KT Tobin, Deputy Mayor of the Village of New Paltz, has announced that she will not be running for reelection in the 2021 cycle.
Tobin is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz where she received her sociology degree in 1992, she holds an M.S. degree in social research from CUNY Hunter College and obtained a Ph.D. in sociology from SUNY Albany. Previously, she served as the New Paltz School Board Vice President from 2009 to 2012 and was a member of the Village of New Paltz’s Affordable Housing Board.
“I decided to run when I was marching with my daughter at the Women’s March in D.C. after Trump got elected,” Tobin said, referring to her 2017 campaign. “I do think local government has the greatest impact on people’s daily lives, so you actually have a chance to improve things.”
Although stepping down, Tobin is not leaving the Board because she dislikes the work she has been doing, but rather to focus her efforts solely on the Benjamin Center, where she was appointed director in February 2020.
Prior to her directorship, Tobin steered research focusing on equity, democracy and sustainability as the center’s associate director. While Tobin has completed a vast amount of research and projects, she notably spearheaded the Benjamin Center Mid-Hudson Affordability Reports, a study over the course of a few years reporting data on the cost of living in the Mid-Hudson Region.
Now as director, she will be launching a program called Benjamin Center Scholars, where SUNY New Paltz faculty can be “partially released from full-time teaching during an academic year to work at the Center on interdisciplinary research that benefits the Hudson Valley region,” according to SUNY New Paltz.
“There’s a lot of people in New Paltz and I think that we should all take turns. I also think it would be great if we got someone who’s a tenant or a renter on the Village Board,” Tobin said. 75% of the Village are rental units, and Tobin says a lot of the work the Board does is surrounding renters. “It’s hard to run for Village Board for four years when you have a one year lease,” she added.
When asked about her time as Deputy Mayor, Tobin uses the water crisis (coined “Watergate” by the New Paltz Oracle) as a time marker. Before the water emergency, she feels it is a blur.
“That was February of last year, and we turned the water back on on Valentine’s Day 2020, and then COVID-19 hit less than a month later,” she said. “My last year and a half, has been crisis management.”
Tobin has also been the Public Information Officer for the emergency preparedness team for many years, which she was appointed to during the hurricanes. Her interest in climate change and emergency preparedness made her realize that the “intersection of our climate challenges and weather, and getting ready for the impacts were so interwoven,” she said. Between the hurricanes and last year’s water crisis, the Board has worked with the community to better their emergency preparedness and light shed upon that foundation especially during the water emergency and COVID-19.
“I’m a sociologist and a public policy analyst and I’ve been teaching about systemic inequalities with respect to race, class and gender my whole professional life,” Tobin said. “When we were looking to close the schools because of COVID, [our first question was] well how are we going to feed the kids? Getting food to people became one of the first, most important things that we did.”
The Board quickly put together a team for “Project Resilience,” led by school board member Bianca Tanis and local business owner Theresa Fall. A lot of this team’s efforts, along with the Board, was making sure people had food and shelter at the beginning of the pandemic.
The relationship between SUNY New Paltz, the Village and the Town has become stronger due to the pandemic, according to Tobin. Before, there was constant arguing between the trio.
“We all work together on a regular basis now so we have the relationships and there’s a tone in how we work together that makes it much better to address these challenges because we’re not bickering,” she said. “We’re actually centering the needs of our community and I think that showed a lot in both what happened on campus [during the water crisis] and in the village.”
Tobin recognizes the morality and work ethic of her fellow Board members, and salutes them.
“It’s amazing when you have a group like the folks that are on the Village Board right now who really are just all in to do public service — they just roll up their sleeves,” Tobin said. “To say that this year has been challenging would be quite the understatement, but I know in my heart that the people that are elected give so much of themselves, for their community and I’ll forever be grateful to them.”
The Village of New Paltz’s general election will be held on May 4 to fill two trustee vacancies, each with a four-year term. 70-signature petitions for campaigning need to be completed this week, and submission of petitions can be sent to the Village Clerk’s office no later than 35 days before the election. For more information on running for office and the election, please visit the Village of New Paltz’s election’s page at www.villageofnewpaltz.org/elections-forms/.