what we have with an antiquated system. It’s not just the fire departments – it’s all of New York State really. I’d love to be a part of bringing it up to the 21st century. With the challenges we face – the systems have to change. All levels of government have to look at every public dollar they spend. I have to ensure that the public gets efficient and effective services for their tax dollars.”
She also has no problem identifying what she sees as the number one challenge that lies ahead. “Keeping the budget to a minimum while keeping our quality of life. And balancing the need for infrastructure improvements – such as roads – while keeping the budget down,” Montgomery said.
She also lists the cost of health care and retirement benefits for town employees as a major challenge. “There is no easy solution,” she said. “One of the toughest votes I’ve had was to have our underpaid employees pay into their health insurance. That has to be reinvented.” She thinks part of the answer may lie in having new employees pay into those plans at the 25% level paid by State employees. “But I would not do that to our current employees. They’re underpaid as it is.” Montgomery feels that the town should also look into self-insuring as well as plans used in other areas.
Local government also needs to be re-examined in Montgomery’s view. “The next step has to be looking at our whole Philipstown government, our government structures, how we do things and what we can share. I’m not saying follow all [state] recommendations – but when the state looks at you – and sees you’re sharing services – you’ll get more aid.”
Maintaining small town life
Montgomery sees a national trend in the challenges that Philipstown faces. “There’s a decline of small towns across the country. It’s getting harder and harder to preserve small towns,” she said. “We’re a unique gem in the middle. Fishkill brought in all that development – and they’re broke. They destroyed their environment – and they’ve brought all kinds of bad development to our border.”
Toughest of all?
Montgomery has an interesting take on the biggest political challenge she has faced thus far in her career. “I think being a ‘Classroom Mom’ at Haldane when my son Finn was in first grade was the most difficult political position I’ve been in!”