Dems Nominate Sustainability Chair, James Ward, For Unexpired City Council Term 

Ward, 56, will look to grab the reins from fellow Democrat Sara Goddard, who plans to step down from her interim appointment at year end.

James Ward will run for a one-year term on the City Council in November. Ward, a Democrat, considers himself a centrist. Photo Christian Falcone
Published April 11, 2024 12:55 AM
5 min read

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Rye Democrats have tried to entice James Ward to run for City Council three times over the years, and the third time has proved the charm. He has accepted the party’s nomination and will run for election in November.  

Just before press time, Rye Republican Party Co-Chair Jana Seitz told The Record that Rick McCabe, chairperson of the city Recreation Commission, has agreed to run against Ward for the council seat.  

The election is scheduled for Nov. 7. 

Ward, 56, will look to grab the reins from fellow Democrat Sara Goddard, who plans to step down from her interim appointment at year end. For Goddard, filling the council seat – she was appointed in January following the abrupt December resignation of Ben Stacks – was never meant to be long-term.  

“While I always enjoy and am deeply grateful for the opportunity to represent Rye, my current priorities are with work and other commitments,” she told The Record.  

The winner of the election will finish out Stacks’ unexpired term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2025, and then would have to run again next November for a full four-year term. 

Ward, originally from Boston and a Red Sox fan, moved to Rye in 2011 and joined the city Sustainability Committee in 2020, before taking over as chairperson the following year. But don’t call him Bill de Blasio – the progressive ex-New York City mayor who infamously proclaimed his allegiance to the Sox in 2013.  

“I’m a centrist,” Ward said about his candidacy. “I’m not fulfilling some lifetime ambition. It is not something I would have imagined ever doing.”   

For Ward, the political newcomer’s campaign focus is on sustainable living, creating efficiencies, and the city’s comprehensive plan, a long-outdated municipal planning document that hasn’t been updated since 1985.  

“Being able to be on council and work on the comprehensive plan would make it all worthwhile to me,” he said. 

The Democrat believes the city is well run, but could also benefit from more transparency, and he floated the idea of additional public sessions.  

Rye voter registration, 2016-2024

He considers himself both an environmentalist and a “nuts and bolts finance guy.” He works for a hedge fund in Stamford, Conn., specializing in the valuation of complex investments.  

Ward’s career has led him to travel extensively, including a 14-year stint in Tokyo, where he learned to speak Japanese. During those travels, he became passionate about environmental issues and “making sure we live a sustainable life,” Ward said. 

He’s spent the last four years in Rye working on sustainability efforts — with the City Council and the city manager — and said he’s attended close to “80 percent of council meetings and watched them to the bitter end.”  

Doing so allowed him to get to know many of the city’s key players, which led to conversations about running for office.  

“We wanted somebody we knew the people on the council could work with,” said Danielle Tagger-Epstein, Rye Democratic Committee chairperson. “So going to James was sort of a no-brainer.” 

Ward said he was first approached several years ago, then again after Stacks’ resignation. But he was reluctant to give up any more of his free time to the city —besides being the sustainability chair, he’s also a hockey coach with the Rye Rangers.  

On the third try, the Democrats were finally able to convince him.  

“I think things happen for a reason,” Ward told The Record. That “I didn’t do it the last time was the right choice. Maybe this is the right time.” 

Democrats throughout Westchester are hoping for another blue wave this fall, during a presidential year election when the party traditionally turns out.  

Jake Delimani, a Democratic strategist, said that in the years following Donald Trump’s 2016 election, there was a lot of enthusiasm to vote Democratic, not just in Westchester. 

“That hasn’t really abated,” he said. 

The prospect also looms that popular Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, could appear on the November ballot, if he defeats progressive U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman in a contentious House primary this June.  

Rye vote totals from presidential elections, 2012-2020

Delimani said even in Rye, which historically has had representation from both sides of the political aisle, the landscape has shifted in favor of Democrats.  

And the voter rolls bear that out.  

There are 4,552 active Democratic voters registered in the city and 2,920 Republicans, according to 2024 data from the Westchester County Board of Elections. Since 2016, Rye Democrats have made significant gains, adding 1,170 new voters, while 683 have left the GOP – a swing of more than 1,850-voters.   

Also hurting down-ballot Republicans in the area is that the Democratic base in Rye mirrors that of Westchester as a whole. Democrats now hold more than a 2-to-1 voter margin countywide, a development since Trump’s emergence on the national political scene.  

Rye Democrats made substantial inroads in taking back the majority on the City Council in 2018, something they last held in 2009 during the tail end of former mayor Steve Otis’ administration.  

But for all the successes, the council has had major public spats and internecine turmoil. 

The biggest issue dividing the council, including Democrats, has been whether to install synthetic turf at the city-owned Nursery Field property on Milton Road, a proposal that has been before the council intermittently for years.  

As a final decision on the polarizing plan is set to come to a head this month, Ward pointed to it as an example of what happens when there’s a lack of transparency in the decision-making process. 

“I want to avoid all the Nursery Field-type discussions in the future. Meaning, if you have transparency, you have people involved in those choices,” he said. “We’re having shouting matches at City Hall. The way good government works is having people with varying views discuss things, oppose each other but come to agreements.” 

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