Long-time Chappaqua resident Rich Diefenbach announced his candidacy for New Castle Town Board in June and was immediately backed by the Independence and Republican parties.
He has since joined up with Town Supervisor candidate Bob Kirkwood and Town Justice candidate Kevin Moore to as part of a republican ticket, which is being called "Team New Castle."
Diefenbach recently sat down The Daily Chappaqua to discuss his candidacy.
Why did you decide to run?
I've lived in the town 16 years and there's always a few of us who sort of get involved in projects. Like, I've been president of the Parish Council at St. John and St. Mary [Roman Catholic Church]. I was there for 10 years.
I have a son that goes to Roaring Brook [Elementary] School. I had been active with some of the different activities that go on in his school. So you become more and more a part of the fabric of the town over time. And a few people and I were talking about ways that we could improve the town and would it be possible to get those things done. And the more and more we talked about it, the more and more we thought that every year, when there's an election, there doesn't seem to be a candidate that comes up and challenges the status quo. There just seems to be one party in the town that's running; one group of people all approved by the same group. Almost seemed like a machine in a way.
If you want to be active as a citizen, you have to be a participant and you have to get into the process and try to create that change. So that's why I decided to run.
What, in your opinion, is the number one issue facing Chappaqua?
We're the highest taxed county in the nation and Chappaqua's taxes are very high. Anyone that lives here can tell you that. And we continue to push those taxes higher every year.
What would you do to fix to that problem? We have to find ways of increasing our commercial tax base. We have to work with businesses, we have to be able to attract new businesses to our town that are gonna help us.
We've got a beautiful location. We've just sent the signal out in recent years that we're not business friendly, and we've gotta change that perception. We have to be able to attract new business and talent, and keep it here. If they spend a little bit of time here, they'll see how wonderful we are and what a great spot this is. That kind of attraction requires marketing and working with developing a Chamber of Commerce that's active and several steps higher than what we have right now, which really isn't working. It doesn't represent all of the businesses in town, it doesn't attract new business, it doesn't have a marketing strategy, it doesn't appeal on a county level or a state level to potential businesses. It needs to be much better. We need to work with them to help them get to that level.
We suffer because they suffer. If we're not partners with these owners that come in and we don't work with them in a pragmatic way, then we end up suffering in the long run.
What are your goals for if you're elected?
We need to make sure that we meet our budgets goals and that we're fiscally responsible as a town. But my first goal is to really get out there and market our town as a positive place for business.
What do you believe you bring to the position that has been missing?
The town is a fabric of many people, and everyone's ideas need to be heard. One thing that we need to do is figure out how to make it more user friendly. How do you create that opportunity for more communication to take place? I think that as a town councilman, I can spend more time in the field visiting different businesses, visiting different county events, spending more with residents in different venues so that they have an opportunity to communicate.
The Town Hall meeting structure is a little like a tribunal. I know that's the model for most meetings, but it's so high up and it feels intimidating when you walk in there. It's like a judge stand. We're not judges; we're representatives of the people. We were elected by the people and we're for the people. It seems like we're in a bit of a higher ground there and we shouldn't be. We should be sitting and visiting with residents.Having been a teacher, I know that you set the tone in your classroom. If you set the wrong tone, or you don't manage your classroom the right way, or those students don't feel like they're empowered, that they can actually learn, then you've failed. You lose the respect.
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