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Margaret Cunzio
Margaret Cunzio Declares Victory in County Legislature Race

November 5, 2015
Margaret Cunzio, Republican, Conservative, and Reform candidate for the District 3 of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, declared victory today over challenger John Diaconis. District 3 includes Mount Pleasant, North Castle, Pleasantville and parts of Sleepy Hollow, Briarcliff Manor and Greenburgh.

Cunzio’s unofficial vote tally from the Westchester County Board of Elections as of November 5, 2015 was 4,043 (56 percent) to Diaconis’s 3,156 (44 percent). This was Cunzio’s first run for public office.

She thanked the voters of District 3 for placing their trust in her. "I am humbled by their support," she said. "Throughout this campaign, I heard their concerns about the crushing tax burden in Westchester and the current realities of the Affordable Housing Settlement. They can rest assured that I will stand with County Executive Rob Astorino to make Westchester more affordable and fight any attempt by the federal government to dismantle local zoning, especially as we look to complete the original terms of the settlement on schedule.”

County Executive Rob Astorino said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Margaret as a partner in county government who is focused on delivering results for taxpayers. We have come a long way in reversing Westchester’s decline but we have a lot more work to do to hold the line on property taxes, keep the budget under control despite crushing mandates from Albany and protect our communities from federal government overreach. Margaret will be a powerful voice for the 3rd District and I know she will hit the ground running to continue building on the great work of outgoing Legislator Michael Smith.”

Legislator Michael Smith, who will be leaving the Board of Legislators at the end of this year, explained that Cunzio’s overwhelming victory was representative of a mandate by the taxpayers of District 3: “The voters made clear that they believe in Margaret Cunzio’s vision for their communities. I know Margaret will continue to be a strong supporter of County Executive Rob Astorino, particularly in defending local zoning from Washington bureaucrats, who have attempted to use the problematic and poorly-worded 2009 Affordable Housing Settlement to usurp local control.”

Cunzio concluded: “I thank my opponent, John Diaconis, for running a spirited campaign. Now that Election Day has passed, it’s time to put the rhetoric aside and focus on the many challenges that lie ahead. I will bring my experience and passion to the Board of Legislators each and every day and will always work in the best interests of the hard-working taxpayers of District 3. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve.”

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.

Margaret Cunzio Launches Bid for Westchester County Legislator

July 29, 2015
Vowing to be a citizen legislator who shares the values of the communities she has called home for her entire life, Margaret Cunzio, 40, formally announced her candidacy for Westchester County Legislator to represent Mount Pleasant, North Castle and part of Greenburgh. Cunzio is seeking to succeed current Legislator Michael Smith, who is not running for a third term.

A political outsider, Cunzio identifies Westchester’s crushing tax burden as the number one issue facing the residents of the third district. “I support County Executive Rob Astorino in his pledge to not raise County property taxes,” she said.  

“Like most families reviewing their finances at the kitchen table each night, the County needs to strike the right balance between the must-haves and nice-to-haves,” Cunzio said. “Essential services must be provided on a cost-effective basis. The social safety net must be strong and preserved. But striving for greater efficiency is essential in these trying economic times.”

Cunzio, a professor at Iona College, was raised in Armonk and graduated from Byram Hills High School. She and her husband Michael, the principal of Columbus Elementary School, have lived in Thornwood for the past 16 years. She also teaches at Western State University of Connecticut, and previously worked as an elementary school teacher.

Cunzio noted that under County Executive Rob Astorino, Westchester residents have not seen an increase in the county tax levy. Recently, some legislators have been calling for the six-year streak of no tax levy increase to end. The candidate coupled that sentiment with the federal government’s latest attempt to usurp home rule through the problematic 2009 Affordable Housing Settlement to highlight “just how pivotal this election will be.”

“I have known Margaret Cunzio for 15 years and I know we can count on her, just as we were able to count on Michael Smith, to protect taxpayers,” said Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. “We can count on Margaret to stand up to a federal government that is trying to take control of our local zoning, and we can also count on her to stand up to the politicians who say that after five years of no tax hikes it’s time to increase the county property tax levy. I’ll never surrender to HUD or the tax hikers, but I need legislators who are willing to stand with me. Margaret is willing, ready and quite able to do so and I’m excited to have her as a partner.”

“Like me, Margaret Cunzio was born and raised here in Westchester,” said New York State Senator Terrence Murphy, who represents Mount Pleasant. “We share the same values, compassion for public service and work ethic that will make the residents of the third district proud to call her their legislator.”

“This district has a long tradition of electing individuals who represent the unique values of our neighborhoods,” said Westchester County Legislator Michael Smith. “I am confident that Margaret Cunzio will be just as conscientious about using the hard-earned tax dollars as cost effectively as is possible. Additionally, I am very pleased that she clearly understands the appropriate legal authority from each of the federal, state and local municipality perspectives and whom they should legally govern. Home rule, as it relates to our local property rights, is not something that is to be capriciously taken away by an overreaching federal government bent on making Westchester a social experiment. I will count on Margaret’s strong voice to be heard in the ongoing arguments with the federal government.”

Cunzio will be running in November’s election on the Republican, Conservative and Reform party lines.