So Long, Susan

Cartoon by Stefanie Diers.

For our final issue of the semester we chose to dedicate our cover story to the exit of an important New Paltz political player, Susan Zimet. We know that in her nearly 20 years of public service, Zimet has imprinted her image on most who she has encountered.

Having said that, after nearly an hour and a half on the phone with one of our news reporters, she displayed a drastically different resolve from the caricature we had been led to believe she encompassed. She was willing to engage in the criticisms lobbed at her and still provide meaningful insight into how her time in office unfolded.

We at The New Paltz Oracle appreciate all that Zimet has contributed to New Paltz, the Hudson Valley and New York state. We understand that town supervisor is a stressful position which involves managing the town’s economy and preparing for the worst.

Since 1996, Zimet has been a leading advocate for the less fortunate and has taken aggressive stances on certain issues that have resulted in political enemies that linger to this day. She is a controversial but necessary figure for political examination if only to see how the community has changed since she first took office two decades ago. Supporters and opponents alike can agree that the New Paltz she took the helm of in 1996 was significantly different from the one she inherited again in 2011.

For all of the criticisms of Zimet during her time in office, she did advance several important causes for the town. For every critique of her management style or political dealings, there are instances where Zimet supporters can point to her tireless work for others.

Whether battling against natural gas companies who looked to exploit small communities like New Paltz or tempering tax rates in the town after years of financial mismanagement by the previous town board, Zimet has been at the forefront of the crusade.

What we hope to see in Neil Bettez is the same efficiency in obtaining the results that Zimet demonstrated in her time in office. While she may have been polarizing figure as time went by, she achieved serious reforms that will still reverberate in this community for the next decade to come.

If there is a just criticism it would have to be how government has been perceived for its conduct. By early 2014, town board meetings quickly developed a reputation for being nasty gatherings where incendiary rhetoric and personal disputes clouded what should’ve been standard policy-making and democratic discussion.

Zimet cited this toxic political atmosphere as part of her reason leaving office, in spite of her unquestioned dedication to public service. Bettez, like Zimet, is coming into this position with no political background. Having seen Zimet’s ability to overcome this obstacle, we are confident that Bettez can do so as well.