One of the more intriguing races this year is for Poughkeepsie mayor. Poughkeepsie has had a long, tortured history of crime, fiscal mismanagement and educational challenges. It was against this backdrop that former County Legislative Chair Rob Rolison assumed office four years ago. Rolison inherited a $13.2 million deficit from his Republican predecessor, John Tkazyik, and the city was having trouble paying its bills. Rolison has worked hard to turn that ship around but you don’t turn the Queen Mary or the Queen City around in one term. At the end of 2018, the deficit was at $7.1 million.
Rolison’s opponent is an impressive, young African-American with a résumé right out of the movies. Joash Ward is one of seven children who grew up without a father in public housing and was the youngest valedictorian ever at Poughkeepsie High School at 16. He graduated from Syracuse University at 19 and received a law degree from Kings College in London at 22. Along the way he interned in the Obama White House and the United Nations.
Rolison believes he and the city are on the right track while Ward sees Rolison as yet another Republican more interested in waterfront development and commerce than education and employment. Ward says he has a plan to address Poughkeepsie’s abysmal graduation rates and chronic black unemployment. He also believes Poughkeepsie’s police should be more reflective of the community.
This race is a tough call. Poughkeepsie residents have been waiting for meaningful change and Ward would certainly be that change agent. Rolison would be less likely to rock the boat or sink it. You can make the case for either candidate. Rolison for slow and steady or Ward for dramatic change. We take no position.