R5 Peter Tripodi IV: the 25-Year-Old Member of the Ossining Town Board, and Youngest Elected Official in Westchester County, NY

Peter Tripodi IV isn’t what you might expect when you think of a town board member—you know, someone who has raised kids in town, perhaps owned a business on Main Street, and has lived and worked in the community for years.  Someone who, well, doesn’t still live with his parents.

Twenty-five-year-old Tripodi brings an unusual jolt of youth to the Ossining Town Board. For nearly two years, he has been serving as one of four members of the board and its only Republican. Despite his youth and political affiliation, he is in the midst of a campaign to move up the town government ladder to become Ossining’s first Republican Town Supervisor in 15 years. “There are a lot of things I can’t do as a councilman that I can do as a supervisor,” Tripodi says.

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Tripoldi, who lives with his parents in his childhood home, works two days a week for Stephen Dewey, a local lawyer who happens to be the chairman of the Ossining Republican Committee. He also is a volunteer firefighter and a former waiter at Travelers Rest restaurant in Ossining. A trustee of the Ossining Historical Society and a member of the Ossining chapters of The Elks and Knights of Columbus, he is studying for his Master’s in Public Administration at Pace University. Tripodi received his undergraduate degree in 2008 from SUNY Albany, where he majored in history. An internship at the State Assembly led him to run for a town board seat unsuccessfully in 2008 and then again, successfully, in 2009. 

His resumé is admittedly short, but his political theatrics? Legendary. He uses Facebook to highlight errors in town documents, to vent when he feels overlooked, and to shame other board members when they’re not meeting his standards. “I guess it’s somewhat combative, but that’s the nature of the game,” Tripodi says. Perhaps the best example of his flame-throwing temperament came when he posted a photo of fellow board member Michael Tawil texting during a meeting. “I don’t put on a show,” he insists. “I say what’s on my mind.”

The following session, Tawil brought in a video camera, supposedly in hopes of giving the young board member a taste of his own medicine. “I thought that he should see for himself how childish and unproductive this type of ‘gotcha’ politics really is,” Tawil says. That only led to a rebuttal on Tripodi’s page. And so on.

Tripodi doesn’t think he’s brash or argumentative; he insists its what he’s learned working on the board. Tripodi maintains that he needs to do what he can to be on equal footing with other board members. “That’s how I have to act. I’m sometimes treated unfairly,” says Tripodi. He claims that his initiatives are ignored and that he’s “locked out of meetings.”

Tawil, for his part, denies that Tripodi was ever locked out of a meeting. “He’s referring to a committee that he voted not to be on,” Tawil says. “Later on, he said he did not understand his vote, that he wouldn’t be on the committee.” As for the charge that Tripodi is treated unfairly, Tawil adds, “I think we treat him professionally.”

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After reading pages of his Facebook posts filled with political jabs and caps-locked exclamations, I was ready to meet the loudmouth stage-stealer. But, at our interview, Tripodi was, well, not what I expected. He boasted about spending his Saturday nights reading the town code and doing town work. He is proud of having spent the summer developing plans for his campaign. His mother, Francine Tripodi, who owns a courier service, is his campaign manager, and she is part of his merry band of supporters, which includes longtime girlfriend Marissa Rinaldi. “He is young, but he does have an education behind him,” his mother says.

“I act this way because that’s how I was ‘raised’ on the board. It’s like growing up in the ghetto.”

Current Town Supervisor Catherine Borgia is leaving office to run for a position on the Westchester County Board. She is supporting Tripodi’s competitor, Sue Donnelly, in the race to fill her seat. Borgia says that her 15 years of managing large budgets in corporations and holding an MBA, along with “the grass-roots experience of being a tax-paying homeowner, mother, and active community volunteer,” were necessary attributes that helped her be a successful town supervisor.

Being a Democrat—something Tripodi, of course, is not—helped, too. “In my 2009 campaign, one guy was really listening to me, but, as soon as I told him I was Republican, he announced, ‘I don’t vote Republican; I never have and I never will.’ But I said, ‘Sir, you say you’re a liberal, so then keep an open mind; listen to what I have to say.’ That afternoon, he emailed me and said he would vote for me, and he even followed up after Election Day saying congratulations.”

When he campaigned for his town board position in 2009, he says he knocked on 2,000 doors. This year, he wants to hit 4,000.

Meghan Keneally, born and raised in Westchester, is a freelance journalist based in Manhattan. She is fascinated by the drama of local politics and specializes in political writing.

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