Meet the Peekskill Democrats’ candidates for mayor, council and county legislature

    Ramon Fernandez, Vanessa Agudelo, Councilman Andre Rainey and Peekskill City School District Trustee Colin Smith (Photo: Peekskill Democrats)

    Editor’s Note: The following information was provided by the Peekskill Democratic City Committee.

    At a packed Democratic City Committee meeting on May 11, local Democrats endorsed Councilman Andre Rainey for Mayor of the City of Peekskill to lead a new generation of local leaders who are less interested in partisanship and more interested in community action. Joining him on the Democratic ticket for the fall will be: Vanessa Agudelo, a life-long Peekskill resident and community organizer involved in supporting city beautification and green projects; Ramon Fernandez, founder and organizer of the Peekskill Hispanic Community Corporation and leader in Assumption Church; and local attorney and Peekskill School Board member Colin Smith.

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    For county legislator in District 1, Democrats endorsed attorney and environmental activist Nancy Vann who has helped build and lead regional efforts to stop the Spectra-Algonquin Pipeline, which is decimating communities and putting lives at risk throughout Peekskill, Cortlandt, and Yorktown. Democrats also enthusiastically endorsed Legislator Catherine Borgia, the Democratic Majority Leader of the Board of Legislators for re-election.

    “This team represents the very best of Peekskill and offers residents who want to be inspired again a new generation of leadership they can be proud of,” said Councilman Rainey. “In my time on the council I am proud of the successes we have had in recruiting new development and business and that will continue when I am mayor. But what I will bring to the mayor’s office that is different is a positive, collaborative approach to government that builds bridges for community engagement, not walls.”

    Over the coming weeks, Rainey, Agudelo, Fernandez and Smith will roll our their Positive Agenda for Peekskill that focuses on community building, making sure Peekskill remains an affordable place to live, and enhances the city’s overall quality of life for all residents.

    Andre Rainey
    Andre K. Rainey (a.k.a. “Noodle”) was elected to the Peekskill Common Council in 2015 as a fresh face with a new perspective on politics. He’s part of a new generation of leadership emerging across the country that is less interested in partisanship and more interested in action. The positive approach he has brought to City Hall since being elected to the common council has re-engaged and inspired residents of Peekskill to once again get involved in their local government. As Mayor, he will take a similar approach to that office, bringing more collaborative leadership to the full Council, making a clean break from the bullying and condescension that has become synonymous with City Hall. 

    Since joining the Council two years ago, Rainey has helped bring new business and development to Peekskill, including projects currently under construction with more than 200 market rate apartments, a spa, the new mall that has finally replaced the burned out lot on East Main Street, as well as numerous new businesses and restaurants throughout the City. He has also worked to keep taxes down, voting against proposals that wanted to raise taxes on residents over 5%. He has been working diligently to rectify massive water rate hikes that property owners were surprised with this past year, and successfully reconstituted the Human Relations Commission, despite numerous obstacles and delays emanating from City Hall. 

    Rainey is a millennial entrepreneur and owner and President of NOO Moves Entertainment, founded in 2010. His professional work includes collaboration with local artists and arts organizations, both here in Peekskill and throughout Westchester County, giving him a unique window into the importance of the arts as an economic generator locally. 

    Rainey is a Peekskill native who graduated from Peekskill High School in 2002. While his father served in the United States Air Force he traveled with him and lived in Germany and Las Vegas, Nevada. He is also the father of 4-year old Zylon. As a father and youth advocate, Rainey is a strong supporter of the public school system and has worked to better connect Peekskill City government to our local school district. He knows the importance of collaboration and the power of partnerships in building a stronger school system that works for all of Peekskill’s kids. He has been a champion of the Kiley Youth Center on Main Street, spearheading a massive volunteer effort to clean-up and provide a face lift to one of the City’s most critical recreation and youth mentorship centers.

    Rainey knows that to build a strong community you need to build bridges, not start arguments and put up walls. That’s why he has worked to organize and host community events from Easter egg hunts for local kids and outdoor movie screenings, to Christmas parties for our seniors. He also knows that to really get things done, you need to foster private-sector partnerships, like he has done with Fidelis Health Care, Shop Rite, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts, helping to sponsor the annual book bag drive that provides school supplies to any child. This program has doubled the drive since its inception six years ago. 

    Vanessa Agudelo
    Vanessa Agudelo is a Peekskill activist with a passion for green initiatives, inclusive collaboration, and empowering our marginalized communities. Raised in Peekskill, she has been active in the community since she was a child, taking part in the Peekskill Swim Team and Field Library Reading Program during her summers.

    She is the youngest member of the Peekskill Garden Club, chair of the Environmental Climate Justice Committee for Peekskill’s NAACP chapter, and has been a key organizer around efforts to Solarize Peekskill, as a member of the Conservation Advisory Council. She is a graduate of Penn State University and is the District Representative for the New York State Senate’s first Latina, Marisol Alcántara overseeing constituent issues for a legislative district much like Peekskill. Her experience in managing constituent affairs makes her an ideal advocate for city residents who often feel their outreach to city hall goes unanswered and their concerns go unresolved. Since starting her job, she has organized Immigrant Rights panels and provided affordable housing aid to dozens.

    “Every job I have ever had has been focused on helping people and giving them access to their government, and over the course of the last several months it has become more clear than ever, I need to do that right here at home, where I grew up,” said Agudelo. “As councilwoman, I will ensure no constituent goes unanswered, no community feels left out, and that we develop this City in a way that keeps it affordable and represents its full diversity.”

    Ramon Fernandez
    Ramon A. Fernandez is a tireless leader among parents, the religious community and Hispanic residents. Born in New York City to Dominican parents, he came to Peekskill in 2004 to visit and immediately fell in love with the City, deciding to raise his family here. Fernandez has three children who have attended Peekskill Public Schools. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Ureña in Dominican Republic. After working for years for a Quaker State Motor Oil Distributor, ending his time there as a General Manager in 2007, he began working with Rio Taxi allowing him to spend more time with his family and the community. In 2015, with other members of the Hispanic Community, Ramon formed a group called Peekskill Hispanic Community to provide a voice for the city’s Spanish speaking population and build bridges with the rest of the city. In a short time, this group became the non-profit Peekskill Hispanic Community Corp. of which Ramon is now President. For many years, Ramon was also a leader and member of the Charismatic Group of Assumption Church.

    “Peekskill’s Hispanic community is a substantial driver of our local economy and I have worked over the last decade to ensure their voices are heard and concerns are addressed by our local officials,” said Fernandez. “On the council, my goal is to build bridges between the Spanish-speaking community and longer-term residents so that we can enhance the local quality of life for everyone.”

    Colin Smith
    Colin Smith is a lifelong resident and product of the Peekskill City Schools, having graduated from Peekskill High School in 1991. Professionally, Smith works as an attorney with an office in the downtown. In his first term as a Board Trustee, Mr. Smith worked with the school’s administration to produce fiscally responsible budgets that met the needs and goals of the district, while at the same time, staying below the tax cap so as not to impose an unreasonable burden on Peekskill taxpayers.

    “I’ve dedicated my life to this City and believe now more than ever we need a city government that is forward-looking, interested in collaboration, partners with our local school district and respects diversity of opinion in the council chambers,” said Smith. “I’m excited about being part of a new generation of leaders in City Hall and look forward to a spirited campaign.”

    Nancy Vann and Catherine Borgia
    The Peekskill Democratic Committee also joined the Cortlandt and Yorktown Democratic Committees in unequivocally endorsing Peekskill resident and attorney Nancy Vann for Westchester County Legislature in District 1. Nancy is a passionate advocate for the environment and has been a leading voice in the region in opposition to the Spectra-Algonquin Pipeline, the 42″ fracked gas pipeline which runs through parts of Cortlandt, Peekskill and Yorktown, and within 105 feet of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant. Nancy Vann is currently President of Safe Energy Rights Group, Inc. and Chairperson of the Board of Commissioners of the Peekskill Housing Authority.  She was previously Vice President and Associate Council at Oppenheimer Funds and holds a BA from Columbia and a Doctor of Law from Yale.

    “We need a better approach to the environment, and our incumbent legislator’s disastrous record on the environment needs to not only be challenged, but ended,” Vann said. “His lockstep support of Executive Astorino needs a check, and I will provide that check.”

    The Peekskill Committee also enthusiastically endorsed County Legislative Majority Leader Catherine Borgia for re-election. Borgia has represented Peekskill since 2012 and works tirelessly to represent the 9th legislative district.