Wilson Kimball likes to be in the thick of things; she likes to have so many proverbial balls in the air, she loses sense of time. So her position as commissioner of planning and development for the City of Yonkers is the perfect fit. Internal meetings about construction projects, like the Chicken Island development downtown; combing through zoning laws, then rationalizing and rewriting the outdated, often murky codes; working with the parks department to coordinate the Yonkers Marathon; meeting with the mayor’s office; riding around with Live Nation, scoping out locations to build a 2,500-seat arena—it’s all in a day’s work. “I find the frenzied experience one of the better parts of politics,” Kimball says. Oh, and that’s all before attending to her studies as an MBA student at Pace University.
Kimball first broke into the frenzied political world as a policy-research volunteer for George Pataki’s 1994 campaign for governor. After Pataki’s win, Kimball stayed on as part of the transition team, organizing resumés for jobs in the governor’s office. When the resumés needed to go to the Albany office, Kimball packed the boxes into her dad’s Suburban and personally delivered them. “The governor, who’d never met me before, was like, ‘Who’s this girl who just delivered all these resumés?’” Kimball recalls. Pataki invited her to a dinner that night, where he hired her on the spot, giving her one of the first jobs in his administration. “That’s the thing about life: You can be proactive, and it may take you down a really great path,” says Kimball, who quickly worked her way up to chief of staff to First Lady Libby Pataki.
She followed that up with stints at the Wheelchair Foundation and later the Battery Park City Authority before joining Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s administration in 2012. “When I first came here, I felt like Yonkers was a blank slate,” she says. “The mayor, along with my small part in it, has gotten people to recognize what a gem this city is. I think that’s going to be the highlight of my career.”