Jeff Collins is the new president of Woodstock Library Board

Jeff Collins

New leadership will steer the Woodstock Public Library into the next chapter of planning for a new building after the razor-thin defeat of a $5.8 million bond. Library Board of Trustees President Dorothea Marcus has passed the baton to trustee Jeff Collins. Marcus will still be a trustee. The board unanimously approved Collins as president at its January 7 organizational meeting. No other nominations were offered.

“I’ve been very happy and proud to be president these past years,” said Marcus, who had planned earlier to step down as president after finishing 2020. “We’re in a new phase now, and it’s time for new leadership.”

Trustee Caroline Jerome voiced her appreciation for Marcus’ leadership. “I wanted to recognize how much you’ve given to this position,” she said. “It’s been fabulous working with you as a leader, and I look forward to working with you in the future.” Liz Rosen echoed those thoughts, saying it was a pleasure to work with Marcus and is happy to welcome Collins as the new president.

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The board also reappointed Barry Miller as vice president, Liz Rosen as fiscal officer, and David Lewis as secretary.

For Collins, who was just elected to his first full term as trustee after filling a vacancy, it’s time to get down to business.

“I have a plan for resolving the building issue by the end of the year and have it approved by the town,” he said.

Collins said the board will look at all viable options including the plan by architect Stephen Tilly, but remains unconvinced renovation is an option. There are many unknowns with the building structure and integrity that need to be explored.

Collins acknowledges concerns about the cost of a new building and the viability of borrowing in the middle of a pandemic, but is focused on gathering all relevant facts to present them to the public.

“We’re investigating all aspects of what we can do with the building. As we hear from the community we’ll make it public.”

The bottom line, said Collins, is everyone agrees something must be done about the building, but how to approach it is where people differ.

“Those are things we need to work on to make sure town as a whole supports the project. We want to be in a position where a significant portion of the town approves of what we’re doing,” he said.

“We need to inform the community better than how they’ve been informed. It’s always hard to get messages out,” Collins said.

“We’ll start from where we all agree and look at what the facts are. We’ll make sure facts are obvious and apparent to everyone. Let’s make sure we agree on the facts.”

Collins is no stranger to shepherding major projects through town approval. He founded the Hudson Valley Sudbury School in Woodstock.

Collins continues to have an active role in local politics. He serves on the state Democratic Committee and is the First Vice Chair of the Ulster County Democratic Committee and Treasurer of the Woodstock Democratic Committee. He ran for the 46th State Senate district, but ended his campaign when Michelle Hinchey announced her candidacy and served as her policy advisor. Collins is also on the Family of Woodstock board of directors.

Collins said he is always welcome to comments from the public and can be reached by emailing collins@woodstock.org

More time for other projects

Marcus, who has been on the board since 2014, became president in 2017 and was re-elected to a new five-year term as trustee in 2019. Marcus hadn’t planned on staying in the leadership role as long as she did, but felt devoted to the building project.

“I decided I would at least see us through the bond vote no matter what happened,” she said.

“If the bond prevailed I thought Jeff would be a good person to take us through that. If the bond had been dramatically defeated, I probably would have resigned from the board.”

Marcus said her decision to step down was not taken lightly because she finds the work satisfying.

Marcus led the board through a tumultuous period that included the appointment of a new director who ultimately didn’t work out as planned and the resignation of then-librarian Jessica Kerr. She oversaw the brief role of former trustee Tamara Katzowitz as interim director, then the rehiring of Kerr to her new role as director. 

Marcus saw the library survive a campaign to dissolve its special district by a group opposed to the plans for a new building. The referendum for dissolution was defeated, but it was an exhausting and demoralizing time for the board and staff.

“I feel like we’re coming out of this weird year and it’s almost like coming into a new decade. I’ll have space and time for new projects and new energy,” said Marcus, a real estate agent, who now has time to focus on her art and other endeavors.

Though she has a deep appreciation for the trustees and library staff and feels the change will leave a hole in her life, Marcus said it was the right decision.

“I feel lighter and more relieved every day.”