Resignation, seat changes among moves
Two months after being elected to a second, 2-year term, Wren Longno resigned last week from the Beacon City Council.
Longno, who represented Ward 3, submitted her resignation to Mayor Lee Kyriacou on Jan. 3. It was announced on Monday (Jan. 8), during the council’s annual organizational meeting. In response, the council voted to move Pam Wetherbee, an at-large representative elected in November, to Ward 3 and appoint Amber Grant, a former two-term council member, to the at-large seat.
Longno said she was leaving for personal reasons. “If it wasn’t crucial I wouldn’t do it,” she said on Tuesday.
Wetherbee served as the Ward 3 representative from 2014 to 2017. On Monday, after Kyriacou explained the moves, which he said were dictated by the city’s charter, she resigned from the at-large position and was immediately appointed to Ward 3, which covers Beacon’s northeast quadrant.
Moments later, Grant, who served from 2018 to 2019 as the Ward 4 representative and 2020 to 2021 as an at-large member, was appointed to the council’s second at-large position. (Paloma Wake holds the other.)
Wake and several residents questioned the shuffling of members, with Wake saying that, while she has no issue with Wetherbee or Grant, she would rather see Longno’s seat advertised publicly so that interested candidates could submit applications to Kyriacou.
“I would really like to see this be a more open and public process,” such as when the Beacon school board or Howland Public Library board have filled vacancies, she said.
The difference between those boards and the City Council is that only the council has an elected chief officer in the form of the mayor, said City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis.
Kyriacou said he agreed that appointing public representatives is “one of the least democratic things we can do,” but noted that Wetherbee and Grant had both won contested elections in recent years and had experience in the positions to which they were appointed.
“It would be extremely unfair for me to consider people who had not held office or not participated directly in the electoral process,” Kyriacou said. “Ordinarily I would agree that we should have some period of time” for applicants to come forward, “but I just do not see anyone, anywhere” more qualified to serve than Wetherbee and Grant.
Both appointments will be contested in November in a special election for a one-year term lasting through 2025.
Wake abstained from the votes moving Wetherbee to Ward 3 and adding Grant to the council, and Wetherbee abstained from the vote that shifted her from at-large to the Ward 3 seat. Once the moves were official, the council agreed to discuss at an upcoming workshop whether to amend the charter’s guidelines for filling open seats.
The council members’ moves were the most significant in an organizational meeting that typically includes a slew of committee appointments and contract renewals.
In this year’s meeting, the council approved a four-year contract for $175 per hour with KARC Planning Consultants to replace John Clarke, the planning consultant who had worked with the city since 2016 and retired at the end of 2023. Natalie Quinn, who worked for the Poughkeepsie Planning & Zoning Department from 2018 to 2022, will be the firm’s primary liaison with the city. KARC was one of six companies that responded to the city’s request for proposals to replace Clarke.
The council also approved four-year renewal agreements with Lanc & Tully ($125 per hour, with some projects priced differently) for engineering services and Keane & Beane ($16,100 per month) for legal services. Rebecca Mensch was appointed to a fourth 6-year term as the assistant City Court judge, and Faye Leone was appointed to a four-year term as the city’s Climate Smart Coordinator.
Jackson Heichel was appointed as a municipal secretary, filling the last open position in City Hall. Len Warner was reappointed to the Planning Board; Jordan Haug and Judi Smith were reappointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals; John Berry was reappointed to the Board of Assessment Review; Thomas Wright was reappointed and Marisa Lomonaco appointed to the Conservation Advisory Committee; and Ethan Skuches was appointed to the Tree Advisory Committee.
The council also agreed to shrink from five to three minutes the amount of time residents may speak during public comment. The change aligns with the time limit for public hearings.
Finally, it approved a resolution opposing Central Hudson’s proposed increases to its delivery charges for hundreds of thousands of natural gas and electric customers in the Mid-Hudson Region, including the Highlands.
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