Susan Serino delivers her first State of the County

Dutchess County Executive Susan Serino delivered a 7,000-word State of the County address at Red Hook High School Thursday, March 14.

Sean T. McMann/Dutchess County Government

Susan Serino delivers her first State of the County

RED HOOK — Dutchess County Executive Susan Serino delivered her first State of the County address — and slide show — in the darkened auditorium of Red Hook’s High School last Thursday, March 14.

Introduction

Before Serino herself took the stage, Red Hook High School student Nora Callaghan-Jurgens sang “I Have Confidence,” which she had recently performed in the school musical, a teen-friendly “Chicago.”

Attendees were asked to stand to hear Desiree King sing the national anthem and to pledge allegiance to the flag and the republic for which it stands.

Attendees were asked to remain standing for the prayer, delivered by Apostolic Bishop Debra E. Gause of Holy Light Pentecostal Church, Poughkeepsie. After inviting the Heavenly Father to be the “esteemed honored guest” at the event, Gause prayed that God grant Susan Serino “divine wisdom.”

“Father caused this county of Dutchess to be the leading county of this region,” she said. “Help each of us to do our fair share and find ways to embrace our differences.”

Affordability and youth opportunity

Serino’s address consisted of some 7,000 words spoken over 40 minutes — “Probably longer than I’ve ever spoken,” noted the executive as she closed in on the final sections.

With a paean to cross-aisle cooperation and community outreach, Serino directed her words at what she described as the county’s “affordability crisis,” which she noted has only gotten worse since the pandemic:

“I have to tell you, I talked to so many seniors who are living on this income, a less than $20,000 a year. Just wrap your head around that. It’s those seniors and so many other individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s them I’m thinking about every time I’m faced with a decision in the county,” she said.

“You know, when I think about our children and our grandchildren, my goal is to make Dutchess County a place where they want and can afford to live, not one that they want to leave.”

While the affordablity crisis cropped up throughout the speech, it was only directly addressed by one initiative: the launching of the Dutchess County Food Security Council in partnership with Dutchess Outreach and the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region. Serino said, of developing children’s opportunities:

“We need to focus on issues outside of the classroom, and at the most basic level. Our children need to be free from hunger to be successful.” Dutchess County pantries have reported a record number of “individuals seeking resources,” she said.

The Council will work by “bringing the right people to the table to provide guidance to policymakers on how best to address hunger,” she said.

Her administration will also be focusing on getting young people to work, through training programs in the trades and by partnering with Wappingers Central School District on a “Career in the Skilled Trades” job fair.

Serino recalled talking with county youth “about careers like plumbing and welding — and wow, just seeing their eyes light up about the possibilities and opportunities that come with a career like that,” she said.

She also asked, “How do we empower our workforce to help parents?”

Mental and behavioral health

In her various roles, Serino, who lost her brother to suicide, has consistently concerned herself with mental health.

In Poughkeepsie, her administration is dividing the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health into two: a community health department to be run by current DBCH Commissioner Dr. Livia Santiago-Rosado, and a separate Mental Health department to be led by Jean-Marie Niebuhr.

Serino announced the county’s support for two treatment centers — the Dutchess County Stabilization Center in Poughkeepsie, a partnership with People USA, which just became the first licensed Supportive Stabilization Center in New York State, and the Empowerment Center, also in Poughkeepsie — and for the Oxford House group, a line of sober houses.

Serino also emphasized her administration’s reliance on law enforcement to deal with mental health and drug-related homelessness as well as the county’s addiction crisis.

The slide illustrating law enforcement pictured a couple small bags of pale powder, a couple guns, and a Drug Task Force Police patch that featured a hooded Grim Reaper.

EMS crisis

Another heavily emphasized topic of the address was the county’s EMS crisis.

“Our team has made it a top priority to create a plan to help solve this crisis, and we’ve developed a multi-pronged approach to tackle this issue and are getting started on the first step now,” she said. “We’re currently looking for interested agencies who can help fill the points of service by offering supplemental coverage.”

She also emphasized recruitment: “We also need to empower a shrinking workforce and think creatively to recruit and retain talent,” she said.

Seniors and conclusion

Fittingly, her discussion of senior living was one of the final segments.

Serino remarked at one point that “by being mindful of the obstacles our neighbors are facing and addressing them head on with practical and common-sense solutions.”

One of her preferred practical solutions is job fairs and job training pipelines — to address EMS shortages, opportunities for young people, mental health issues and increasing accessibility for people with disabilities.

Another preferred solution is volunteer peer-to-peer support programs — for trauma responders, for veterans (Vet2Vet) and, for seniors, the Friendly Calls from within the Office for the Aging (OFA).

She also announced a new grant that will expand ride services offered in partnership with OFA.

“I’ve heard from countless seniors about how difficult it can be when they no longer drive, specifically when it comes to finding rides to medical appointments.”

She went on to announce that her administration “will be working with partners to find additional ways for seniors to enter the workforce again. I want to do with seniors a trade event,” she said. “Isn’t that great?”

She concluded her address, “Our community truly is a great place to live and work, and by working together, I know we can do so much more.”

The full text and video of the speech can be found on the county website: www.dutchessny.gov

Latest News

Walking among the ‘Herd’

Michel Negreponte

Submitted

‘Herd,” a film by Michel Negreponte, will be screening at The Norfolk Library on Saturday April 13 at 5:30 p.m. This mesmerizing documentary investigates the relationship between humans and other sentient beings by following a herd of shaggy Belted Galloway cattle through a little more than a year of their lives.

Negreponte and his wife have had a second home just outside of Livingston Manor, in the southwest corner of the Catskills, for many years. Like many during the pandemic, they moved up north for what they thought would be a few weeks, and now seldom return to their city dwelling. Adjacent to their property is a privately owned farm and when a herd of Belted Galloways arrived, Negreponte realized the subject of his new film.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fresh perspectives in Norfolk Library film series

Diego Ongaro

Photo submitted

Parisian filmmaker Diego Ongaro, who has been living in Norfolk for the past 20 years, has composed a collection of films for viewing based on his unique taste.

The series, titled “Visions of Europe,” began over the winter at the Norfolk Library with a focus on under-the-radar contemporary films with unique voices, highlighting the creative richness and vitality of the European film landscape.

Keep ReadingShow less
New ground to cover and plenty of groundcover

Young native pachysandra from Lindera Nursery shows a variety of color and delicate flowers.

Dee Salomon

It is still too early to sow seeds outside, except for peas, both the edible and floral kind. I have transplanted a few shrubs and a dogwood tree that was root pruned in the fall. I have also moved a few hellebores that seeded in the near woods back into their garden beds near the house; they seem not to mind the few frosty mornings we have recently had. In years past I would have been cleaning up the plant beds but I now know better and will wait at least six weeks more. I have instead found the most perfect time-consuming activity for early spring: teasing out Vinca minor, also known as periwinkle and myrtle, from the ground in places it was never meant to be.

Planting the stuff in the first place is my biggest ever garden regret. It was recommended to me as a groundcover that would hold together a hillside, bare after a removal of invasive plants save for a dozen or so trees. And here we are, twelve years later; there is vinca everywhere. It blankets the hillside and has crept over the top into the woods. It has made its way left and right. I am convinced that vinca is the plastic of the plant world. The stuff won’t die. (The name Vinca comes from the Latin ‘vincire’ which means ‘to bind or fetter.’) Last year I pulled a bunch and left it strewn on the roof of the root cellar for 6 months and the leaves were still green.

Keep ReadingShow less