Westchester News 12 | Power & Politics: Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell is a proud patriot, an advocate for seniors and veterans and a woman who wants to keep recreational marijuana out of her county.

Born and raised in Carmel, Putnam County, Odell says she lives each day in memory of her mother, Muriel Hicks.

“She had a great sense of humor and she was always ‘family was first,’” says Odell.

Odell also makes it clear that she’s proud of her family, especially her children. When she’s not with her loved ones, Odell is running Putnam County.

The Republican first took office as a legislator in 2006. In 2011, she was elected county executive, overseeing the Republican-controlled Legislature and nearly 100,000 people.

“I wanted to do this. I wanted to stand up and send a message that things in Putnam could be better, and they have been,” says Odell.

Odell says veterans’ needs are a top priority, so much so that she holds an honorary veteran status.

She is also leading a war against drugs. Odell says Putnam County’s recidivism rate has declined dramatically from 85% to 15%. And the county continues to combat the opioid crisis with not-for-profits and agencies that target the stigma surrounding addiction.

“Once we were able to break that apart, people are just so open now, and that’s a big part of recovery,” she says.

Which is why Odell says recreational marijuana does not have a place in Putnam. She says it’s a gateway drug and affects the brain.

Odell is also a staunch defender of gun ownership.

Additionally, she says the that county is sound financially.

She has three more years left as the CEO of Putnam, and she plans on finishing up her term as she started.

“Just be present for the people of Putnam County that count on good government,” says Odell.

Article Credit Channel 12 News Westchester (Click to see News 12 article here)

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell names new Director of Tourism To head Department of Tourism created by Legislature

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell names new Director of Tourism To head Department of Tourism created by Legislature

Tracey Walsh, a lifelong Carmel resident with deep knowledge of the county and a clear vision for its potential, will be the new Putnam County Director of Tourism, County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced Wednesday.

The appointment was made after the Putnam County Legislature officially established the Department of Tourism at its Tuesday meeting, bringing responsibility for promoting the county in house.  The vote was unanimous.

“We can do better at tourism and I think we will,” Legislative Chair Joseph Castellano said after the vote.  “It will be better to have a Putnam County employee that will be able to attend our meetings and listen to our concerns and hopefully we can point this person in the right direction for the people of Putnam County.”

Walsh, the Senior Community Development Manager for The American Cancer Society was selected from a large pool of applicants to oversee the county’s new tourism department.

“Sometimes the perfect person is someone close to home,” Odell said. “Tracey Walsh is smart, fast-thinking and goal-oriented. No one knows our communities better. We are looking forward to getting the word out about all the good things there are to see and do in Putnam County.”

A Syracuse University graduate, Walsh, plans to leverage the county’s assets – five Metro-North stops, unique shops and restaurants, active community arts groups – to lure day-trippers and more to Putnam.

“I’m very local and very proud,” Walsh said. “This county is a gem. Tilly Foster Farm is a jewel. The Great Swamp is a birder’s paradise.  Cold Spring offers a vibrant Main Street. From hiking to history, there is just so much here.”

During her tenure at The American Cancer Society, where she worked for nearly a decade after starting as a volunteer, Walsh helped organize Relay for Life events in several communities and worked with stakeholders from one end of the county to the other.  She retired from the Cancer society to take the tourism director position.

“There wasn’t much that could get me to leave the American Cancer Society, but the opportunity to showcase the county I love was too good to pass up,” Walsh said. “This is my dream job.”

Her salary will be $80,000.

The department will be funded with a combination of county funds and a matching grant from the state’s I Love NY campaign — the same budget amount that had been allotted Putnam’s now defunct non-profit tourism agency. The Legislature transferred the money to the new county Tourism Department with a second unanimous vote Tuesday night.

“I’m glad we did this in the nick of time,” said Legislator Amy E. Sayegh, chair of the Economic Development Committee. “August is the cutoff date to receive the matching grant from the I Love NY Campaign.”

Walsh is not even waiting until she starts to get the buzz going. She is already planning an event that will bring former residents back to Putnam – the 40th Reunion of her Carmel High School graduating class, to be held in the Barn at Tilly Foster Farm.

Today, August 7th, is Purple Heart Day

I am extremely proud that, in 2013, Putnam County became the first county in New York State to be designated a Purple Heart County.   This is just one of many ways Putnam County honors its veterans.

The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration still in use today.  It was established as the Badge of Military Merit by General George Washington in 1782.  It is awarded to any member of the Unites States Armed Services wounded or killed in combat with a declared enemy of the United States.

As we recognize Purple Heart Day today, please take time to honor those who have served our country.  Reflect on the sacrifices they have made for our freedom.

Putnam Invests In Leaders of Tomorrow Program: An Intern’s Experience

This summer I was one of 45 Putnam County student residents given the opportunity to intern with local government departments. As part of the Putnam Invests in Leaders of Tomorrow (P.I.L.O.T) Program students were selected from a competitive and record breaking pool of 120 applicants and placed in government departments based on their areas of study, experience and interests.

Established in 2013 by County Executive Odell, the program was designed to grant high school, college and graduate students opportunities to develop pre-professional experience and learn about potential career paths, all the while promoting young talent within the county.

As an upcoming senior at SUNY New Paltz, majoring in psychology with an interest in organizational behavior, I had the privilege of working with the County Executive’s Office and the Personnel Department. At the County Executive’s Office, I observed the responsibilities of an elected official and the requirements of managing the county; my function being to assist staff with their daily work demands. At Personnel, I witnessed the day-to-day coordination of the P.I.L.O.T program and assisted with employee onboarding. I also began working on a large collaborative project to establish legally up to date and accurate policy manuals and employee handbooks for the county.

Another one of the projects I worked on was alongside Grace Olivier conducting on-site interviews with current interns gaining insight into how the program could expand moving forward, whilst hearing what the students have gained from their experiences.

Sam Perri, senior at Harvard University, expressed her excitement for the opportunities she has been given interning with the Probation Department. Sam is writing her senior thesis on probation– the hands on experience of home-visits, observing in court and preparing reports on probationers has been invaluable. With aspirations to go into criminal law, the ability to connect the theoretical and practical roles of a parole officer has been extremely rewarding.

Sarah Smith, junior at Binghamton, had the opportunity to apply her knowledge of election law to the day to day functioning of the Board of Elections. As part of her placement Sarah spent time preparing election notices, and aiding with the ongoing preparation that occurs prior to an election. Sarah also had the unique experience of attending a naturalization ceremony where her purpose was to help new citizens register to vote.

As my internship with the P.I.L.O.T program comes to a close, I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to be exposed to the inner workings of local government. The goal of an internship is to provide a realistic setting to evaluate one’s fit to a particular line of work, a benefit not awarded in the classroom alone. I was confronted with the reality that organizational behavior might not be the right path; however, this program has opened my eyes to many other potential career paths for exploration. A special thank you to the P.I.L.O.T program alongside the participating departments, as students like myself are encouraged to push themselves, evolve as individuals, and pursue work that is meaningful.

McKenzie Quinn, Pilot intern

Summer brings robust tourism to Putnam County Transition to efficient county tourism department underway

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said Sunday that the county is close to choosing a new results-driven director of tourism who will showcase Putnam as a destination and promote the economic growth of the county.
A panel has been interviewing candidates and will send recommendations to Odell, who will forward her preferred choice to the Legislature for approval.

Putnam’s natural beauty sells itself, Odell said, but the new tourism director will work with stakeholders throughout the county and be better able to entice visitors to come to “Where the Country Begins.”
She thanked the Putnam County Visitors Bureau for its efforts and said the transition from a non-profit funded by county and state grants to an in-house county department would be swift and seamless. She also thanked the state I Love NY campaign for its generous support of Putnam tourism.

From farm-to-table dining on one end of the county to inspiring art shows on the other, exciting things are happening in Putnam, Odell said.

At Tilly Foster Farm in Southeast, hundreds of rock ‘n’ roll fans came out for the “Satisfaction, The International Rolling Stones Tribute Show,” Saturday night. It was an evening of fun, food and dancing under the stars that attracted visitors from throughout the region. The Rolling Stones’ tribute was just one of a new series of summer events at the county-owned farm, which also features Tilly’s Table restaurant, an educational institute and community garden.

In Cold Spring, the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, a museum of Italian Postwar and Contemporary art that opened two years ago in a renovated warehouse, features a new exhibit of Arte Povera, minimalist art from the 1960s. The show, which opened Friday, runs through December. The Sardinian donkeys that live outside are part of the permanent collection.

Putnam County Economic Development Corporation Announces Kathleen Abels as new President

Carmel, NY – The Putnam County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) today announced that Kathleen Dennehy Abels has been named President effective July 1, 2019.

Abels has decades of experience in public relations, customer service, marketing, construction and project management. She recently completed a noteworthy career at NYSEG, culminating as their Manager of Community Outreach and Development.

“Kathleen is the right leader for the Putnam County EDC,” said Richard Weiss, Chairman of the Board.
“Her extensive experience, background and people-focused leadership style will build on the
success of the Putnam County EDC. Her priorities will be to strengthen partnerships, develop strategic
alliances and successfully execute the Putnam County EDC’s vision. As a former board member for
more than five years, Kathleen has a solid understanding of available incentives and markets. She
has strong core values and the unanimous support of our Board,” Weiss said.

“I am honored and excited to accept this position,” said Abels.” “It’s a privilege to be part of an organization that delivers high quality service and innovative solutions for the residents of Putnam County. Putnam County is a great place to live, work and grow a business.”

A resident since childhood, Abels presently serves on the Board of Directors for the Town
of Southeast Cultural Arts Coalition and Friends of Ladson Park. She actively supported the Old Town
Hall Theatre project in downtown Brewster and was the former Chair of the Town of Southeast Historic
Sites Commission.

Abels received a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Mercy College and a
Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from Pace University.

About Putnam County Economic Development Corporation
The Putnam County Economic Development Corporation is a 501(c)(6) Public-Private Corporation formed in 1996 to promote the economic vitality of Putnam County. It acts as a facilitator, bringing together businesses, government agencies and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION:
Putnam County Economic Development Corporation
Contact Name: Kathleen Abels
(845) 808-1021
Kathleen.Abels@putnamcountyny.gov

https://putnamedc.org/

The passing of the Honorable James F. Reitz, Putnam County Court Judge

On June 14th 2019, Putnam County lost a respected leader. Our friend and colleague the Honorable James F Reitz passed away after suffering a medical emergency in the Putnam County Courthouse. Despite heroic efforts by court officers, police, EMS, fire personnel and Emergency Department, Judge Reitz died at Putnam Hospital Center.

“It hard to put into words the emotions with the passing of my lifelong friend Jim. Jim was always the person I turned to for support in good times and bad times and his advice was honest and from the heart”, said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell “He was a pillar of this community and his everlasting impact cannot be measured. My heart is heavy, and I know the entire community mourns this tragic loss.  I have lost a dear friend, and Putnam County has lost a dedicated public servant”.

Judge Reitz was a lifelong Putnam County resident graduating from Carmel High School. Judge Reitz attended Mercy College graduating in 1986 and received his J.D. from the Thomas M Cooley Law School in 1989. Judge Reitz marrie 2019d the love of his life Barbara and resided in Mahopac NY. His love of serving the people was only surpassed by his love for his children and grandchildren which provided him with many hours of well-deserved bragging rights.

Judge Reitz was active in community service and volunteering, giving of himself to many organizations, most notably a long time Carmel Rotarian who epitomized Service Above Oneself. Judge Reitz was an outspoken advocate for addiction recovery and second chances which is why he was a pioneer for his beloved Drug Treatment Court. His program was instrumental in saving countless lives and families in Putnam County.

Judge Reitz always held Putnam County dear and focused his career on serving the people starting as a Carmel Town Court Justice in 1996 then becoming a multi-bench judge of the Putnam County Court in 2007. Judge Reitz has also served as an Acting Supreme Court Justice.

 

World War Two Veteran Robert Graham was given a wonderful send off

There can be no heavy handed words this day. Amid a sea of hundreds of Veterans, active duty service members and good people World War Two Veteran Robert Graham was given a wonderful send off. His life and times were not in vain he will now be long remembered and honored by many. His wonderful young friend, Beth Regan, managed to struggle through a moving eulogy of Bob Graham. A eulogy that reminded the people packing the church that there are indeed good people in this world. Two of them shined on this day 27 year old Beth and 97 year old Bob. Beth made us cry with her words. Bob gave hope with his time on earth. This year when the Putnam County Row of Honor graces the shores of Lake Gleneida in Carmel there will be an American flag to honor the memory of Robert Graham at the request of County Executive MaryEllen Odell. The flag will also honor home town girl Beth Regan of Putnam Valley. Not in words but in spirit because if not for her intrepid energy and good heart Bob would be forgotten.

Beth stood in front of the church as a Marine Corps Honor Guard folded the American Flag that had graced Bob’s coffin. They folded it in clean precise folds. They inspected it and saluted our Nation’s flag. The young sergeant did a precise about face and with reverence marched to the girl with tears in her eyes and tears in her heart. There being no living relative the flag was presented to Beth. Beth in reality became at that moment in time and forever after Robert Graham’s last living relative.

Written by Karl Rohde, Director | Putnam County Veterans Service Agency

Putnam County Executive Odell Attends Putnam County Leadership Breakfast, Addresses Working Together With New York City

CARMEL, NY – Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and the Putnam Business Council recently welcomed representatives from the New York City Department of City Planning at the Putnam County Leadership Breakfast on April 25th.

During her presentation, Carolyn Grossman Meagher of New York City Planning addressed several inequalities and the need for New York City to reach out to its neighboring communities to ensure that the entire Hudson Valley Region thrives.

Meagher is the Director of the new Regional Planning Division of New York City Planning. The Division was created with five objectives: to connect with regional governments and planning officials, to analyze, aggregate and disseminate regional data, to instill regionalism in Planning activities, to cultivate opportunities to cross-border collaboration, and to inform regional policy and capital priorities.

Odell said she was optimistic about this new Division.

“New York City has seen the most post-recession economic and job growth in our region,” Odell said. “while areas outside of New York City saw slower wage growth. I am looking forward to working with New York City Planning for the benefit of the entire Hudson Valley.”

Odell added that this partnership will be immensely valuable since there is a dramatically large population in the Hudson Valley that commute to jobs in New York City, as well as a smaller population that commute from New York City to the Hudson Valley.

Click here to see her presentation via PDF

Putnam County Clerk Michael Bartolotti and County Executive MaryEllen Odell Boost Organ Donation

Putnam County Clerk Michael C. Bartolotti and County Executive MaryEllen Odell will be partnering with Donate Life NYS during Donate Life Month to increase enrollment in the New York State Donate Life Registry. Donate Life Month is a national month-long observance aimed at raising public awareness of the critical need for organ, eye, and tissue donation, as nearly 9,500 New Yorkers currently wait for transplants.

“April is National Donate Life month, and we are delighted to continue working with Donate Life NYS on a countywide basis to encourage residents to become an organ or tissue donor.” Mr. Bartolotti said, “Putnam County is proud to be one of the many counties throughout the state participating in this important program and I am pleased to partner with County Executive Odell in bringing this program to the attention of our residents.”

There are over 19 million New Yorkers; yet only 35% of adults in New York State are registered donors, compared to the national average of more than 50%. Bartolotti stated that, “While 40% of Putnam County residents are registered donors, we believe we can do better!”

During the entire month of April, the Putnam County DMV office in Brewster will be encouraging New Yorkers to learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation and the impact it has on thousands of New Yorkers. County Clerk Bartolotti will be filling the office with promotional items that urge New Yorkers to make a difference and give the gift of life by registering as donors. Enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry is a way to ensure that an individual’s wishes about donation will be known at the time of their death.

“400 New Yorkers die every year due to the lack of available organs. 98% of New Yorkers enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry through local DMV offices which makes our efforts on this behalf even more important.” County Executive Odell said, “We can make a significant difference in increasing the numbers of donors through our constant contact with residents, and I am happy to work alongside County Clerk Bartolotti and Donate Life NYS to make their goal of a significantly increased registry a reality.”