Though Rockville Centre Deputy Mayor Kathy Baxley is running unopposed in a village special election on June 19, she bought 100 lawn signs as part of what she called a “voter awareness campaign.”
“It’s showing that they have a civic interest in their community,” Baxley said of residents who vote. “It’s showing support for the candidate, and it’s showing that they know who is running their government.”
Mayor Francis X. Murray appointed Baxley last June after then-Deputy Mayor Nancy Howard, who was moving to Florida, stepped down. The special election will secure an additional year for Baxley, whose seat will be up next June.
Murray and village trustees gave an emotional goodbye to Howard, who had served as the deputy mayor since 2011, before welcoming Baxley. “I had a search committee trying to find the best-qualified resident to fill the large shoes of Deputy Mayor Nancy Howard,” Murray said. The committee, which he noted included Howard, interviewed many candidates, but found that Baxley was a standout.
Murray said he interviewed her for about three hours, and that questions were coming back at him. “She was also interviewing me,” he said with a laugh, adding that the resident-to-trustee transition involves much work. After persuading her to take on the challenge, he named her deputy mayor because of the time he knew she would spend with him. He added that he considers her a partner in running the village, and that she is involved in every conversation.
“I’ve learned that I definitely made the right decision,” Murray told the Herald. “She loves to work, she loves the people, she loves everybody, from little kids all the way to the seniors.”
Baxley, a South Side High School alumna, served the community for years before becoming deputy mayor. Before teaching at United Nursery School in Rockville Centre, she taught fourth- and sixth-graders at Oceanside School No. 5 and at St. Leo’s Parochial School in Queens. She is a past-president of the Parent Teacher Associations of Jennie E. Hewitt Elementary School and South Side Middle School, and has served as president of the Rockville Centre Council of PTAs. Her term as president of the South Side High School PTA will end this year.
Though familiar with the school district — her two children, Julia and Matthew, attend South Side — she has expanded her role as deputy mayor, serving as the trustees’ liaison to the Sandel Senior Center, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center, the Rockville Centre Fire Department and the John A. Anderson Recreation Center.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year,” she said. “I have learned more about this village than I even knew having lived here my whole life.”
Village Trustee Emilio Grillo said that Baxley has made the most of her background in education and brought a sense of stability to the board. “She’s got a wonderful way about her, and is willing to collaborate with everyone on the board on the myriad of issues that we face on a regular basis,” he said. “I think that her running unopposed is a further testament to the community’s acknowledgment of that.”
Over the past year, Baxley has attended a wider range of community events, noting that she has made it a priority to promote village happenings on social media and stay in contact with residents, whether that means posting the Fire Department’s protocol during a storm or sharing photos from last month’s Mill River Fish Lift.
Her government work has not slowed her down, however. She is an officer of the Rockville Centre Breast Cancer Coalition, the Community Fund and the Sponsors of the Arts.
Along with the lawn signs, Baxley has been distributing cards with details about her background and experience, and said she took running unopposed as a positive sign that residents are supportive of her efforts.
“It’s all about being present . . . and I think it’s a positive way to let people know, hey, we have a mayor, we have a deputy mayor, we have trustees and this trustee’s name is Kathy Baxley,” she said. “She’s there, and she’s public about it, and she’s approachable.”