Port Chester trustees appointed Christopher Steers to become village manager Oct. 11, promoting him to the top administrative post on Monday night well in advance of Christopher Russo’s departure from the job.
Over the objections of Mayor Dennis Pilla, the board also voted 4-1 to appoint Janusz Richards to the position of village clerk.
Richards, 55, is a chiropractor and a member of the Rye Town Board of Assessment Review. He is former chair of the Republican village committee and served on the Port Chester Housing Authority, zoning board and planning commission. An immigrant from Poland, he teaches U.S. citizenship classes as a volunteer.
Richards will serve at a $75,000 annual salary through April 1, 2013, when a new village board will be sworn in. He replaces Joan Mancuso, who resigned in May.
One of the clerk’s main duties will be to run the election for all six trustees and the mayor’s seat in March 2013. The trustee election will be Port Chester’s second one using the new cumulative voting method.
His nomination by Trustee Sam Terenzi led to a heated exchange – though not as heated as the uproar over Terenzi’s previous choice, former Rye Town Supervisor Robert Morabito. Mayor Pilla, a Democrat, said he favored a candidate who had experience as a clerk. Terenzi, a Conservative who ran on the GOP line, argued angrily over the suggestion that Richards was a political choice. The vote came after Terenzi told the mayor, “You’re so stupid.”
Trustee Luis Marino first moved to table the vote and consider the second candidate. Then he joined the majority in appointing the nominee.
Richards, after starting the job today, said he was grateful for the opportunity. “I’ve been involved in the village for many, many years,” he said. “I think I qualify to do this position.” He said he was experienced in local elections as a party leader, and in records and management as a chiropractor and consultant. He noted his work organizing the website for the New York Chiropractic Association.
Steers, appointed by a 5-0 vote, was hired three years ago as director of the new Department of Code Enforcement and was named assistant village manager in April 2011. His new, two-year contract includes an $180,000 salary, use of a village-owned vehicle and $2,000 in moving costs to relocate from Dutchess County to Westchester. Steers, a former administrator in Florida, has been the driving force behind Port Chester’s building safety crackdown.
Russo is leaving his $195,000 post after four years. He is returning to Florida and to his former job as city manager in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., where he owns a home.