*published on Jan 18, 2012 on EDGE
Wappingers Falls Mayor Matt Alexander is certainly not shy about the fact that he is gay.
He has a committed partner who helps with his fundraising and stands right by his side, but Alexander is not just a gay politician. He is quick to point out he believes it is time for people to be elected on the basis of their work ethic, education and ability to get jobs for unemployed Americans.
“Families are struggling and we have a Congress who is delivering for the wealthy and special interests but not for working families,” said Alexander. “We feel that in the Hudson Valley and we know that we need all levels of government working together to set families back on track and bring jobs back to our communities. I believe that the federal government should work more closely with municipal officials to identify local needs. With the right investment, local governments can be the incubators for job growth-but that takes federal representatives who acknowledge their responsibility and step up to the plate. We all have a role to play.”
Wappingers Falls, a village of 5,000 people in Dutchess County, has seen a dramatic revival under Alexander’s mayoralty.
“I originally came to the Hudson Valley when my father was hired to work at West Point,” said Alexander, who earned his Eagle Scout ranking at the military college after he transferred from his original Boy Scout troop in his native Alabama. “I loved it up here, I graduated from Cornwall High School and after finishing college at Notre Dame, I was drawn back here.”
Alexander holds an accounting degree and is a certified public accountant who worked at Deloitte and Touche in Manhattan. He left this work because he found it “unsatisfying and unrewarding.”
“I wanted to use my accounting skills to help small businesses,” he said.
Alexander used his experience and turned around several small companies-including a Cornwall paper recycling mill that was about to close. He then opened an antiques store on Main Street in Wappingers Falls.
“It was from the business on Main Street that I got called to public service,” said Alexander. “I watched the stores be shuttered more and more each week and I wanted to do something about it. Year after year nothing gets done and the area was becoming more depressed. Then one day I said to myself enough. And so I decided to run for mayor and I won. I have been here for seven years now and the town is on an upswing.”
Alexander has worked with the Hudson River Watershed Alliance and now heads the Wappinger Watershed Inter-municipal Council. He hopes to use a bi-partisan approach in his effort to unseat first-term incumbent Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth in November and represent New York’s 19th Congressional District on Capitol Hill.
Alexander, who has received endorsements from both Democrats and Republicans in his mayoral campaigns, noted he has worked with the Wappingers Falls Civic Association the Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce and other business and revitalization groups.
“The federal government should be working together with localities to identify needs, bolster economies and create jobs,” said Alexander. “I have an opponent… who believes that the federal government’s only job is and this is a quote, “interstate highways and defense. This leaves too many smaller communities to fend for themselves and to flounder. I want to help.”
Retiring Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Edward Albee, Estelle Parsons and other luminaries have already backed Alexander’s campaign. Frank and Maloney will host a fundraiser for Alexander in Tribeca on Thursday.
“Growing up in Alabama I never imagined that someone gay could be in Congress and now Barney Frank is doing an event for me,” said Alexander.