CB8 very close to crowning Laura Spalter its chair

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Laura Spalter has been waiting — and working — a long time for this moment. And she was ready for the five members of Community Board 8’s nominating committee, keeping her hefty resume near her computer as she tried to connect with the people she hopes will help elevate her to CB8’s top spot: chair.

Every person coming before the nominating committee was supposed to be limited to between 15 and 20 minutes. But Paul Ellis, who Spalter succeeded as vice chair when he abruptly resigned in 2018, briefly interrupted the fast-talking candidate, letting her know her time had already run to 27 minutes.

“But I’m worth it,” Spalter said during the May 14 online videoconference.

Joking aside, Spalter said her two-plus decades on the community board put her in a prime position to lead the advisory group for the next year, and maybe two more years after that.

“I am very problem solving-oriented,” Spalter said. “I live for that. If I can help a (committee) chair in that capacity because of my own experience, my years of experience, I’ll jump to do that.”

CB8 is gearing up for its first contested chair race since 2014 when Dan Padernacht beat Maria Khury for the top spot. That year, the nominating committee put forward both Padernacht and Khury’s names. This year, however, a new nominating committee under the leadership of Steve Froot is expected to go in a different direction when it met one last time May 20: It’s going to recommend only Spalter.

That likely isn’t good news for Sergio Villaverde, the chair of CB8’s economic development committee, who had hoped to succeed Rosemary Ginty in the top spot. He also interviewed in front of the committee last week, focusing less on what he’s accomplished with the board in the past, and more on what he could accomplish in the future.

“My philosophy in leadership from my experience as a military leader and as a business leader ... is that being a leader is being a servant,” Villaverde said. “It’s not about you. I try to never make it ‘The Sergio Show.’”

Keeping the community board vibrant, he said, requires strong development of new members, ensuring they not only come and go, but that they stay and become active and productive.

Villaverde’s words, however, were not enough to sway the committee, with four members ready to back Spalter right away. A fifth member, former board chair Padernacht, said he was willing to recommend Spalter as well — but only if the committee pushed to keep Villaverde as chair of the economic development committee.

The nominating committee is limited to recommending an individual for only one position, so if it decided to back Villaverde as a candidate for overall CB8 chair, it couldn’t also back him to chair economic development.

Padernacht’s suggestion seemed to catch Froot by surprise. The committee had interviewed two others to lead that particular committee earlier in the meeting: Nick Fazio, the owner of an athletic training company, and Camelia Tepelus, the executive director of the Morris Park Business Improvement District.

Yet, the committee didn’t seem too solid on either of them to lead the committee.

Froot said he was interested in considering Villaverde return to his old committee, but by that point in the evening — well over three hours in — the retired NYPD officer wasn’t available.

Uncomfortable with nominating someone for a leadership role they hadn’t sought, Froot decided to delay finalizing a slate of candidates for the full board until its May 20 meeting.

When that does happen, the slate will likely include Spalter as chair, outgoing parks and recreation committee chairman Bob Bender as vice chair, Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee Ed Green taking over the public safety committee, and current CB8 chair Ginty finding a new home leading Bender’s old committee, parks and recreation.

“I will work,” Ginty told the committee last week. “I will serve. I have something to offer, I do. I am able, I am willing. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a hard worker, and I will work on any issue that is put in front of me.”

The full board will elect its final slate during its regular monthly meeting in June. Board members are not limited to the slate offered by the nominating committee, and additional nominations can be made by the floor.

Whoever ends up becoming the new chair — whether it’s Spalter, Villaverde or even someone else — will gavel their first meeting in the fall.

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