Michael Scalere, a small business owner, is challenging incumbent Trustee Nancy Howard for a seat on the Village of Rockville Centre board of trustees in next week’s election. The Herald sent the candidates five questions about their qualifications for the role and goals for the village, and they provided their answers, below, via email. Their responses have been lightly edited.
Voting will take place on Sept. 15, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the John A. Anderson Recreation Center. Residents can also request an absentee ballot by Sept. 14.
Trustee Nancy Howard, 60, was previously elected twice, in 2011 and again in 2015. She served as deputy mayor from 2011 to June 2017, when she stepped down to move to Florida, where her husband, Dave, was working. They returned to Rockville Centre in January 2019. They have lived in the village for more than 25 years, and have raised their four children here.
Howard was a human resources recruitment and management-training executive at RH Macy’s and Solomon Brothers. She left work to take care of her children. She has held leadership roles in the PTA, the South Side High School Booster Club, the Rockville Centre Education Foundation and the Community Fund. In Florida she consulted on the campaign of a mayoral candidate in Fort Lauderdale, and was asked to serve on a civic advisory group on infrastructure and smart growth.
Scalere, 47, is a lifelong resident of Rockville Centre and a co-owner and executive producer at Soul Kitchen Creative, a television production company. He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1995, and worked at HBO and then A&E Television Networks, where he spent 12 years in the marketing department as the History Channel’s senior creative director.
Scalere’s parents, Thomas and Florence Scalere, owned and operated Long Island Bed & Brass, in Rockville Centre, for nearly 20 years. Michael’s wife, Catherine, is a toy designer and has worked for Mattel, Entertainment One and Hasbro.
The Scaleres have three children, all graduates of Riverside Elementary School now enrolled in South Side middle and high schools. The Scaleres are members of the Parish of St. Agnes. Michael also coaches baseball and softball for the Rockville Centre Little League, has supported both RTV and BTV in the annual Red and Blue contest at South Side High School, and plays right field for The Usual Suspects, a recreation center softball league.
What will you do to address concerns of overdevelopment in the village?
Nancy Howard: I share the concern that developing every available large parcel in our village would change the character that has drawn most of us to live here. Increasing minimum lot size in new developments would limit the number of houses and units allowed. Furthermore, it’s vital that we continue to encourage capital improvements to homes to meet the needs and preferences for a more contemporary lifestyle.
Both variables need to be considered carefully in crafting new zoning codes. At the same time, we must consider all current state and county regulations that would supersede village code. Otherwise, the consequence to the village and its residents would be expensive, lengthy and ultimately unavailing legal battles.
Michael Scalere: First, I would embolden the Historic Preservation Task Force to work closely with the Architecture Review Board when approving projects. Together these two groups can maintain the historic integrity of Rockville Centre.
Second, I would identify neighborhoods ripe for preservation and support laws that could pave the way for homeowners to seek landmark designation for their homes.
Finally, I will always support the beautification of Rockville Centre’s parks and green spaces. We rely on these parks now more than ever.
How has the coronavirus pandemic informed the way you view the role of trustee?
NH: These challenging times have directly affected the role of our elected village officials. First, we needed to become intimately involved in guiding how our village departments function on a daily basis. We have a wonderful management team, but they required oversight on how the services were best offered to our residents at our recreation and community centers, Village Hall and all service departments.
Nearly everything had to be reinvented and restructured. We needed to be informed and reactive on almost a daily basis on federal and state directives to keep the village in compliance. A more creative and immediate problem-solving approach was necessary. Knowing the importance of a healthy business district, I agreed that a temporary modification of restrictions on outdoor seating was important while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Not everyone sees this time and protocols the same, and as someone who’s here to serve every constituent, I believe it is best to adhere to social distancing guidelines to ensure the safety of our employees, first responders and residents while listening to residents’ concerns and adjusting where possible to keep our local businesses functioning as optimally as possible.
MS: The responsibilities of the board of trustees have never been more important. Because of the pandemic, many of us are working from home, myself included. When the power went out village-wide recently, it didn’t just turn our TVs and ACs off, it turned our conference calls and Zoom meetings off.
Immediate and constant communication was essential, and residents heard a deafening silence from the current administration (with one trustee’s posts to social media heralded as an exception). The decisions the board makes not only affect people’s lives, but also their livelihoods.
How will you ensure transparent communication between Village Hall and residents?
NH: With a previous career in management development and communications coupled with guiding principles of integrity and honesty, I consider a transparent and open government to be paramount. I would not tolerate anything to the contrary.
The village currently communicates via a website, TV station, Facebook page, Twitter handle and Instagram account. We hold three public meetings monthly (currently by Zoom): Two are mostly work sessions, and the third is when we vote on items before us. Meetings are noticed publicly, and residents are welcome to attend, speak and ask questions at the first meeting of each month.
Every meeting agenda is posted prior to the meeting, and all public and legal notices are in the Herald and on our website. On our website’s home page, you can see our meeting schedule calendar, agendas for upcoming meetings and view recordings of prior meetings. There you can also sign up for E-Alerts and Swift 911, a system that we use to disseminate information during an emergency via email and phone calls. Meetings are recorded and aired multiple times a day on our television channel.
Nothing is done, and not a single board vote is ever taken, outside of this public and transparent process. We have many engaged and informed residents who regularly participate and make use of our communication resources, but we are always striving to improve. I’m always happy to hear from my fellow residents on how we can better promote the resources we have in place.
MS: Transparency is my single biggest issue. I will make myself available to the residents in a way my predecessors have not. Social media has proven effective, but the village needs to understand that you can’t post into a void.
[The RVC Moms and Dads Facebook group] is a valuable asset, because members know the communication is a two-way street. Trustees need to have a space like that for an ongoing conversation with residents — both on social media and in real life. For residents who aren’t online, I would hold town hall events prior to board meetings, when they’re most valuable.
What will be a top priority for you if you are elected?
NH: My priority will be focusing on protecting the fabric of our community. Infrastructure improvements have received steady attention; we’ve made great strides, which bolster our home values. Projects either completed or ongoing since I first became a trustee in 2011 include roads and the aging subterranean infrastructure, a new iron infiltration plant, refurbishment of all water towers, and electric plant and system upgrades.
Many of these projects have been accomplished with grants awarded in response to applications by the village. I will continue seeking grant opportunities, which have helped us keep village taxes down. I’m now working with my fellow trustees to create regulations to beautify our downtown. I believe creating an upgraded and more unified commercial appearance that matches the charm and identity of our residential areas is important.
For most of us, our home is our greatest financial asset. I want to ensure that we do everything in our power to increase home values.
MS: As a creative, I learned to work with people. Someone may have a seed of an idea, then someone else ratchets it up, and then someone else adds another idea to it that drives it up further. We work better in groups.
I have many ideas ready to enact once elected, but I’m most energized to work with the residents from every part of Rockville Centre to take those ideas to the next level. I believe good ideas can come from anywhere. We need “out of the box” thinking.
Why should people vote for you?
NH: I believe I’m an important part of the board of trustees. I have professional experience in management and communication skills and productivity analysis. I’ve held a multitude of leadership positions in community service organizations throughout our village and beyond, gaining knowledge and experience.
I was raised to believe community service is both a responsibility and privilege, and I have always taken that to heart. My integrity, approachability, honesty and commitment to gain a clear understanding of my neighbors’ opinions and concerns all drive my decision-making process. I have the time and devotion to give much more than three monthly meetings. I promise to continue to work tirelessly to keep our wonderful village’s charm and identity while meeting the needs of a contemporary community.
MS: I will be an independent voice on the board. While I’m a lifelong resident, I’m not politically affiliated with any of the trustees or the mayor.
While we agree on many of the issues the village faces, I will be a fresh voice in the mix. I will come to every decision as a father, a coach, a resident, a business owner, a neighbor and a friend.