Margaret Cunzio Runs for Westchester County Legislator Seat
September 21, 2015
Margaret Cunzio is running for the Westchester County Board of Legislators seat in District 3 where there are 55,000 constituents. It’s a large district with many different municipalities. She says the district is unique because it’s comprised of different pieces from Sleepy Hollow that is near the water; a part of Greenburgh; a piece of Briarcliff Manor; and the Town of North Castle which includes the hamlets of Armonk, North White Plains and Banksville; and the Town of Mt. Pleasant which includes Hawthorne, Thornwood, Valhalla, and Pleasantville.The Learning Curve
Cunzio has never held a county-elected position. She thinks the learning curve is to her advantage because this is a unique time in government when people are more open minded to those coming from the outside with a new set of eyes and a new vision. When she is faced with a challenge, she says she has always risen to the occasion. “That’s my work ethic and personality. My integrity and honesty are important. I’m not afraid to ask a question. But if I’m not sure of something, I’ll tell somebody: ‘I’ll get back to you.’ And then I follow up with them after I seek advice from multiple people.”
Cunzio will appear on the Republican, Conservative and the Reform Party lines of the November 3 election ballot. Politics Start Local
Local politics is the foundation and importance of being part of the community where Cunzio says she can make the most difference. “I’ve been involved with local politics in the Conservative Party since I was eighteen years old.” As a District Leader, she helped with elections to get petitions signed for other people to get on the ballot and also assisted with fundraising. As the daughter of the former Conservative Party chairman Vinny Masi, she says she was always in the background of the Conservative Party. “In the history of the Conservative Party, it is known that we are open to listening. As I run for office, I focus on what I can do and want the opportunity to represent constituents of North Castle and Mount Pleasant.
“I grew up in Armonk and graduated from Byram Hills High School in 1992. I worked at Camp Chippewa for 12 years. My parents are still residents of Armonk. I now live in Mt. Pleasant with my husband, Michael Cunzio, who is the elementary school principal at Columbus Elementary School in Mount Pleasant Central School District. My brother-in-law lives in North White Plains. I’ve been involved in both communities of North Castle and Mt. Pleasant.”
Cunzio’s campaign started late as the incumbent legislator, Michael Smith, denied his own petitions to run again for a third term for the seat when he was named President of Berkeley College. Educational Background
Margaret Masi Cunzio grew up in Windmill Farms in Armonk. After graduating from BHHS, she attended Iona College for an undergraduate degree in communication arts, with a minor in criminal justice and psychology. After graduation, she decided she wanted to go into the teaching profession. In 1996, she attended Fordham University’s Internship Fellowship program where she was an elementary teacher in Mount Vernon, Yorktown, Bedford and Byram Hills. She received a professional diploma in administration/supervision in education that certified her to become a principal/administrator. She was later employed in the administration of Rockland BOCES and Yonkers public schools.
Still in education, she now works at the collegiate level, divided between Iona College and Western State University where she teaches education courses. She said, “I enjoy the work of preparing those who go into the educational field, primarily with undergraduate and graduate students who are student teaching.
“My role is to benefit the students, and what’s best for them, just as a county legislator’s role is to represent the constituents and what’s best for them.” Moving Forward, Keeping the Charm & Taxes Low
“Working with seniors in Mt. Pleasant and the students in the school system,” she continued. “I’ve seen the range of challenges. There are college graduates who want to come back to Westchester County, find employment and get settled. There are seniors who want to stay where they raised their families. But expenses are going up. What can we do?”
During a recent break in her campaign, she said, “Everyone talks about keeping the taxes low and governing by common sense. This is about coming up with ways to save money in the budget by having someone on the outside see if consolidation of services can help save money and streamline the spending. I pride myself on fiscal responsibility. The average taxpayer has a budget and works within the budget. Just as if individuals realize they may have to consolidate in a certain month, a responsible county government must do the same. The county’s budget is $1.8 billion, with about $1.3 billion of New York State-mandated programs. The perimeters of these mandated programs may change and can be reviewed to see if there are any overlaying services, and perhaps a way to consolidate those services. The remainder of the budget covers the Westchester County parks, recreation, and Beeline buses where the budget items must be prioritized, perhaps by safety, to determine which ones should be at the top of the list.
“I’m a big proponent of people working together, even though sometimes things don’t run smoothly when there is a difference of opinions. Then I ask, ‘Is there a way we can work together because, ultimately, the job is to represent the constituents of Westchester County,’
“Public/private partnerships can work to properly maintain public property and to keep taxes low. We want to move Westchester forward, but we also want to maintain the charm and character that Westchester has, but not too far forward that we see an exodus. Expenses are going up every year and there needs to be a review of what can be done. Sitting on many nonprofit boards, I’m a proponent of getting people to work together. Sometimes there’s difference of opinion. The key is to listen to both sides and determine a way that we can work together because the job ultimately is to represent the constituents of Westchester County and to keep the lines of communication open.”
Cunzio also teaches fitness classes: treadmill, precision running, body sculpting, and the barre in Equinox of Armonk, Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, Greenwich and Darien. She’s up at the crack of dawn to teach classes at 5:45 a.m. Animal Advocate
Cunzio works with multiple animal rescue groups. “We foster for Briarcliff Manor’s SPCA of Westchester and New York City’s Second Chance.” She also transports animals for North Shore Animal League and Adopt-A-Dog. She sits on a board for a SPCA of North Carolina and helps to coordinate foster transportation between North Carolina and New York. She and her husband have transported 263 cats, 30 dogs, nine rabbits and a guinea pig. They may house the animals overnight in a converted cat shelter. “It’s rewarding,” she says, as she uses social media to network and help find them homes.www.cunzio4westchester.com