Though her term was to have expired on Dec. 31 of this year, Town of Oyster Bay Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia of Plainview has resigned her seat.
Shortly after her announcement at the Feb. 12 town board meeting, Alesia’s now former colleagues voted to appoint her to fill a vacancy on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The part-time position has an annual salary of $22,500 with health benefits.
Alesia was first appointed to replace Rose Marie Walker (now a county legislator) on Feb. 9, 2010. That November, she won a special election to serve out the remainder of Walker’s term. In November 2011, she won the first of two four-year terms.
A lawyer by training, Alesia began working as a travel advisor in 2009 with SmartFlyer, which she characterized as “a new breed of travel agency providing our clients detail-oriented and customized ways to see the world.”
The success of the business partly determined her decision.
Alesia praised the community leaders with whom she collaborated, and the hard work of her staff, led by Emma Rosasco.
“Throughout my time in office, I’ve prided myself on being accessible and responsive to [our] residents,” she said. “We all know that our town faced serious issues in recent years. And while some may have distanced themselves when the times got tough, I chose to face the town’s difficulties head-on, and worked towards solutions for our taxpayers.
She added, “Together with Supervisor [Joseph] Saladino and the rest of the town board we’ve worked hard to restore faith in government.”
Anton Media Group interviewed Alesia about her decision.
Q: Did you find that being on the board took up more of your time and energy than you anticipated?
A: Absolutely. Although the council is technically a “part-time” job, it really has become more of a 24/7 endeavor, particularly with the advent of social media. In order to truly do the job properly, at least for me, required a very significant commitment of time, and I was no longer able to balance my family, business and doing the business of councilwoman to the standard I had previously set for myself.
Q: What advice would you have for a successor—what are the aspects of the position that someone new will find surprising or unexpected?
A: The best advice I can give would be to remain visible and accessible. So many residents are frustrated by local government in general—they just don’t know where to turn for answers to seemingly simple questions. I always viewed my job as a sort of a navigator or connector for people who needed to get to the right department; and that ability to help even on small, individual matters added up to more for me than the big decisions.
Q: What are some of your initiatives that you are most proud of?
A: Improvements in my own community of Plainview, including a turf field, a Challenger ball field and a sensory playground for special needs children were all very meaningful. As someone with years of experience in land use and a bachelor degree in urban planning, the community outreach and discussions on revitalizing the downtown area of Hicksville were also extremely important. Finally, I pioneered and ran the “Oyster Bay Reads” program over the past five years, and that was truly a joy to be a part of.
Q: What are the attractions of serving on the ZBA?
A: First of all, the chairwoman, Arlene Van Loan, is a personal friend and mentor of mine from when I started in the DA’s office in 2001. I am just thrilled to be working alongside her again. Secondly, the ability to be able to keep serving the community while not compromising on family time or my service to clients is absolutely fantastic. Finally, my undergraduate years were spent studying land use and planning, so this is truly a dream job for me.
She concluded, “There are so many ‘memes’ and quotes up on social media about seizing the day and about the fleeting time with our kids. The first day on my job at Town Hall I think my son Charlie was not even 6 months old; and now he is going to be 12. I want very much to take time to enjoy these next six years before he leaves for college.”
The town board has not yet chosen Alesia’s replacement.