First Neighbors Bill and Hillary Clinton along with County and State Officials, Friends and Neighbors Offered a Host of Warm, Appreciative Remarks at Festive Town Hall Event.
‘Town Cheerleader’ and ‘The George Bailey of Chappaqua’ were among Descriptions of Town Supervisor Katz during the Celebration of her Decade-long Tenure.
“Never Stop Talking about what’s Right,” Katz Urged.
December 13, 2023, Chappaqua, NY–Admiration, reminisces and well wishes were offered at a Town Hall celebration held to honor Town of New Castle Supervisor Lisa Katz for her ten years of service–eight years as councilwoman and two years as New Castle town supervisor. First neighbors and honorary guests Bill and Hillary Clinton, fellow town board members and county and state public officials, family, neighbors and friends presented statements extolling Lisa’s accomplishments with an emphasis on her leadership style which several pointed to as open, amenable to compromise and distinctly non partisan. For her part, Katz told those gathered that she set out to treat everyone with respect regardless of “whether they were red, blue or purple.” She also reminded everyone to “be the light during times of darkness.”
The emphasis on accomplishments during Katz’s decade of public service–the launch of the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center (ChappPac), her most passionate endeavor, was notably mentioned several times–along with a focus on her distinctly non-partisan approach which some said helped win her the confidence of residents of every political persuasion.
“We are here today with ‘the woman of the moment’,” began New Castle Deputy Supervisor Vicki Tipp, who will be succeeding Katz as Town Supervisor at a swearing in ceremony on January 11 at ChappPac. Tipp cited Katz’s “steadfastness, dedication, and your tireless effort for 10 years…” “Many of us know that public service is not easy… “We’ve all seen you navigate so many challenges placed before you with resilience and determination. You have the capacity to stand so strong when the going gets tough and your energy and your enthusiasm really shines through in all you do.” She said that board members shared the values of inclusiveness and valuing residents–with Katz ‘the constant’ among them as the board changed hands–even when there was disagreement. “We will miss the fiery debates we’ve had,” said Tipp,” but ultimately the disagreements have made us stronger….” With Katz’s departure, Tipp said, “Things will be a little more boring and less colorful!”
‘Exhibit A and Exhibit B’: Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton was invited to the podium. She thanked Katz for “committing yourself to public service and the leadership we have seen over so many years now.
“You’ve already heard from everyone here that public service is not easy. Well, we can certainly agree with that,” the former Secretary of State and two time U.S. Senator and Presidential nominee, quipped. “People who willingly do it deserve our gratitude because we’ve got to keep our democracy going from the local level all the way to the top, and we can’t do it without good people willing to serve. And even when good people disagree, that’s part of the whole process to come to some kind of understanding and compromise. We’re kind of here as Exhibit A and Exhibit B as people who willingly do it.” At that juncture, she asked Exhibit B to come up to the mic.
“I’ll make it brief,” began President Clinton, “I like Lisa Katz.”
And then he continued: “We are living in a time where more and more people get whatever they call news in bite sized amounts real fast from sources which may not be accurate,” Bill Clinton said, “the result of which is to put us all in a defensive, untrusting angry frame of mind, in which we believe that what really matters is our differences.
“As the old saying goes, ‘Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to getcha.’,” continued the former President to some chuckles. “What I want to say is: All over the world if you can get people to agree on a common end, and work from where they are toward that end together, 70 percent of the time, agreements are produced, and that’s a pretty good record. If all that matters is our differences, we can’t get there. Too often, people would rather tear the barn down than build it up.” It’s so much more satisfying, Clinton concluded, to build up the barn.
Town Board Member Jeremy Saland commended Katz’s foresight in establishing ChappPac, and said, “You made a really smart and difficult move.” He said taking chances, “a roll of the dice” are also part of public service. “If you don’t have the foresight, energy and vision to make it happen, you don’t belong up here.”…”You will be missed and I’m confident your voice is not gone.”
Holly McCall, who had run against Katz for the supervisor role two years ago, and who is on the board, noted that “public service is not for the faint of heart or unmotivated, thin skinned or passive… In the past decade, you’ve proven yourself to be a fierce advocate for New Castle, a strong promoter of the arts, and a leader when it came to supporting the merchants and commerce in town.”
Town Board member Ally Chemtob said Katz who juggles marriage, parenting, and a law practice with public service, “makes it all look easy even when it’s not.” She added Katz’s leadership “comes from a place of love, from loving this community so much and only wanting what is best for it.”
State Assemblyman Chris Burdick presented a NYS proclamation to honor Katz. Burdick said that Katz’s “spectacular leadership” had helped rally many Westchester leaders to oppose a zoning requirement introduced by the Governor that he said was unfortunately wrong for different county municipalities. “She had to get into the trenches in dealing with a terrible plan… and to get the community to understand that it would upend local zoning.” Burdick thanked Katz for her leadership, resolve, persistence and deep understanding of her own community and also her loving family who gave her the room to do that.”
County legislator Vedat Gashi said “public service comes with its challenges to self and to family.. to do that and do it on your own terms is impressive. On that note, he proclaimed December 13, 2023 Lisa Katz day in Westchester County, an honor the County bestows on community leaders. State Senator Peter Harckham’s office also presented a proclamation honoring Katz’s work on a $16 million downtown infrastructure project.
Comments from Neighbors and Friends
Warren Gottleib, a member of the New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals, said Katz led “with kindness, a big heart and humanity. She treated everyone with respect…
“I never for one second doubted that she was serving for the right reasons and her undivided loyalty was to the people of New Castle. She wasn’t restrained by party politics… she put people in the community above partisanship.” Gottlieb also said “she knew which battles were worth fighting. “She stood up for people. Lisa showed when local government listens to its citizens rather than succumbing to partisanship, it becomes a beacon of accountability, and fosters trust and collaboration for the betterment of the community.” He called her service an “enduring gift to our community.”
Adam Brodsky, a member of the original Team New Castle which included Lisa Katz, together with former Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein, cited Katz’s “devotion and tenacity to move this community into the future” and that she was leaving New Castle “a vastly improved place.” “She worked tirelessly to create a foundation of warmth and engagement… You literally and figuratively embraced this town over ten years of service and are the town’s cheerleader… With your love of the arts and Broadway, you spearheaded ChappPac.” Brodsky said Katz also figured out how to break through the opposition and anger to Chappaqua Crossing and bring additional amenities to town. He commended her for her “openmindednesss to pursue any idea if you thought it would make our home a better place.”
Michele Gregson, who heads the Friends of ChappPac said she met Katz two years into being on the town board, and called her the “driving force” of the performing arts center, “With the board, it has become a huge success. I’m incredible grateful to this woman… I’m blessed that our paths crossed here in town.”
Chappaqua-based singer and performer Frank Shiner said he chooses his friends in town very carefully–and that he considers Lisa Katz a friend whom he respects for her kindness. From the start, Shiner, had worked closely with Katz to foster the arts at ChappPac. “l remember her smile every time I walk around and meet the people of this town.”
Similarly Robert Fleischer, who is on the County airport advisory board as a New Castle appointee, said he was grateful for Katz’s friendship. He said Katz did her best to serve all the residents regardless of their backgrounds or political affiliation. He said he also appreciated that “she helped New Castle be a steady beacon of light in standing up against antisemitism. Lisa has never stopped trying to make a kinder world.”
Former Town Board Member Chris Hildenbrand said he has always admired Katz’s intelligence, grace, charm and compassion for every issue and every resident.
Captain Jim McCauley, New Castle’s long time Marshall and Memorial Day committee chair, noted ‘the great job Lisa has done” and all she has done to respect the Veteran community.
“It has always been about community for you,” said resident Roger Klepper. “And when there was an issue, you would always be our leader. You were always the person through whom our voices could be heard.”
Larry Liu, the former co-head of the New Castle Committee for Race, Equity and Inclusion, stated that he is an immigrant from China, “a country under dictatorship.”I always watch local politics with a sense of wonder and admiration. Sometimes the disagreements can be sharp and the criticisms can be brutal, but believe me, the alternative is unthinkable… It works because of leaders like you.” He said Katz reached out to the growing Asian American community in Chappaqua. “It’s not the grand gestures but the little things,” said Liu, “Your care and attention generated a lot of good will.”
Richard Diefenbach, a trustee to the New Castle Historical Society, said he moved to New Castle in 1996 when he covered Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign for CBS News. The same year, he also produced a 5oth anniversary story about the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He cited the famous quote at the end of the movie: “No man is a failure as long as he has friends.” Turning to Katz, he said: “You are the George Bailey of New Castle. Thank you for making us all your friends.”
Katz was last to speak, thanking fellow board members, and town hall staff: “Without your tireless work, I wouldn’t be here.” She said she set out to make sure that all residents “felt represented… we would always listen to your voice, even when we didn’t agree, we’d listen to you with respect. She added that she would always be the biggest cheerleader for the town, and said she planned to continue public service. She urged everyone that no matter how dark the world gets, “be the light” and always bring joy to those around you.”
“If you care about something, use your voice to make a difference… never stop talking about what’s right.”
She said that she has tried to come from a place of “yes” whether it was “You are not right. I am not right. But together if we put our minds together we can come up with something that’s better than anything any of us could have imagined.”
Katz added that whether it was talking about antisemitism or against gun violence, “it’s just not that hard to do the right thing. It takes a little bit of courage. If you can put the politics aside, and put all the voices yelling in different directions aside, there’s a guiding star that you know is right.”