PEEKSKILL, NY -Councilwoman Patricia Riley, whose four-year term expires at the end of the year, said politics was something she grew up with.
Riley, a longtime music teacher and union representative in the Lakeland Central School District, was born and raised in Peekskill. She said her late father, a city steamfitter and Italian immigrant, was very involved in city politics.
"He liked all the political things and he would go to city hall and go to the meetings and as a kid I went with him and I think it just stuck," Riley said. "He really cared about Peekskill and it rubbed off on me."
Riley was elected to the Peekskill Common Council in November 2007 and began her term in January 2008. She was elected with fellow Democrat Joe Schuder in a year that saw then-councilwoman Mary Foster get elected mayor and the Democrats gain control of the council for the first time in decades.
Riley said she volunteered with the city Democrats for several years as her father once did and eventually got asked to run for the council. She said the experience was a lot of work but also enjoyable and enlightening.
"After you're sworn in you're learning little by little about how the city is run and you have a lot meetings and you meet a lot of people," Riley said. "It's very interesting to see the inner workings of the city. You really don't know it until you're in the midst of it."
Riley said she was surprised by how intense the job could be at times. "There's a lot you have to know. There's a lot that gets thrown at you that you have to know and you have to be good on your feet and be able to respond quick.
Riley said that many people falsely think the common council is a full time job for its members, but she said members do that work on top of their day jobs.
"It's a lot of work. You're not just there one night a week and then you never see anybody again the rest of the week," she said. "There's a lot of work that goes on throughout the week"
When asked what she was most proud of during her four years of service, Riley said she enjoyed interacting with and helping her fellow residents.
"People would call me and say 'I need my leaves picked up' or 'My tree fell down can you call somebody?' Just helping out my fellow citizens I really loved and I'm going to miss that."
The councilwoman said she was also proud of apprenticeship legislation she helped pass in her first year that allowed apprentice to work with city union laborers.
One of the highlights of her time was serving as emcee of this year's Festa Italiana, where she said her fifteen minute stand-up comedy routine about her Italian family got rave reviews, at least from two audience members.
"Two people came up to me after the show asked me if I was appearing at the Paramount the next night and when I said no, they asked my where I was appearing next," Riley said with a laugh. "I told them I didn't know."
As for advice for new council members, Riley said politicians can't get wrapped up in what critics might say but instead be true to their beliefs.
"You have to start developing a thick skin," Riley said. "Try not to read the blogs and get bogged down in that stuff. Just remember that you're there to serve the people and you always want to do the best job you can do. If that's in your heart and you try to do the best job you can, then you won't fail."
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