On Nov. 5, voters in the 4th Council District in East Yonkers will be electing their representative to the seven-member council. Current Councilman Dennis Shepherd is seeking reelection and is being challenged by Democrat Tim Theotokatos and Independent candidate Brandon Neider. Shepherd is completing his first four-year term on the council. He said he loves his job, which he sees as a continuation of his more than 20 years of public service for the people in East Yonkers that he has called home since 1984.
“Serving on the council is crazy at times, but when you can help people and get something done for them, they appreciate it, and it makes it all worthwhile,” he said. Shepherd’s work with the Hyatt neighborhood Association, including 10 years as president, and his service on the McMansion Task Force, to fight for tougher zoning laws to prevent large mansions built on small property lots, were just as important as his last four years on the council.
“I think you should have a deep involvement in your community before you ask for the people’s vote. It’s important to have experience with, and build relationships with, the people and the neighborhoods you want to represent, because it makes it easier to know what they need and to get it done,” said Shepherd, who is retired from a 30-plus-year career with IBM.
He is running on his record over the past four years, and has followed through on his two most important issues: keeping property taxes low, and addressing the quality of life needs of the residents in his district. “We’ve had more streets repaved in the district and more trees cut back than I can remember,” he said.
One of the resources available to council members for constituent services is the city’s Sharepoint computer program, where council members can make requests on behalf of constituents to city departments. Shepherd has received, and moved forward to city departments, more than 200 requests from 4th District residents and business owners.
“I believe this is the true job of a councilman, to respond to a call for help from someone in your district, and follow up with it to the mayor’s office and all departments in City Hall, until it is resolved,” he said. “You may not see me on News 12 or at a lot of press conferences, because that isn’t my style – I don’t grandstand. I’d rather be working behind the scenes to help those who need help and have asked for the city to help them.”
Shepherd is proud of his support of city budgets that have complied with the state-mandated property tax cap, passed in 2011. “All of the budgets that I have supported and voted for have been within the property tax cap,” he said. “I have not voted for a budget above the cap, and I will never do so. The people in Yonkers have been burdened with high property taxes for too long. It’s unfair to people on fixed incomes and we have controlled spending.” Shepherd has refused to accept a city vehicle, which is available to all council members. Shepherd and his two Republican council colleagues (John Larkin and Mike Breen) have been able to work with Democratic Councilmember Wilson Terrero and Democratic Mayor Mike Spano on several issues that in his opinion “were simply in the best interests of the city.”
“When the mayor supported the new Collins project, who was a proven developer in our city, we agreed because we need smart development,” he said. “When some Democrats on the council tried to tear apart my district with their re-districting plan, we joined with the mayor to stop it. And we worked with Mayor Spano to pass budgets within the tax cap.
“I don’t care if the mayor is a Democrat. If he has ideas, or anyone has ideas that are the right thing to do for Yonkers, we will support it,” he continued. “I’ve worked with mayors from
Terry Zaleski to John Spencer to Phil Amicone, and will continue to work with Mayor Spano.”
Shepherd is proud of his efforts to build up the McLean Avenue business district, and support its St. Patrick’s Day Parade and recent Fall Festival, both which attracted huge crowds and caused no disruption. “We were able to get streetscape improvements for McLean Avenue and I hope to do the same for Yonkers Avenue in the future,” he said.
Shepherd also worked with the administration to return an Auto-Theft Unit to the Yonkers Police Department back to the 2nd Precinct, which covers much of the 4th District. “In order to serve as a councilman, you need to go to the police precinct meetings and build a relationship with Capt. Farrell, and go to neighborhood association meeting to find out the problems and work to resolve them,” he said. “I’ve done that over the past four years on the council, and for many years before.” Shepherd, who likes when he can work with others on the council and the mayor to move the city forward, doesn’t like the “infighting and bickering that goes on far too much in council meetings.” “I’m not a politician, I’m a concerned citizen whose philosophy from day one on the council has been to help people in my district,” he said. “I’m not about raising money, and seeing who can put up the most campaign signs. It’s about knocking on doors, and keeping in touch with your neighbors and getting the job done.