Article by Stephen E. Lipken
Edited by Cynthia E. Pena
Photo by Deborah J Karson (deborahjkarson.com)
As we delve into the heart and soul of Pelham, we begin to understand why this place is so special…its people. One such Pelhamite is Pelham Manor Mayor Jennifer Monachino Lapey.
Lapey began, “I am a native of Pelham Manor. My grandparents moved to town in 1956 and I graduated from Pelham Memorial High School with high honors in 1987 and am a Siwanoy School alumna as well.”
Mayor Lapey holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from Smith and Doctor of Law (JD) Degree from St. John’s University, Queens. She was an Assistant District Attorney in the Felony Trial Division Unit of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office from 1996 to 2000, working with police and law enforcement entities and participated in community outreach. Lapey serves as General Counsel for a privately held company in Westchester County.
“I have a younger sister who graduated from Pelham High School in 1990 living in Harrison. My parents, Jeffrey and Annette Monachino still live in the house I grew up in.”
Jennifer and her husband Ian have two children, Paul, 17 and Catherine, 14. They are also quite proud of their rescue dog named Tommy.
When asked about who her role models were and who inspired her growing up, Lapey stated, “I had several role models, growing up. I really credit my parents, and both sets of grandparents for shaping my view of the world, supporting me from an early age. They taught me to serve the community and believe in causes greater than myself.”
“My High School varsity tennis coach, Christine Tolve inspired me to achieve beyond my capabilities and believe in myself.” Besides playing varsity tennis at PMHS, Lapey played varsity tennis at Smith College, Northampton, MA and was captain of both PMHS and Smith tennis teams.
Today, Jennifer plays competitive tennis with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Adult League as well as at the Pelham Country Club (PCC), “a very supportive organization,” where she was the first female President in the Club’s history during the financial crisis of 2007-2009, participating in all operations, including the budgeting process and oversight responsibility with contract and union employment, including collective bargaining agreements.
Asked how she decided to enter Public Service, Lapey replied, “I considered myself a political novice when I ran in 2015. I had become very familiar with issues in town. I had not planned to run for office. I was Chair for the Pelham Garden and Preservation Society and had co-chaired the Citizen’s Advisory Committee in 2013 with Daniel “Scotty” Murdock for proposed rezoning that would have allowed six-story retail/residential structures at both sides of Boston Post Road at Four Corners.
“I believed that I could contribute to the Village Board and felt that many people in the Village shared my vision. I do not have any other political aspirations at this point, but my journey has taught me, ‘never say never.’”
“One of the things that I think is the hallmark of my service in the Village is that I promoted communication while retaining the traditions of fiscal responsibility and strong services.
“I speak to a lot of different groups including youth in the community and seniors,” Lapey observed. “My message is always the same, to put forth your best effort and treat everyone fairly.”
Lapey also mentioned that former Mayor Louis B. Frost (1981 to 1983) was a political role model, whom she interviewed while in the fifth grade for a school newspaper. He passed away in 2015, shortly after she was elected. “His intelligence, patience and passion for the community have inspired me in my service,” she added.
“We have been Tax Cap-compliant and have a tradition of fiscal responsibility. My plan is to continue with my fellow Board members to improve on community outreach. During my tenure we created a Facebook page. We communicate to residents through e-mail blasts for which they can sign up on our website and we take Public comment at every Village Board meeting.
“I am really pleased with the level of services that we deliver in Pelham Manor, the functioning of the Police, Fire and Department of Public Works (DPW). I am pleased with the competence of our Police Chief Jeff Carpenter, Fire Chief Joseph Ruggiero and DPW Supervisor John Pierpont who is also Village Manager.”
Even though Jennifer is being recognized as, “The Pride of Pelham,” she is quick to say that she is extremely proud of her office staff and stated, “We relate to our community in a very traditional way. You still get someone our telephone line when you call us. Many municipalities have automated recordings. We offer local service with a live voice on the end of the line.”
Toward the end of our time together, we asked Mayor Lapey a few light-hearted questions . . . for example, her favorite movie? Chariots of Fire. Pet peeves? “I really don’t have any ‘pet peeves,’ except my irritation that people do not listen to opposing viewpoints.”
“I’m doing much better with vegetables,” Lapey smiled, “I was not much of a vegetable-eater in my youth but I have even embraced Brussels sprouts…I am turning a corner my second half of life.”
When asked what she would like to tell the youth of Pelham, she concluded, “My message to young people is, ‘Always do your best, listen to others and think for yourself.’”