Bill Mooney retires as President and CEO of the Westchester County Association (WCA) with a wealth of accomplishments over his 15 year tenure leading the WCA.
He established a Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Healthcare Reform, a landmark regional coalition of business leaders and healthcare providers that worked to correct market imbalances between hospitals, employers, and patients on one hand, and for-profit health insurers on the other. He formed the WCA Property Tax Commission, later rebranded as the WCA Call To Action, to evaluate escalating property taxes, propose recommendations for efficiencies and foster support for property tax caps, mandated relief, and municipal consolidations. He launched “Blueprint for Westchester,” a collaboration between Westchester’s business, real estate, academic, and urban communities, with the goal of reducing or repurposing six million square feet of unoccupied Class A office space. The list goes on.
We asked Mooney to reflect on his time at WCA.
Why retire now?
The major reason is that anytime you do something like this for a fair amount of years, the organization, in my judgment, could use a fresh perspective on where things ought to be going.
Also, I am going to be 80 years old, and that played into it as well. But I really do believe the first part. I have had a long career, and after X-number of years it is always good to get a fresh perspective on things with different leadership.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishments?
The most significant thing I would say is when we established the task force to look at healthcare. At that point in time, most of us in the business world didn’t understand the nature of healthcare. We certainly didn’t understand the economic value of healthcare. We didn’t recognize it as a major contributor to the economic well-being of the region. Getting into the whole issue of healthcare is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was not fashionable to talk about healthcare as an economic contributor to Westchester County, but we put numbers together and, wow, we had 52,000 people employed in healthcare here, an $18 billion industry in our back yard — those are enormous numbers.
Second is getting the workforce development grant. We were the project manager for a $9.8 million job-readiness program. We put together a group of CEOs from hospitals and colleges to talk the whole subject out, because it was clearly a bigger problem than we knew. As a result of that grant, we trained about 500 people, put together a six-week boot camp to rehabilitate people who had been unemployed, and got 400 people hospital jobs over that time. Of 23 programs like this in the nation, we were among the top three in terms of getting people trained and back to work. Any time you can help people get jobs, I feel good about it.
Another [important are where I have had an impact] is real estate and the Platinum Mile. Six or seven years ago, we put together a program for 6 million square feet of space, but we were never going to fill this space. The days of big companies coming in are over. So, we said, Let’s think about repurposing the whole thing for other kinds of space. Fast-forward six years, and a lot has been completely repurposed: apartments, the Wegman’s project, a lot of things have occurred. Years ago, smart growth years was filling buildings. Today it is creating an ecosystem that encompasses a whole bunch of other things.
What’s next for the WCA?
The WCA will continue with workforce development, with healthcare issues. It will be facing some difficult times and challenges with coming together to solve these issues. Affordable housing is becoming more of an issue than in the past. I see the WCA transitioning from not just a business organization to a community organization. That is a fairly dramatic strategic statement, and it’s up to the board what to do, but I think becoming a community organization, to allow other groups to come together to help solve problems, will be a huge step forward.
And what’s next for you?
I will be enjoying my nine grandchildren, my three great-grandchildren, and my four children. And a lot of consulting work in the area. My hobby is what I talked about for the last 20 minutes: the community. It has done so much for me and my family, it has been everything to me. Over the past 15 years I have been able to pay some of that back, and I want to continue to pay it back.