It wasn’t scheduled to be a surprise party Thursday night at the New York Country Club, although Rockland County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger tried to make it one.
“I have a surprise for you all,” he told a group of 80-plus. “I’m running for county executive.”
Of course, it wasn’t totally a surprise, as Schoenberger announced last month he was planning on running, but on Thursday night he held a kickoff event for his campaign for next November’s race. Current County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef announced earlier this year he will not seek reelection.
“My vision for the future of Rockland County is a leaner, more efficient government, a government that works in coordination with town and village governments to create efficiencies and to reduce costs, to find areas where we can avoid duplication, to create shared services, to work to reduce costs to maintain service of the residents and taxpayers by working harmoniously together,” Schoenberger said.
So far, fellow Rockland Legislator Ed Day, Suffern Mayor Dagan Lacorte and former Spring Valley Justice David Fried have also announced they will run for county executive.
On Thursday, Schoenberger talked about his time in the legislature and serving Rockland County as an attorney, the Town of Ramapo as finance director, the county attorney in Rockland and more.
“As a county legislator, I have had to make hard decisions and tough choices to preserve our way of life in this county,” he said. “I have never ducked a tough vote, and I never will. I stood up with my colleagues in the legislature, many of whom are here to tonight, and made unpopular political choices. Why? Because we had to for the good of all the people in Rockland County.”
Also speaking on his behalf were Rockland County Sheriff Lou Falco, Clarkstown Town Supervisor Alex Gromack and Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips.
“We’re entering a new era,” Gromack said. “We need to move forward, we need to move forward with an individual that understands the working of county government, but just as importantly, how you form working partnerships with our towns and villages because I’ve found that when you have working partnerships, you can knock down walls and you can concur with the world. Ilan Schoenberger has been an individual that understands the term ‘working partnership.’”
Gromack is also the chair of the Rockland County Supervisors Association and said that all five town supervisors are looking to work more with the new county supervisor than they have with Vanderhoef.
“We are longing for a county executive that can be a partner. We don’t expect things to happen overnight, but we do want things to start, and Ilan has certainly pledged to do that,” Gromack said. “And by that I mean, we need to start talking about how the towns fit in working with the county on economic development, how the towns and county can work on important drainage projects, how we can work on tourism, how we can work on sharing like services, highway department services, how we can form partnerships to divide important police services. We started that and the current county executive eliminated that, the intel unit, the narcotics task force unit.”
Phillips agreed with Gromack and said the county and towns need to work together for the betterment of Rockland.
“Government must be a bridge, it can’t be a burden,” he said. “Ilan understands that.”
Phillips also said the county needs to move in a new direction with its new executive.
“There will be a change, but we need to make sure that it’s a Democrat, and we need to make sure that that Democrat has the knowledge, the extensive background, the vision and the ability to lead,” he said. “I am confident that Ilan can do that.”
Falco echoed Phillips’ sentiment.
“I’m proud that November of next year, we will elect a Democrat to be the next county executive and that should be Ilan Schoenberger,” he said.
Other elected officials on hand included Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature Harriet Cornell, Legislators Jay Hood, Alden Wolfe, Aney Paul, Philip Soskin, Toney Earl and Aron Wieder, District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, County Clerk Paul Piperato and Town of Clarkstown Councilwomen Stephanie Hausner and Shirley Lasker.