Statement from Manor Dem trustee candidate Koonce: ‘Issues that motivate me in particular: sustainable infrastructure and social justice’ 

Editor’s note: This statement was submitted by Lance Koonce, who is running for election as a Pelham Manor trustee on the Democratic and Pelham Manor Forward party lines. Click for the Pelham Manor Forward Party’s Facebook page.

Lance Koonce

It is a privilege and an honor to be considered as a candidate for the Board of Trustees of Pelham Manor, along with Andrea and Ramsey, my stellar running mates.

My wife Lisa and I bought a home in Pelham Manor in the summer of 2005.  Nearly 16 years later, we have three children in the Pelham public schools, two dogs, a wealth of friendships and lasting memories, and an abiding affection for – and sense of duty to – this community where we have put down such deep roots.

It was this sense of responsibility that has persuaded me to seek a seat on the Village Board this year. Before I discuss my qualifications and vision for the future of Pelham Manor, I would be remiss if I did not make very clear that I respect and appreciate those who have taken on these roles in the past and have acted as stewards of our Village, all of whom are our friends and neighbors.  These are volunteer positions, and it is a testament to the strength of our community that we can field two strong slates of candidates for these roles, engage in civil discourse and debate, and come together in March to vote.  Pelham Manor is a place where civic pride leads to civic action.

My decision to run for Trustee is based upon a desire to build upon the work that has been done before, to identify where things can be done better, and to set aspirational but attainable goals for the future.  To these tasks I bring experience in communications, government service, not-for-profit organizations, law and technology.

I grew up in a small town watching the operations of local government through the lens of my father’s civil engineering firm, where I worked during the summers, and with which I remain involved today.  My first full-time employment was in book publishing, which was excellent training – I continue to write and speak publicly on a variety of topics, and have an active social media presence, including recently a local COVID data update. I then worked as a staffer on Capitol Hill, where we worked to expand electronic access by citizens to their representatives.  My best memories of this period, though, revolve around the work we did for constituents – helping solve what they perceived as intractable problems, whether it was perennial flooding in a low-lying area, or traffic issues.

Since 1996, I have been a practicing attorney, and I have been with my current firm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, for almost eighteen years.  During that time, I have honed my analytical and problem-solving skills. My practice focuses on intellectual property and technology law (including new technologies such as AI and blockchain), and I also do a significant amount of First Amendment work. I manage large teams of people and I am accountable for million-dollar budgets; I have also held several internal administrative positions at my firm.

Locally, my wife and I have been involved in the Newcomers Club, the Pelham Picture House, the Siwanoy PTA and Dads Club, the Pelham Art Center, the Junior League, the Pelham Preservation Society, Scouts, PCRA and Pelham Rec sports, among others.  My longest-serving volunteer role has been as an elder at Huguenot Memorial Church, where I have served for eight years in total.  As chair of the church’s Finance Committee, I helped the institution steer its way through the 2008-09 financial downturn, and worked closely with the Huguenot Nursery School. I also served on a task force that studied and implemented a geothermal HVAC solution for the entire church campus.

In their statements, my running mates will discuss some of the other issues that are important to us, but I would like to speak to two issues that motivate me in particular:  Sustainable infrastructure and social justice.  While these may seem unrelated, what unites them for me is that both involve building lasting frameworks for future generations.

Too many municipalities view large-scale environmental crises as outside their purview, both in terms of aiding in deterrence and in terms of mitigating their effect locally. I strongly believe that whatever your view on climate change, taking local actions that reduce our carbon footprint, emissions, and contamination of soil and water have a positive impact on the health of our community and our planet.  As candidates, we will affirmatively seek out initiatives that can enrich our community, including solar discounts, improved waste and recycling practices, electric vehicle charging, bike lanes, and sustainable care for our properties and parks. My experience with exploring geothermal solutions also has taught me that there are often ways to improve environmental impact while reducing costs, especially when “costs” are assessed not just in the short term, but over the medium- and long-term.

In terms of mitigation, as flooding continues to be an issue in our Village, we should be seriously exploring green infrastructure programs, defined federally as “measures that use plant or soil systems, permeable pavement or other permeable surfaces or substrates, stormwater harvest and reuse, or landscaping to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate stormwater and reduce flows to sewer systems or to surface waters.” Initiatives can include permeable pavements and sidewalks, structures such as planter boxes to absorb stormwater runoff, and deliberate efforts to restore tree canopy. All of these types of efforts can create a buffer to help protect our Village over time should storms grow more intense and stormwater issues increase.

Finally, one of the specific reasons I decided to become involved in this election is that I believe that our Village can be a more welcoming, open place for people with diverse backgrounds, views, and identities. In the summer of 2020, I helped draft several letters to the Village Board – ultimately signed by over 100 residents – requesting that the Village of Pelham Manor follow the Village of Pelham and Town of Pelham in flying a Pride Flag during Pride month, and that the Village Board make a public statement condemning racism. I was disheartened by the tepid response to this request, and the message that such a response sends to our community.

I believe that just as the conversation about systemic racism has gained traction nationally, a local community thrives and grows when it engages regularly in frank dialogue about how it governs, and how it treats all of its residents and visitors. Otherwise, it risks sinking into complacency. Ramsey, Andrea and I are committed to challenging our community to engage in these conversations and to become more involved in local governance, by creating more open lines of communication, holding regular community forums and events (both in-person and virtual), and by soliciting citizen involvement in Village committees. And we are committed to instituting processes within the Village government that ensure that everyone is heard, and that everyone is treated equitably.

In my experience, good things happen when people in this Village engage with each other, listen to each other, and take action. Specifically, I believe we can be a strong, caring community that embraces diverse voices while still maintaining financial stability. I believe that we can thrive economically without ignoring the environment. I believe that we can speak out and take action against injustice while still maintaining public safety.

I urge you to please remember to vote on March 16, either in person at 4 Penfield Place (the Pelham Manor Firehouse), or by absentee ballot.

And if what you hear from us resonates with you, we ask you to vote for us either on the Democratic Party line or on the Pelham Manor Forward line.


Lance Koonce