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Pound Ridge Daily Voice serves Pound Ridge, NY
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Town Board Newcomer Boak Ready for the Challenge

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – Pound Ridge Town Clerk Joanne Pace had originally planned to swear in newly elected Town Board Member Ali Boak in a small office at the back of the Town House before the board meeting last week. What she didn’t count on were the dozens of Boak supporters who came out to watch. The ceremony had to be moved out to the main meeting room.

Boak had been on a family vacation and was unable to attend to the New Year’s Day inauguration ceremony for the other town officials, thus necessitating the personal ceremony. A newcomer to Pound Ridge politics, Boak, a Democrat, gained the town board seat when she ran unopposed in last November’s general elections. She was touched by the turnout for her swearing in.

“It was people from organizations in town that I’ve been working with like the Pound Ridge Partnership,” she said. “It was nice to see everyone come out and support me. It was very special. [The swearing in] was exciting and I’m very much looking forward to getting started.”

Boak said that while this is her first stint as an elected official, she is no political neophyte. Just out of college, she served in Albany as a legislative director for Brooklyn Assemblyman Peter Abbate. The experience, she said, prepared her for working in a vocation that is still primarily dominated by men. She’s the only female member of the Pound Ridge Town Board.

“I was one of the few female legislative directors when I worked for Peter Abbate,” she said. “I was often the only woman in the meetings and I was significantly younger than the lobbyists and people I was meeting with. So I’m used to it and it’s not intimidating.”

Boak is also part of a Democratic minority on the town board; Dan Paschkes is the other Democrat.

“People often say it doesn’t matter what party you are in a small town,” she said. “I don’t necessary agree. The difference in the parties is what they believe the role of government should be. One of our issues is the business district – the water and sewer issues there – and there is definitely a role for the government there. I’ve been studying how business districts work around the country and the most successful things come with a public/private partnership. There might be other town board members who feel strongly about that, but I don’t know.

“But life in Pound Ridge is generally pretty good. When you look at what our issues are, they’re not partisan in nature – they are things that will make Pound Ridge a better place to live. It’s not like we are deciding death penalty or gay marriage.”

Boak said that as newcomer to the town board, she believes her first priority is to learn the ropes before trying to advance a particular agenda.

“I have a lot to learn,” she said. “I’ve been assigned to be a liaison to the planning board and the drug abuse prevention council. I need to learn how they work. This week I will be going to Albany to attend school for elected officials. I have to do a lot of learning to do by listening and meeting with people. I have things I want accomplished but in a spirit of cooperation. It’s the Pound Ridge way.”

Learning curve aside, Boak said she still has goals and priorities for her first term in office, ranging from improved cell phone coverage to business district improvements to better government transparency. She’s advocating the creation of a wireless communications committee rather than using a single advisor. She calls the lack of comprehensive cell phone coverage throughout the town a safety hazard.

She also wants to see the water and septic issues in the Scotts Corner business district resolved. She said it’s the primary reason the town has not been able to attract new business.

“It has to be done hand and hand with water and sewage; you can’t separate the two issues,” she said.

She said that developing a water-delivery system that incorporates the same water sources that supply New Canaan, Conn. and Stamford, Conn. could be a solution and would like to study and map the situation.

“Some of that water is actually in a reservoir right here in Pound Ridge,” she said.

To solve the septic/sewage issue, she favors lobbying the county to get it to accept new technologies and filtration systems.

“The role of the town board is to work with county and business leaders to solve this,” she said. “We’ve been studying it for more than 20 years but it’s never been followed through. Some say it’s too expensive, but technology has changed a lot and we have to find a way to make it happen. There are two businesses that I know of - a yogurt store and a bakery - that went elsewhere because of these issues.”

Boak also wants to figure out ways to get more people to come to town board meetings. She said the new state law requiring agendas and minutes to be posted online in a timely fashion is a good first step, but she would also like to see the meetings filmed and then archived on the town’s website.

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