About Jen

I understand the challenges faced by our rural communities, and I understand the hardships faced by many families, because I've lived them.

When I was a child, the rug was pulled out from underneath my family when my father was laid off.  We went from living a comfortable, middle-class life, to being poor. It was a difficult time, and I remember feeling shame and embarrassment, as if I had done something wrong.

But I worked hard in school, took full advantage of a good public education, and went to college with a full financial aid package. Having access to these opportunities changed the course of my life, and inspired me to go on to get my Ph.D. in political science. Everyone should have the opportunities that I had, and the chance to live with dignity.

My husband and I moved to Rosendale 20 years ago, and we've raised our three sons here. Before I was elected to the New York State Senate in 2018, I served more than a decade in local government: I chaired the Rosendale Environmental Commission for many years, served as Deputy Town Supervisor, and served two terms on the Town Council.

I'm especially proud of the revitalization work we've done in our town: Main Street is now a vibrant business area, with many shops and restaurants, a far cry from the vacant sidewalks and boarded-up storefronts of 20 years ago. I remember how painful it was to see those boarded-up storefronts every day, but I also know the proud feeling of neighbors coming together to help a neighbor in need, to rebuild the town park, or to support a local business.

But we can only do so much at the local level. For example, there is nothing we can do at the local level to fix our broken school funding system. My boys went to three different schools in three years, as funding cuts forced our local school to close. Many people, especially seniors, simply can’t afford to pay another dollar in property taxes. This creates a vicious cycle, as it closes off opportunities for the next generation. Our local school districts can’t do anything about it. We need to balance education funding statewide.

We also can't address our ongoing farming crisis at the local level. Small farms and agricultural businesses are part of the character of our beautiful region, but these small family businesses have to work against an industry and regulatory framework that advantages big agriculture interests. We can help our local farms thrive by making sure that regulations are more flexible and size-appropriate. Most importantly, we must preserve the clean water, healthy air, and beautiful open spaces that make our area one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Fully funded schools, property tax relief, sustaining our family farms, revitalizing our small-town communities -- these are all challenges that we can only address if we work together and always remember what's important to us. I am thankful every day for the opportunities I have had in my life. Every one of us deserves the opportunity to realize our full potential.

Prior Experience

"In local government, you see the people you serve every day. You can’t make excuses. You have to be accountable."

2013-2018: Rosendale Town Council
2010-2012: Rosendale Deputy Town Supervisor
2008-2014: Chair, Rosendale Environmental Commission
2008-2013: Rosendale Zoning Code Review Committee
2009-2013: Chair, Rosendale Climate Task Force

•  Share executive, legislative, and administrative authority for the town government.
•  Serve as liaison for Energy and Climate, the Police Commission, Economic Development Commission, Recreation Commission, Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Committee, and the Dog Adoption Committee.

"We can’t fix big problems like energy dependence, water and air contamination, and the ever-increasing cost of living unless we move forward with specific, affordable alternatives. It’s not enough to say what doesn’t work. We have to build something that does work."

2013-2018: Director, Citizens for Local Power:  www.citizensforlocalpower.org
2016-2018: Working Groups of the NYS Clean Energy Advisory Council
016-2018: Mid-Hudson Streetlight Consortium Project
2015-2017: Ulster County Community Energy Program Working Group
2015-2017: Reforming the Energy Vision Public Participation Working Group

•  Fought against capacity zone changes that transfer customer electric costs from NYC to upstate. Those capacity zone changes created the funding source for "peaker plants" like CPV in Orange County, and the proposed Glide Path Power facility in Ulster.
Advocated for our communities in two utility rate proceedings before the NY Public Service Commission, where I fought for lower fixed charges and rates, stronger utility support of clean energy, and increased service reliability.
Organized support for ways towns and communities can make their own energy source decisions and stabilize/reduce costs. I have helped dozens of towns convert to LED streetlights to reduce energy use and taxpayer costs.
Organized local government opposition across five counties to the Pilgrim Pipelines.
Organized opposition to a corporate takeover of Central Hudson Gas & Electric and won concessions for labor and communities.

"There is nothing more gratifying than working together with your neighbors to improve your community."

2012-2014: Joppenbergh Mountain Advisory Group
2010-2012: Rosendale Theatre Collective Children’s Programming Committee
2014-present: Elected Officials to Protect New York (HV Co-Chair 2017-2018)
2017-present: Hudson Valley Hate-Free Zone

•  The Rosendale Theatre is a Main Street cinema that was rescued from closure by a community-led effort, and continues to be an anchor business in Rosendale.
Joppenbergh Mountain is undevelopable open space that is now managed cooperatively and is a major draw for tourism and recreation.

"My husband and I both work full time, and our three teenage boys are always busy with school and friends. But we all try to sit down for dinner together every night, because family really is everything."

2004-present: Mother of Three Boys
2000-2004: Mother of One Boy

•  Our 16-year-old twins just started 11th grade at Rondout Valley High School, and our 20-year-old is a junior at SUNY Binghamton. We’re very proud of all of them.

"Educational opportunities changed the direction of my life, and inspired me to work to make sure that everyone has the chance to live with dignity."

2004: PhD in Political Science, Rutgers University
1994-2000: Instructor, Rutgers University
1994: Instructor, Walt Whitman Center for Culture and Politics of Democracy
1988-1993: Public Affairs Coordinator, United Nations Association
1987: BA in Government with High Honors, Oberlin College

•  At the United Nations Association in the early 1990s, helped with preparations for the first international negotiations on climate change.
Taught college courses in politics, environmental policy, political economy, and international relations.
Designed and taught courses on democracy for exchange students.