JEFF VITALE - Candidate for Village Trustee
A 32 year (lifelong) resident of Sea Cliff, I grew up on 8th Avenue with my parents Bill and Kathy as well as my older brother Mark (the current Fire Chief for the volunteer Sea Cliff Fire Department) and my younger sister Lynn. I am engaged to my girlfriend of 10 years, Hayley Hoffman who is also a lifelong resident. We met in kindergarten at Sea Cliff Elementary and remained good friends throughout the years. After college we began dating and I couldn’t be happier. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I had the honor of attending Sea Cliff Elementary School, North Shore Middle & High School. While at North Shore High School, I graduated with a 92 average and excelled at Football, Wrestling and Baseball. In 2006 I was inducted into the North Shore High School Athletic Hall of Fame. I finished my education at Binghamton University where I majored in English/Creative Writing and wrestled for their Division 1 athletic program.
After graduating from Binghamton, I started working for “Fixed Income Securities”, a financial services firm specializing in bonds, and obtained my Series 7 and 63 licenses. After leaving FIS, I worked in sales, marketing and as a hospice worker before finally being offered a job at the Town of Oyster Bay as a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Employment Counselor in 2010. During my time there, I helped people find employment by teaching various job searching techniques, conducting basic computer classes, directing mock interviews and anything else possible to help improve their chances at finding work. After Superstorm Sandy, so many Town sites were damaged that a massive effort to apply for Federal Aid began through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). At that time, I was asked to help organize these efforts and moved to the Federal and State Aid Division within the Intergovernmental Affairs Department as a grant writer/administrator in early 2013.
Working in the Federal and State Aid department has offered me the opportunity to learn more about how government agencies interact with each other as well as how to properly document the aftermath of such a devastating natural disaster. These efforts resulted in over $35M being reimbursed and helped ease the financial burden that was placed upon the Town.
Apart from this function, I am responsible for searching for grant funding from Federal, State and private institutions in order to fund multiple projects that the Town is conducting such as road repaving, tree plantings and operating bilge pump-out boats. These programs are extremely important and obtaining grant funding helps to significantly reduce each department’s budgetary needs. After a project is selected, it is my responsibility to meet with each department to learn the intricate details surrounding the scope of work and what the intended outcomes are expected to be. It is important to go over the rules and regulations of each grant program as they can be completely different from one another and require different permits, reports and other such documentation. By brainstorming with each department about all necessary items needed to successfully complete the project, I will craft a budget and complete an application for the funding. Most grants are competitive and require an in-depth knowledge about how the project will positively impact the community and evidence that you have communicated with residents about the project. In efforts to make sure that the project is a good fit for the community, I hold public forums in order to learn more about the needs of residents and collect their valuable input. I plan on doing the same things for the Village of Sea Cliff.
I was appointed to the Village Trustee Board on 12/12/16
What issues do you believe are the most important in Sea Cliff:
Though I have only been a Trustee for two months, I have used that time productively and focused on how to utilize my specific skill set to benefit the Village. I have participated in meetings with the North Shore Coalition Against Substance Abuse and volunteered my time in the future to help organize our community, local businesses, parents and all residents to fight opioid abuse. The key is to disseminate as much information about how to spot the problem, identify the root causes of the addiction, how to talk to your loved ones about treatment and agree on the best path to move forward.
I was also tapped with the responsibility of acting as the liaison for the Youth Groups within our community. I have begun reaching out to these groups and letting them know that if they have any issues or concerns that they can contact me at any time in order to get them what they need to be successful. The most important part of being a Trustee is being visible and letting residents know that they can count on you when a problem arises. This is the reason that I am working with residents to formulate a plan on how my role can be the most effective tool for their needs. We are looking into having more sports/exercise related events that can help teach kids that staying healthy isn’t just important, but fun! Another dream I have is purchasing a projector that can be shown on a large screen in a park such as Clifton at night so we can air classic movies for the kids. When I was growing up I remember a group of residents organized an event like this in the park across the street from my parent’s house on 8th Avenue and it seemed like a great way to get the community together and have a great time.
I have also been sharing different grant opportunities that I think are very relevant to the Village with members of the Board to see if there are additional projects we can undertake without passing the financial burden on to the taxpayer.
Professional Experience and how it affects position:
A typical grant administrator/writer has to go through a series of steps in order to successfully apply for funding and complete the project. It takes researching topics that you may not have been aware of before in order to intelligently apply for a project. It requires that you meet with representatives from different departments as well as public interest groups in order to create a plausible budget that meets the needs of all involved. It requires a great deal of detail following stringent guidelines to make sure that all aspects of the project meet the eligibility requirements of each program (as each program/funding source has their own very specific set of rules) in order to successfully apply for reimbursement. You have to be able to stand up in front of a group of people and explain in great detail the specifics of each project, including the Board of Trustees, in order for them to make appropriate decisions regarding the project. Since 2013, I have helped bring back over $35M to the Town of Oyster Bay through grant programs. I believe that my municipal experience will be of great benefit when performing the duties of Trustee.
I also worked for many years at the Glen Head Boys and Girls Club where I enjoyed working with children of all ages. While there, I was responsible for supervising the kids during homework hours, field trips and just playing in the park and speaking with parents about their progress. I also supervised several counselors who were tasked with similar responsibilities. This was a great experience and I believe it will be an asset when I begin working as a Youth Group liaison.
Direction of Sea Cliff:
As it stands right now, Sea Cliff has a rating of AA+ and I think that everyone can agree that our parks are beautiful, our garbage and recycling is picked up regularly and the community feels safe with some of the lowest crime statistics on Long Island. In large part this is due to the excellent leadership over the past years as well as a strong partnership with local law enforcement. What I think is the most important thing that I can do as a new Trustee is to be visible and ask for feedback from our residents. If they have an issue that is unforeseen at this moment, it’s our duty to make sure that it becomes a priority and we do everything in our power to fix it. When I hear the word transparent, I think communication.
Challenges Facing Sea Cliff and your plans to address them if reelected?
Why are you running?
As a lifelong resident of Sea Cliff I am not only proud of the community that helped raised me and feel compelled to do anything in my power to ensure that residents remain happy with their services and feel that they voices are being heard. Having a professional career in municipal grant writing has also helped me understand various needs of different departments (Environment, Public Works, Procurement, etc.) while also making connections at different State and Federal agencies that may be of use to the Village in the future.
Characteristics of a great Trustee:
I believe that there is one key element that makes a productive trustee; communication. A village trustee has to make themselves available to the community more than just on scheduled meeting times and follow through with any questions or requests that are made of them. That’s not to say that we can always grant a resident’s request, but it means that we will complete our due diligence and craft a solution that will best meet the needs of all residents.
Another essential characteristic is dedication. Being a trustee requires countless hours each month spent reviewing invoices/budgets, speaking with residents, attending meetings for various community organizations such as the Sea Cliff Environmental Conservation Committee or attending the tax grievance workshop to make sure that our residents are aware of their options. Much time is spent away from our families to provide the best services for the public and that takes dedication.
What does the Village do well?
Village government has helped Sea Cliff remain a pillar of financial success as we are rated AA+ with zero fiscal stress. One of the reasons for this is the attention that is paid to the yearly budget and conscious decisions to reduce unnecessary spending. The Village has also done a wonderful job accessing grant funds to complete projects that would have otherwise been drawn from Village accounts.
Basic services such as having the garbage picked up, roads cleared of snow and our parks maintained are areas where we excel in. The Board of Trustees works with our Village Administrator to make sure that these items are completed successfully.
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