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About Us
Our History
Role of the County
Student Legislature
Meet the Staff
Contact Us
About the Board of Legislators


The seventeen-member Westchester County Board of Legislators is the legislative, policy-making branch of county government that has been in operation, in one form or another, for over 300 years!* It is to Westchester what the US Congress is to the United States. Each legislator is elected for a two-year term and represents a district of approximately 54,000 residents. A legislator must reside in the district he or she represents.

Role of County Government Handout
What is County Government? Click here

Unlike the US Congress that is bicameral or has two chambers composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Westchester legislature is unicameral, having only one legislative body or chamber.

The County Board meets at least once a month, usually on Monday evenings in the legislative chambers located on the 8th floor of the Michaelian Office Building. All Board meetings are open to the public.

The powers of the County Board of Legislators are enumerated in the County’s charter. A key power of the Board concerns finances: appropriating funds, approving the budget and levying taxes. It also approves appointments by the County Executive and passes local laws, acts and resolutions, all requiring nine votes for passage except for bond acts that require twelve. Laws and acts are then sent to the County Executive for his signature or his disapproval. A veto by the County Executive can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the Board.

To read more about the Board's 300 year old history, go to the history section on this website.

The Committee System

The Board of Legislators operates under a committee system. Currently, there are 13 committees, each of which is charged with overseeing a particular policy area. For example, if the matter involves a bond act, it will need to be reviewed and signed out by the Committee on Budget & Appropriations before the full Board can vote on it. The Chair of the Board appoints each committee’s membership as well as its chair.

Every Legislator serves on at least one of the committees.

Committee Meetings are very important to understanding and developing an issue before it comes to a full Board meeting for a vote.

Any proposal, concern or letter from a citizen first goes to the full Board for referral to the appropriate committee. This committee may then study an issue and invite interested parties and experts to provide information and answer questions.

Often officials of County Departments attend meetings to help the Legislators deal with the many complex issues. Committee members work in cooperation with the County Departments to solve problems and improve life in Westchester County.

CHECKS AND BALANCES

This is the same concept as is followed at the federal and state level. A proposed law approved by the legislative branch goes to the executive branch (the County Executive) to be signed.

Within ten days, the County Executive either signs the legislation into law or returns it to the Legislature with a written explanation of the reasons for the “veto.” If the County Executive does not act within 10 days, the proposal automatically becomes a law.

A vetoed proposal may still become a law. The Legislature can vote again on the proposal and “override the veto” by a two-thirds vote in favor.

HOW A PROPOSAL BECOMES A LAW

Ideas for new laws and changes to old laws come from many sources – from citizens, from legislators or from the executive branch. But only legislators or the county executive can sponsor a law. 

Consideration of a proposed law or change to a law begins when the item is placed on the Board of Legislators’ agenda and is referred to the appropriate committee or committees.

For example, a proposal from the county executive that money be spent to purchase land for a park would be referred to the Parks, Planning, and Economic Development Committee as well as the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

These committees then meet to examine the proposal.  At these committee meetings, which are public, legislators would discuss the benefits and the costs of the proposal, they would listen to and question the county executive’s staff and the county commissioner of parks, they also would hear from members of the public.

Every proposed law also is reviewed by the county law department and may be rewritten to address concerns expressed in the committee meetings.

Once the details have been worked out, the committees sign out a resolution to be voted on at a Board of Legislators meeting. Three major things may happen to the resolution at the Board meeting. It may be:

  • Approved by a majority vote and sent to the county executive to be signed into law
  • Rejected if it fails to win a majority vote
  • Sent back to committee for revision

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

WRITE A LETTER to your Legislator to share your ideas and concerns. This is one of the many ways that Legislators find out what people want government to do. Who knows, maybe one of your ideas will become a law or lead to a new County policy.

ATTEND MEETINGS of the Legislature which are held every other Monday night at 7 pm. Visit our website or call (914) 995-2800 to check meeting dates and agendas. You can also attend committee meetings which are usually on Mondays or Tuesdays during the day.

EXPRESS YOUR OPINIONS to the Board of Legislators at the Public Hearing held during the first 30 minutes of each Board meeting. You should arrive a few minutes early and sign up for one of the 3 minute time slots.

A Brief History of the County Board of Legislators

The County Board has been functioning as the voice of the people of Westchester County in one form or another since the days when Westchester was still a British colony! The first step toward a formal legislative body came in 1682 when the Governor of the Province called for election of a “general assembly of freeholders with legislative powers.” One of the first orders of business for the General Assembly was the creation of ten counties, one of which was Westchester. During the remainder of British rule, the county was not an important unit of government except as a judicial district, and had extremely limited self-governing powers, vested in a Board of Justices, consisting of five or more justices of the peace.

In 1703, the title of supervisor replaced the office formerly known as town treasurer. When it became necessary to do something countywide, like building a county court house and jail or transacting other business for the general benefit of the towns in a particular county, all of the town supervisors customarily assembled for the purpose of apportioning expenses. This assemblage constituted the origin of the County Board of Supervisors.

Beyond apportioning expenses and auditing county accounts, the Board of Supervisors had few powers until after the Revolution when the Board of Justices was abolished. The Board of Supervisors took over the Board of Justices and inherited their limited powers of legislation.

Until the mid 1800’s, most local legislative issues were handled at the state level. The necessity for a modernized form of county government, closer to home, that could better manage the needs of a burgeoning population became apparent. In 1846 and 1892, the state constitution was amended to expand the role of county government and the authority of the state’s county boards was significantly expanded.

Recognizing that they had to reform government to accommodate the principles of “home rule,” the state legislature appointed a commission in 1914 to study the whole question of county government. Westchester’s Board of Supervisors, in turn, appointed the “Westchester County Government Commission” to formulate a county charter.

A series of commissions met between 1915 and 1937 and recommended various versions of a county charter. All were either vetoed by the governor or defeated by voters in a countywide referendum. Finally,in the general election of 1937, voters approved the Westchester County Charter which defined and expanded the powers and duties of the Board of Supervisors and established the office of the County Executive.

By the late 1960’s, population patterns in the County had changed significantly; rapid population increases in the cities and suburbs of the southern section of the county dramatically outpaced the still sparsely settled northern areas. For example, in 1966, the Town of Greenburgh, with 83,000 people, had the same representation on the Board of Supervisors as North Salem, with 3,000 people. The Town of Greenburgh brought the matter to the courts to resolve. Greenburgh argued that the current makeup of the Board of Supervisors was unconstitutional because it violated the “one man, one vote” principle established by the United States Supreme Court in a previous decision.

The courts agreed with the Town of Greenburgh. As a result, the 45-member Board of Supervisors was abolished by court order and replaced in 1970 with our current legislative body, the County Board of Legislators, composed of 17 members elected every two years. Each legislator represents approximately 50,000 people and after every federal census, each of the legislative districts must be adjusted to maintain the balance of power in accordance with the ‘one man, one vote’ principle.

Resources:

Westchester County Archives

Westchester County Historical Society

Role of the County

New York State, like other states around the nation, established its county system of government as a way to deliver services more efficiently on a grassroots basis. There are 3,069 counties in the United States. Only Connecticut and Rhode Island have no functioning county governments. All county governments are led by an elected body. Westchester, one of New York State’s original ten counties, was first led by the Board of Justices which convened for the first time on November 1, 1683. The legislature then became the Board of Supervisors and is now called the Westchester County Board of Legislators.

The 17-member County Board is the lawmaking branch of county government. It sets policies that protect and serve Westchester’s nearly one million residents, and allocates the money needed to operate county programs and services. It has oversight responsibility of the executive branch, which was created in 1939 to carry out its policies. Each County Legislator, elected to a two-year term, represents a district of about 57,000 residents.

Westchester County’s Budget
Two-thirds of Westchester County’s operating budget involves services and programs mandated by the federal government and the state of New York. Some of these services are funded entirely by federal and state aid; however, the State shifts a significant portion of the cost of other programs (in particular Medicaid) to the County to be funded through tax revenue. The remaining one-third of the budget is considered discretionary or non-mandated, and the County Board has greater control over how this portion of the budget is spent. Read More...

Student Legislature


What is it?

You and your students are invited to take on the role of County Legislators. Students discuss, debate, and vote on an issue or issues of importance to their lives and to the county, while getting to visit our historic Legislative Chamber in White Plains. (NOTEThe program can also be conducted in your school if a field trip is not possible.)

How does it work
Students and teachers are asked to work together as a class to come to the session prepared with their selected issues and positions ahead of time. Materials will be provided in order to facilitate clarity on the specific issue and bill to be debated. The class will have the opportunity to select a Chair of the Board, a Clerk, Committee Chairs, and public speakers to speak on the bill in a mock public hearing before it is given final consideration. The group will have the opportunity to make recommendations and amend their bill as they see fit during the session.

How do we choose an issue?
We encourage classes to come up with an issue that is meaningful to them (though we can provide suggestions). My office will work with you to fashion the idea into a clear, debatable bill or resolution that can be discussed, amended, and voted upon during the session. Your class is free to pick a county issue that has been—or is currently—considered by our Board (including actual bills that were recently passed). Alternatively, you can pick an issue that, while beyond the strict mandate of the Board of Legislators, may be relevant and interesting to students’ lives (the Board often passes resolutions endorsing changes to state law). The preparation work is a great opportunity for students to build both research and communication skills.

Examples of issues that could be debated are:

  • Should the county require businesses to pay employees for sick days (bill passed October 2018)
  • Should the county ban gun shows on county property (bill passed February 2018)
  • Should the county ban polystyrene containers (bill passed June 2019)
  • Should schools allow cell phones (could be of interest to a student audience)
  • Should the school year be 12 months long (could be of interest to a student audience)

What are the logistics?
Mock Legislature sessions are offered Wednesdays through Fridays during business hours, beginning at 9:30 AM (the day-of-week restriction also applies to sessions held in schools, as the Legislators have committee meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays). The session lasts about an hour and a half per class. Prior registration is required through my office. Please include up to three date choices when requesting a session, as dates fill up very quickly. If you plan to visit the Board of Legislators for your session, please note that the school must provide for any transportation, food, and chaperone-related needs. Let my office know if you need any assistance or additional information in planning your trip.

How do I schedule a Mock Legislature?
To schedule a session, or for questions, please contact your legislator's office.

Meet the Staff

 

*Click on a name below to send an email.
 
Office of the Chair Staff
Name Title Phone (914) 995-
Dennis Power Chief of Staff 2816
Christopher Crane Senior Legislative Counsel 2104
Tara Bernard Advisor to the Chairman 6297
Melanie Montalto Legislative Director 8620
Lucy Ortiz Assistant to the Chair 2818
Susanne Donnelly Staff Member 2883
 
Administrative Support Staff
Name Title Phone (914) 995-
Sunday Vanderberg Clerk & Administrative Officer 4604
Rose Vinci Deputy Clerk 8434
Andrea Ettere 2nd Deputy Clerk 7721
Lynda Greene Legislative Aide 4590
Pam Sinclair Receptionist 2800
 
BOL Fiscal Staff
Name Title Phone (914) 995-
Gregory Casciato Director of
Budgetary Affairs
2843
Jaevon Boxhill Fiscal Analyst 3050
 
 
Committee Coordinators
Name Committee(s) Supported Phone (914) 995-
Jill Axelrod Law & Major Contracts; Legislation 2814
Tara Bernard Rules 6297
Malcolm Clark Public Safety; Social Services 2188
Dayana Gomez Appointments; Intergovernmental Services 4070
Brandon Lloyd Environment, Health & Energy 8163
Beth LoBello Parks, Planning & Economic Development 2809
Alessandra Restiano Budget & Appropriations; Labor & Housing 2803
James Silverberg Appointments; Public Works 2800
Yolanda Valencia Seniors & Constituencies 2016
 
Personal Legislative Aides
Name Legislator Supported Phone (914) 995-
Victor Allen L.Williams 4429
Marianne Bateman Maher 4526
Carol Bengis Burrows 2851
Gaby Bordwin Shimsky 2095
Lisa Burton Maher 4526
Ralph Esposito Cunzio 6554
John Filiberti Parker 8016
Debbie Friedman Barr 2820
Dayana Gomez Perez 4070
Caleb Hersh Borgia 2819
Mary Jackson A.Williams 4984
Nicole Lesser Shimsky 2806
Beth LoBello Kaplowitz 2809
Tatyana Martinez Clements 2807
Barney Molloy Testa 2800
Eamonn O'Brien Tubiolo 3277
Devin O'Rourke Tubiolo 3277
Shatika Parker Johnson 2813
Erika Pierce Covill 2804
Teresa Toscano A.Williams 4984
 
Communications Team
Name Title Phone (914) 995-
Jason Chervokas Director of Communications 2838
Matthew Richter Press Secretary for the
Minority Caucus
2835
Sarah Gargiulo Graphics/IT Specialist 8319
Warren Watson Multimedia Specialist 4006
Joy Haber Communications Coordinator 4760
 

 

Tina Limengo Legislative Aide 2095
Contact Us


Westchester County Board of Legislators
800 Michaelian Office Building
148 Martine Avenue
White Plains, New York 10601

Tel: (914) 995-2800  |  Fax: (914) 995-3884