This election season, a longtime Democrat lawmaker—and Piermont nabob—will step down as a trustee.
Joan Gussow, a village resident since 1995, is relinquishing her seat at . Fellow Democrat Audie Moran is also vacating her spot.
"I finally reached the point where someone younger should take over," Gussow told Patch Monday afternoon. "It's been an interesting ride."
Gussow, 84-years-old, first began her time as a local lawmaker in 2005, when a trustee seat vacated part-way through the term. Piermont trustees serve two-year terms, and are awarded a stipend of about $1,500 annually.
"I was asked to participate," Gussow said. "I was rather hesitant [at first]. I'm pretty serious about anything I do."
But Gussow ultimately accepted, joining the panel of lawmakers at Piermont Village Hall, and later running for consequent terms—sometimes against a challenger, and sometimes .
"I found it very interesting to be a part of decision making," Gussow said. "When it's a small village, you are able to make a difference. [But] it’s not always pleasant—you get yelled at a lot at tax time."
Gussow played a part in the most recent 2012 budget, and did not exceed governor Andrew Cuomo's two-percent tax cap.
Outside of politics, Gussow has earned veritable celebrity status as a nutrition expert. The author of several books and once-chair of the Nutrition Education Program at Columbia University's Teachers' College, Gussow has made headlines advocating for local food supplies in the United States.
At times, Gussow was able to bring her nutrition and green-thumb acumen to village hall.
"I do always give my support when the Community Garden asks to use the park for celebrations," Gussow said. She was the catalyst for the annual Summer Solstice celebration, holding the first-ever fete in her backyard. Gussow continues to hold the Winter Solstice celebrations in her driveway each year, complete with a bonfire.
Gussow also acts as board liaison to the village's park commission, communicating with commission head Dan Sherman.
Hesitant to pinpoint any triumphs over her career as a politico—"I view it as a communal activity," she says—Gussow does recognize the board's efforts to reassess property values in 2008 as a major breakthrough. Village leaders worked alongside property assessors and a dossier of real estate data to recalibrate property tax rates throughout the village—the first time since the 1980s.
"We took a lot of hits for that," Gussow said. "It's very hard to live in a small village and tax as much as we do just to maintain what we have."
Gussow said the process was carried out objectively and fairly, and long overdue. Owners of pricey, waterfront condos were being taxed a fraction of what other homeowners were, she added.
"But it's always hard—people don’t want to pay taxes," Gussow added, speaking to the spate of lawsuits that followed.
Another hallmark decision Gussow played a role in was the village's help in on Ash Street.
"It's been beautifully redone," Gussow said. But that wasn't the case in 2004, when Piermont acquired the 129-year-old structure. Gussow said the building was filled floor-to-ceiling with books and papers—some areas didn't even have standing room, she recalled.
is another advancement Gussow holds dear, though it wasn't one that came without drama. Fishermen were swift to blame lawmakers to impeding their activities.
Gussow said one highlight of her time on the board was working alongside Demcratic mayor Chris Sanders.
"He's the best mayor Piermont has had in years," Gussow said. "He's been so dedicated, so attentive to details.
Patch spoke with Sanders Monday evening, and the mayor said working alongside Gussow has been equally rewarding.
"I love working with Joan—she is a very caring, thoughtful individual who cares deeply about the village, and cares enormously about the environment," Sanders said. "Any task Joan sets her mind to, she gives her all. We'll miss her immensely from the board."
Sanders' and Gussow's term on the Piermont board overlapped for about five years, but the two have known one another for well over a decade, Sanders said.
Gussow attended the , if only to catch a glimpse of those vying for her position.
"I'm interested to see who is running," she said.
Gussow said she is willing to mentor new lawmakers, easing the transition and bringing them up-to-speed on legislative jargon.
"I remember the first budget I ever looked at when I was on the board," Gussow recalled, noting it can be like deciphering a code.