Photo by Toshi Tasaki
William Mooney is the kind of man who gravitates naturally to the head of the table. Ask around and you’ll find he’s sat at many tables during his tenure as president of the Westchester County Association, a title he’s held since 2004. Officially, he’s an advocate for the business membership organization’s 500 members, but theoretically, he’s an advocate for all Westchester residents. Hospitals on the brink, the county’s credit rating in peril—Mooney, a 72-year-old White Plains resident and former banker at Chemical Bank and executive vice president of Union State Bank, is frequently the man called upon to solve some of the county’s largest problems. Today, he is focused on WCA’s Economic Development Task Force and growing the WCA by having more female executive and young professional members.
Mooney reckons emotional intelligence is the true hallmark of great leadership. “Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Jr., are three great leaders because people relate to them right away; they had emotional intelligence and they put it to good use,” he says. Perhaps not surprisingly, peers such as WCA member Robert P. Weisz, CEO of RPW Group, use similar language to describe Mooney. “Bill has an incredible talent for making people feel important. Whenever you’re in the room with Bill Mooney, it’s never about Bill—it’s about everybody else. He gets people to work with a tremendous commitment because everyone feels they’ve been recognized.”
How’s he putting all this magic to use? When the county’s hospitals were driven to the brink of financial crisis by insurers’ underhanded practices (rampant coverage denials, late payments, and retroactive coverage denials for already-administered treatment) halfway through the last decade, Mooney started the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Healthcare Reform to push for legislation to police insurers. “He called in the providers, called in the insurers,” says Jon B. Schandler, president and CEO of White Plains Hospital. “He did his homework to find out what was going on.” John Federspiel, president and CEO of the Hudson Valley Hospital Center, says that “Bill was willing to lead the charge. He mounted a roadshow throughout the state to convince business leaders that the hospitals in their communities are extremely vital to the local economy.” He won their support. Several pieces of legislation have passed since 2009, staving off a healthcare crisis in Westchester and beyond.
When Westchester risked the loss of its AAA credit rating, Mooney swooped in. “We asked Morgan Stanley in Purchase how they could help us understand the ingredients of what goes into maintaining AAA status,” Mooney recalls. He gathered a whole lot of finance executives and municipal bond experts. “Morgan Stanley even brought in their chief municipal guy. We went through several meetings with them figuring out what makes an AAA county. We went on to meet with the county executive, then the chairman of the legislative body, and we outlined what was important.” They wound up taking Team Mooney’s advice, and the AAA credit is still intact.