Seeing her name on the Election Day ballot alongside the presidential candidates and state representatives was one of the most exciting parts of the day for Rye City council member Julie Killian on Nov. 6. That, and her kids posting on Facebook that they were proud of their mom, she said.
Killian, who Mayor Doug French appointed to complete city council member Suzanna Keith’s term on June 20, 2012, said she was happy to be officially elected on Nov. 6 in order to continue the work she has started. The unopposed council member garnered 4,181 votes in the election.
Killian is most proud of her efforts to create a four-year economic outlook for the city and her role in the installation of several road safety improvements. She looks forward to focusing on city finances, working with the business community and making decisions on flood mitigation and road improvements, she said.
“The reason I first got involved in politics is because I am, on an overall basis, concerned about our country and debt at every level of government,” Killian said. " I like numbers and looking at data, so I think its always good to have someone with a financial background on the council." Killian worked in finance and holds an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Notre Dame and an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business.
At 10 a.m. the day after a recent four hour council meeting that ended around midnight, Killian woke up early, attended her Thursday yoga class at the Rye YMCA, held a meeting with the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee and then met Patch for an interview - all before 10 a.m.
“Now that I am in the job I really like it. There are definitely some frustrations, as expected, with the government and how it works with some rules and regulations. But I have enjoyed the work and feel like I made a difference already,” Killian said.
Killian retired from her successful career in the finance industry 20 years ago and has worked as a mom and homemaker active on community and government boards since then.
When Keith resigned from her council position with a year and a half left on the term to move to Texas with her family, Killian was one of three Rye residents who stepped up to fill the vacant seat.
Since three of her five children are away at school, Killian felt it was the right time to serve on the city council, something she has been thinking about for years.
“It seemed like a good time to get in there. I was lucky in that sense to get the open seat,” Killian said. “I didn’t feel that I was ready until this year to give it the time it needs. The last election I had five kids at home.”
Controversy surrounded Killian’s appointment to the council in June when some residents complained the seat should remain vacant until the November election and that the mayor should have appointed a democrat to the seat. Five out of six council members, including Killian, are Republicans. Councilwoman Catherine Parker is the sole democrat. Killian maintains that she is non-partisan at the local level of government and was the only one of three candidates who presented themselves to the council on May 23 and who was willing to run in the most recent election.
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“People feel like there was some back door engineering of getting me the seat. There wasn’t. I said I was interested, presented myself and they voted,” Killian said.
Now that she has been officially elected to serve the rest of Keith’s term, Killian has already said she will run again with hopes to be elected to her own full term in Nov. 2013.
Although the newly elected councilwoman ran uncontested this year, she still campaigned in order to connect with new people at various events, group lunches and meet and greets.
“I’ve been here really long time and I know a lot of people because I have five kids that have been in the different schools,” Killian said, adding that there are still many groups she actively seeks to meet.
Killian is proud of a few accomplishments that she feels she has made during her first few months in office- helping to get a “no turn on red” sign installed by Playland market, beginning a four-year financial outlook plan for the city, and the installation of a “oncoming traffic does not stop” sign near Highland Road and Apawamis and Van Wagenen and Forest Ave. She credits city staff for efficiently making these changes happen.
Killian feels some of the most important issues in the community are the city’s finances and taxes, how to manage funds to ensure the city can afford flood mitigation and pedestrian safety measures it needs; traffic and pedestrian safety and promoting downtown business.
Killian mentioned the recent successful Fashion Night Out and that she would like to facilitate similar events.
On more controversial topics like recent investigations into the activities of Rye Boat Basin Chief and Rye Golf Club general manager Killian said she feels the council is handling it well.
“I think based on what we know right now I think what we did is the right thing,” Killian said during a late October interview.
Killian also believes County Executive Rob Astorino made a good choice by selecting Sustainable Playland Inc. to take over management of the popular amusement park.
“I think it is a home run for the county and the city,” she said. “I think it will be positive for our downtown…It makes the Lester property more valuable.” Killian said she believes SPI’s plan will boost the local economy if parents drop the children off and head into Rye to shop. She is also glad that some of her favorite rides will stay.
“I am really happy they are keeping Kiddy Land and the dragon coaster.”
One of Killian’s strongest points, which she also made during the Oct. 24 council meeting, is the importance of engaging community members in the political process and not allowing the less-attractive side of politics to deter good people from running for office or getting involved.
“I have not felt for one second that any issue was a democratic or Republican issue or it came out on one side…If you watch the meetings, it is really apparent that everybody looks at issues and asks, how is Rye best served? We don’t always agree,” Killian said. She added that here have been several 6-1 votes when the one dissenting voter was also a Republican.
“Next year, we have four seats open and I hope anyone up there keeps an open mind and does what is best for the city.”
Killian said she is glad for the opportunity to continue to do so herself as she completes her current term.