By MITCHEL CLIMENT
When first elected in 2013, Steve Neuhaus became one of the youngest county executives in the country’s history. He is now in the throes of a campaign for a bid to be re-elected to this post in Orange County, New York.
The man has had an impressive career trajectory:
Neuhaus went from a childhood on a working farm to becoming a Monroe-Woodbury graduate, who simultaneously took courses at SUNY Orange during his high school years. He received a BA from Mount Saint Mary’s College and a master’s degree from Marist College in Poughkeepsie.
With post-schooling experience in both the private and public sector – Neuhaus worker in the Newburgh City Manager’s Office and with the Village of Walden, in addition to a job as Vice President of Special Projects for Taylor Recycling in Montgomery – he gained considerable professional experience. Neuhaus began elected public service in 2004, as a councilman in Chester; he held that position until 2007. He then climbed the ranks to Chester Town Supervisor, where he ramped up his efforts in economic development, while holding the line on property taxes for the town’s residents. He remained in this office from 2008 until he assumed the Orange County Executive post in 2014.
After the September 11 attack, Neuhaus voluntarily joined the U.S. military. He enlisted in the Army Guard and later joined the United States Navy Reserves, where he currently serves as a lieutenant. In being assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, he often is taken to volatile locales, which denotes not only an impressive showing of loyalty to his nation but also inherently encompasses bravery.
Neuhaus was a guardian for the first Hudson Valley Honor Flight to bring World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the new memorial created in their honor. He is also a founding board member and former chairman of the Families of War Veterans Committee, which supports veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
It has been a difficult task for the Democrats to find an opponent suitable to run against this dynamic Republican county executive. If Neuhaus’s professional background isn’t daunting enough to scare off potential adversaries, his service as Orange County Executive surely makes it all that much worse. Since taking office, spending in his county is down – over $25 million down. The tax rate is lower. Unemployment has greatly decreased. Thousands of jobs have been created. And economic development is through the roof. Even union contracts that were expired when Neuhaus took office are now settled.
Democrat Michael Sussman, a well-known Orange County attorney and civil rights activist, considered running against Neuhaus, but decided against it. He admitted his hesitancy to oppose Neuhaus, saying, “How can I be the candidate for the Democratic Party in that context?”
With the deadline fast approaching and no viable candidate at hand, the Democrats finally nominated Pat Davis as their Orange County Executive candidate. While Neuhaus has done a lot to enrich Orange County, the 35-year-old Davis has been busy racking in millions for Price Waterhouse Cooper as a financial service advisor in their New York office.
There’s no telling what each man will bring to Orange County in the months and years to come, but one thing is certain: thus far, Neuhaus did what he set out to do and is preparing to do more. In addition to his spending cuts, job creation, unemployment reduction, etc – he has overseen the slashing of the county tax rate. This has all led to invigorating the private sector. The real estate market is growing and there are significant investments being made in Orange County. The future looks bright for this county’s residents. Keeping Neuhaus at the helm likely will keep it that way, but if the voters want a different, darker path, then, like with most elections, they have an option. It’s Davis versus Neuhaus this November in Orange County, New York.
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