WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A bipartisan coalition of county legislators consisting of five Republicans and two Democrats has banded together to propose new leadership in 2014, naming Michael Kaplowitz (D, District 4) as chairman of the board, and Jim Maisano (R, D11) as vice chairman, the coalition announced at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 19.
The two intend to run on Jan. 6 to replace current chairman Ken Jenkins (D, 16) and vice chair Lyndon Williams (D, D13).
Sheila Marcotte (R, D10), Gordon Burrows (R, D15), Virginia Perez (D, D17), John Testa (R, D1) and Michael Smith (R, D3) joined the two for the press conference to show their support. Two other supporting legislators, Bernice Spreckman (R, D14) and David Gelfarb (R, D6) were not present.
According to Kaplowitz, the coalition was brought together to bring a new approach to legislation, involving cooperation that will be "the greatest example of bipartisan cooperation across the nation."
"It is important to work together, and it is our responsibility as legislators to be coequal," he said, "Endless stagnation does not have to be the modus operandi of Westchester County."
Kaplowitz and Maisano have both served on the BOL for 16 years and have maintained a friendship that has led them to make this decision together.
"We believe we can do a better job than the current leadership," said Maisano.
Virginia Perez agreed, adding that, though the coalition was created out of frustration, constituent response has been very positive.
"Kaplowitz is the spirit we need to lead this board," she said.
The coalition expressed their desire to promote consensus building and cooperation among the 17 legislators, putting "governing over politics."
The remaining members of the Democratic caucus will be meeting on Monday to decide if they will support the new coalition.
The coalition would not comment in response to Ken Jenkins' previous statements that the coalition's opposition to his leadership is racially motivated.
However, they agreed that Jenkins had served for far longer than perhaps appropriate.
"The current chair and vice chair are my friends," Maisano said, "We always talk about term limits, but I think they are most important for leadership. This isn't about any one legislator, it's about the council as a whole."
Perez said she believed the coalition was, in no way, formed because of racial prejudice, otherwise she would not be on it.
"I am a Latina and considered a minority, even if we are the majority, and I do not believe this board would discriminate against someone based on race," she said.
Jenkins, who did not attend the press conference, said because 9 out of 17 legislators have joined up with the coalition, he is resigning to losing the chairmanship.
According to Jenkins, the focus of the Democratic caucus meeting on Monday will be not to crush the coalition, but to select a majority leader and majority whip.
Though it looks like his term as chairman may come to an end, he said he does not regret any of his actions or the board's actions throughout his term.
"When we lay in bed at night, we have to sleep and live with that we've done. I feel I've done the best job I could do," he said, "I feel good about our progress."
In terms of the possibility of another outcome, Jenkins said his caucus usually sticks together, and no Republican voted for him to become chairman.
"Christmas is the time of miracles, but who knows, there could be another outcome," he said.
However, regardless of what happens, Jenkins believes he will leave the BOL better than it was when he began his term.
Though the coalition expressed discomfort with previous instances of party politics, Jenkins had a hard time recognizing past trouble amongst the board.
"90-percent of what the board has done in the past has been the result of unanimous decisions. I challenge you to go through the public documents and try to find items where the case has been different," he said.
The vote for BOL leadership will be held on Jan. 6.