Public and town officials weigh in on Susan Zimet’s second job

New Paltz town supervisor Susan Zimet. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

New Paltz town supervisor Susan Zimet. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

To some, New Paltz town supervisor Susan Zimet represents a strong woman in local government — someone unafraid to stand up and speak for her beliefs. As an activist, she’s fought hydraulic fracturing in New York State and hounded Albany for tax reform. The town budgets her administration submits routinely come in at or below the two percent tax cap.

But in her current role as supervisor in New Paltz, she’s met with some disappointment: consolidation of the town and village governments hasn’t yet materialized, and her 2014 run for New York State Assembly against Kevin Cahill ended abruptly.

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Some taxpayers see Zimet as a divisive figure. Recently, a proposal to locate a town sewer plant next to New Paltz Central High School mobilized the supervisor’s political opponents to speak out.

In January, people vented their anger about the proposal to the Town Board. Zimet responded using racially charged language to compare dissenting citizens to a lynch mob. It was a verbal gaffe that made regional news headlines. She later apologized for her remarks and said they were taken out of context.

Early this month, news broke that Zimet had taken a second job as executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State (HANNYS) in Albany. The not-for-profit organization’s mission is to eradicate hunger and poverty through legislative action, logistical support to pantries and additional services to needy New Yorkers.

“My job with Hunger Action was negotiated with the understanding that I would continue my term as supervisor,” said Zimet this week. “So the [New Paltz Times] was wrong when it said it was full time. We have many negotiated details that go into effect when it becomes full time.”

That being said, in the February 5 edition of the New Paltz Times, Zimet answered the question: How will you juggle the demands of the two full-time positions? She gave a detailed answer, but failed to mention that the job was part time.

Mark Dunlea, whom Zimet was hired to replace at HANNYS, said in the January 4 issue of The Record News, that it is important for the executive director to be based in Albany because of the organization’s focus on the state legislature.

When asked how often the new job would require her to be in Albany, Zimet said “it will vary,” and added “it is a critical time right now while the legislature is in session and the state budget is being worked on. Advocating to make sure that the budget allocates resources to address this critical issue adequately is of top priority.”

Zimet earns $53,000 a year as town supervisor. It’s unclear what her salary is with HANNYS. “It is between me and my board,” she said. An online job posting indicated that the salary would be $50,000 to $60,000, commensurate with experience.

In an informal web survey conducted by New Paltz Times, 85 percent of 172 respondents said it simply isn’t possible to be successful as the New Paltz town supervisor working a second job. Fifteen percent answered yes.

 

A sample of commentary

Letters to the editor received by the New Paltz Times have called for Susan Zimet to resign and focus on one or the other job. Most of the 27 people who commented on the survey also had some worries.

“She is setting herself up for failure, setting up the town for additional poor government,” said commenter Jim Gordon. “This is a classic lose-lose-lose situation and Susan should resign as supervisor.”

Carol Himmel, of New Paltz, thinks Zimet will find a way. “Yes! If anyone can do it, Susan can!” she wrote.

Commenter Richard Combs wrote that taxpayers might be getting a raw deal. “The taxpayers are paying her to be here full time. She needs to choose what she wants to do.”

“…Resoundingly, no!” said Jesse Chance. “There is no way she can adequately do either job while working both full time. Her comments and actions have made it clear she has no intention of devoting much time to her supervisor position and yet clearly intends to draw a full-time salary.”

Theresa Fall and KT Tobin simply said: “No.”

Additional comments can be found at www.ulsterpub.wpengine.com/2015/02/12/poll-can-a-successful-supervisor-hold-a-second-job/.

 

Zimet committed to staying as supervisor

Zimet has worked both as supervisor and for HANNYS for a couple weeks now. She said that the workload has been manageable. “Town hall is running smoothly,” the supervisor said. “The staff is terrific and the board members have been great.”

Letters calling for her resignation haven’t changed her mind, either.

“People are entitled to voice their opinion. I was elected by the people of New Paltz, and I will continue to serve those people to the best of my abilities,” she said.

Since he became deputy supervisor in 2014, Jeff Logan estimated he’s put in 12 to 22 hours each week at Town Hall — not including board meetings and other Town Board obligations.

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While he’s read the letters calling for Zimet’s resignation, Logan said no one had reached out to him in person with concerns about the supervisor’s new job.

He might not agree that the supervisor should step down, but those comments “are the opinions of individuals within our community, and I respect their opinion,” he added.

Logan pointed to a long list of accomplishments made by the Town Board since Zimet became supervisor — lower taxes, tightened finances and sticking up for taxpayers. In the past, they’ve set the bar high, he said.

“I have every expectation and belief that Susan will continue to meet and exceed that bar,” Logan added. “As the Town Board, we can only require the supervisor (chief fiscal officer) to prepare the budget, control all the funds and hold the yearly reorg meeting (GML Town Law ss. 29). It’s a little more complex, but [those are] the requirements in a nut shell. There is no provision for hours worked just as [there are] no provisions for hours worked by Town Board members, town clerk or town highway supervisor.”

Councilman Daniel Torres pointed out that the decision is ultimately up to the supervisor. “Susan was elected to be a full-time supervisor, and she is compensated at a full-time rate. I believe she has a responsibility to serve as a full-time supervisor,” Torres said. “If she is unable to provide the people of the Town of New Paltz with the service that they rightfully expect and deserve, then she may need to consider if she can fulfill both roles.” ++

 

To learn more about Susan Zimet’s new job with the Hunger Action Network of New York State in Albany, visit https://ulsterpub.wpengine.com/2015/02/06/susan-zimet-accepts-new-full-time-job-in-albany-will-remain-full-time-supervisor-in-new-paltz/.

There are 8 comments

  1. Tim Hunter

    Susan Zimet has fought Wal-Mart, and won. Fought fracking, and won. Now she is combatting hunger in N.Y. State. People and children in need in NY, need a powerful advocate and voice.

    I applaud Ms. Zimet for taking up the cause. I think that we should be congratulating her. Most of the local complaints are from the same vocal group who oppose her on everything else. This should not be a surprise. But I believe this should be about progress, not politics.

    And with such a strong history of achievement and success, the surprise to me would be if Susan cannot do both well.

  2. J. Robin Ward

    Since Susan Zimet has been quoted in the New Paltz Times as saying that she is taking this job in part to get “distance” from a “cabal” of people in New Paltz — in short, to limit the number of constituents she intends to serve as Supervisor — then it is clear that she has no intention of doing her _complete_ job, which is serving _all_ her constituents. As such, she is no longer doing the entire work required for the Supervisor position, and thus should no longer be considered to be working “full time” at the position.

  3. Billiam van Roestenberg

    Wow
    Someone is working to fight Hunger and this is how a person is treated.
    Not surprising though, it seems there are some real haters in New Paltz, no subject is off limits. How sad, how pathetic. These same haters will they ever feel shame? One in five children live with food insecurity. How can these constant nay sayers live with themselves!? Very easy to constantly criticize they don’t get along with anyone for very long. I am in shock that anyone would use Hunger as a weapon, is nothing off limits to these people? I feel the beacon of hope New Paltz once stood for is becoming very tarnished and dim. Very sad indeed.

  4. Mike Russo

    Billiam — I’m sorry and disappointed that you think that I’m a hater. The problem is not about Susan’s position at HANNYS, it’s about the fulfillment of her role as Town Supervisor. I figure that either you don’t understand the context of what has gone on in New Paltz over the last few years, or you don’t care. In any case, to dismiss anyone who may have differing opinions than the Supervisor as a hatter is exactly the manner by which Susan has behaved, which has resulted in her being extremely devisive for the community. And sadly, in recent months, we have experience Jeff Logan acting in exactly the same manner. I’ve always said that Susan’s personality lends herself better to being a lobbyist than being an administrator, where it is best if one aims to build consensus and not to alienate other points of view (which often in fact uncovers considerations that were heretofore unexamined) and to engage the public at the outset rather than employing closed door tactics and maneuvers.

  5. Peter Muller

    Susan Zimet has been supervisor long enough to have competent staff in place who can handle the day-to-day routine requests that come into the supervisor’s office. When her decision is needed, I’m sure she is available and on call close to 24/7. She is familiar with town-board issues and can adequately handle her new and important assignment dealing with food for the hungry at a state level. She is just the right person for both jobs.

  6. billiam

    Mike, many people are telling me who live in New Paltz, they feel there is definitely a double standard when holding politicians accountable. I personally think it’s disgusting to use hunger to attack someone, truly disgusting. It shows very poor judgement. One should admit when they cross over the line, there should be a lot of people thinking where is all this going, what is being accomplished? Feeding into such hate and losing sight of more important issues. Why don’t you all spend a day on my farm in the fall and pick apples for the local food pantries, a whole day off from negativity, no cell phones just good old fashioned hard work and working for a better cause. Seriously, my farm needs help to pick all those apples, thousands and thousands of pounds, we could also use help for deliveries! Get involved with growing the Hudson Valley instead of destroying each other. There are never enough volunteers to help feed all the hungry, especially when republicans are cutting food stamps and they disgrace their god by doing so with no shame either. If you don’t want to help with gleaning on my farm there are many other organizations that will gladly make use of your wasted energies. It’s very easy to be negative and not to accomplish anything. I would rather see people stop complaining and doing something positive.

  7. Mike Russo

    Billiam – You don’t even know my past background and yet you feel free to disparage my work. So who is doing the hating here? You sound pretty negative about people who give of themselves to exercise their civic duty. As for me, if you knew me instead of making assumptions, you would know that I don’t look for opportunities to be negative. who wants that? I entered the consolidation issue with no preconceived view but only because Jason had pointed out that the financial report looked wrong in many ways. The deeper I looked, the more questionable the report’s estimates became. And as I watched the videos, I realized how improperly the analysis was conducted. Now what would you do if you looked and saw something done wrong by elected or appointed officials? Would you look the other way and just go back to your farm work? Again, take Susan’s annual report, the figures from which she used as a campaign measure against Randall Leverette. The annual report was not vetted by a CPA but should have been because it used made up rules of accounting that produced vastly exaggerated claim of savings to the taxpayers. Again, would you have said something or looked away? think I should have shut up about that? When the village board retaliated against Jason for his role in criticizing the consolidation finance committee, did you speak up for him or did you turn away because you didn’t want to be negative against those who were being negative? If you did speak out for him or if you ever spoke out against something you felt was wrong, how would you like it if others simply branded you as negative and a troublemaker? How did you feel when others branded you and others as troublemakers and negative against the sacrament of marriage eleven years ago? Let’s remember that Back then, a lot of people felt that their values and traditions were being attacked by those actions. If you saw someone else in a similar place as that now, would you advise them to stay on the farm instead? Would you characterize those actions as wasted? As I said already, it isn’t at all about poverty and hunger and Susan’s job at HANNYS, it is about the insistence on good and fair government, which is everyone’s duty.

  8. Patti

    I worked a full time job, a part time job, went to Graduate School and had two young children. What is the problem?

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