After a hotly contested — and sometimes downright ugly — campaign fight for Westchester County Executive, Democrat George Latimer turned on the charm yesterday morning at one of his first official speaking engagements since beating incumbent Republican Rob Astorino last month. Addressing a crowd of Business Council of Westchester members at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown, Latimer peppered his speech with humor and a healthy dose of humility (as well as personal references to many of the movers and shakers in the audience) as he shared his vision for leading the county.
Joking that he was there to serve up “truth and eggs,” Latimer quickly got to the truth part, admitting that the tough election against Astorino was “not pretty.” After tipping his proverbial hat to his Republican predecessor for eight years of service, Latimer noted that “Westchester is not owned by the county executive of the moment,” and pledged to use pragmatism as his guiding philosophy.
“It’s important for elected officials to understand the business realities and political realities, and we can’t always hold fast to ideology,” Latimer said. “Politicians ignore economics and businesspeople ignore politics to their peril.”
The third-generation Westchester resident, who was born and raised in Mount Vernon and is currently a resident of Rye, set the stage for an administration of compromise. “For too long we’ve been bouncing back and forth between political ideologies. We need pragmatism; we can’t get everything we want,” Latimer said, adding that he will “try not to promise what can’t be delivered.”
Photo caption: L-R: Joseph Markey of Key Bank; Westchester County Executive Elect George Latimer; BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon; BCW Board Chariman Anthony Justic.
As for what he does intend to deliver, Latimer, who spent 20 years in corporate marketing before entering politics, made it clear that collaborating closely with the business community is high on his list. “I intend to use government to complement what is being done already by people in this room,” he said. He outlined economic-development priorities including making sure our corporate office buildings are filled to capacity with thriving companies, and also looking at underutilized buildings and industrial sites in low-employment places like Mount Vernon and Yonkers.
Latimer touted Westchester’s ecodev-friendly assets, but also noted that, “we can’t ignore our human needs,” when it comes to the underprivileged, the unemployed, and residents with low skillsets.
He also touched on the need to resolve hot-button issues such as privatization at the airport and Playland; outstanding contracts for local unions; and Westchester’s fluctuating bond ratings. Explaining that he wasn’t going to make rushed judgements, Latimer said, “We need to have honest dialogue before we make these decisions. We need to be grownups and negotiate intelligently. Not everyone can be happy [with outcomes to these types of issues], but we can’t keep kicking stuff down the road.”
Resolving these issues, he said, would take cooperation from all members of the County Board of Legislators — Democrats and Republicans alike. “I won’t make people who disagree [with me] my enemies,” he indicated.
The 64-year-old also took a chance to spin his status as the oldest-elected County Executive as a benefit (and fit in a jab against Astorino), by stating that his age shows that he “will be worried about doing a good job for the next four years, not about my future roles in government.”