When the City Council announced last month that they had hired a new city manager, they didn’t expect him to be able to come on board until mid-August.
By Robin Jovanovich
When the City Council announced last month that they had hired a new city manager, they didn’t expect him to be able to come on board until mid-August. But Marcus Serrano was able to leave his position as Village Administrator in Dobbs Ferry a few weeks early, and before the City even had time to send out an updated press release he was meeting with staff, listening to Rye resident’s concerns, and seated in the Manager’s chair at the July 8 Council meeting.
Within a matter of weeks, Serrano seemed to be up to speed on every City issue. And just as importantly, he’s looking “to make things better, not just maintain what Rye has.”
In an interview last week in his City Hall office, Serrano said that the Council hired him for his financial background and his reputation as a professional with a high degree of integrity. That said he looks forward to making decisions on longstanding issues and encouraging the staff to think outside the box. “My job is to bring all the creative thinking of the staff to the Council and to get things done.”
Serrano said one of the reasons he accepted the offer to come to Rye was he “was struck by how involved the Council was. They put me through the microscope,” he said.
A highly regarded government professional with over 30 years of experience, before his six years at the helm in Dobbs Ferry, Serrano served as Deputy and Acting City Manager, Comptroller, and Director of IT in Peekskill; Director of Finance in both Port Chester and Ossining; and Clerk/Treasurer in Irvington, which was where he got his start in local government back in 1984.
Describing himself as a man who likes to make his own decisions, Serrano allowed that “Government doesn’t always move as quickly as residents and officials want it to. Not everyone will be happy with every decision, but we have to make decisions.”
While happy to find Rye in good financial health, he said he would be taking “a very close look” at the finances and policy procedures at the Boat Basin before the City’s budget season begins in earnest. He concurs with the Council that the City needs an updated Master Plan after 30 years, but estimates it will take several years to create a new one.
Among the pressing issues in Rye are ones he dealt with in Dobbs Ferry — balancing residential development with quality of life, how to stay within the tax cap and maintain municipal services, and where and how to create additional parking in the downtown area. He points proudly to the $8 million waterfront renewal project he oversaw in Dobbs Ferry. He looks forward to improving Rye’s infrastructure step by step.
When the issues get challenging, Serrano shifts into high gear. “In Peekskill, we went to once-a-week garbage pickup and limited pickup to four cans
a week,” he related. “A good result came out of it: people ended up recycling more and the city has one of the highest recycling rates in the County. Municipalities should always be looking at alternatives.”
Serrano, who grew up in the Bronx, the oldest of three children of first-generation Puerto Rican immigrants, said that his father’s early instructions to him have lasted a lifetime: “We have no money. Your word is your bond.”
His father also stressed the importance to his children of speaking English and giving what they could when the plate was passed at church on Sundays.
The Serrano family started off in Spanish Harlem, but when Marcus’ father learned about a house for sale in the Bronx, the family moved there. “My dad bought a condemned building and fixed it up by himself and our parents managed to send us all to Catholic school. Our dad worked in factories and our mom in stores.”
Growing up, Serrano said he got used to playing football and baseball on concrete, but once he arrived at Iona College and was able to play on grass fields, he knew the suburbs were for him. He does, however, look forward to weekend visits with his mother, now 86, who still lives in the Bronx. “My wife is Cuban and she speaks much better Spanish than I do, so my mother really looks forward to their conversations, which go a mile a minute.”
Marcus and his wife have lived in Peekskill for close to ten years. “When I was hired by the city it was a requirement that you live there. We love our house in Mortgage Hill and my commute to Rye is only ten minutes longer than it was to Dobbs.”
Unsurprisingly, our new City Manager gets up early and is so excited about the new job that he’s the first one to arrive at City Hall most mornings.