Wesley Lee Seeking City of Poughkeepsie Mayoral Bid

By Jennifer L. Warren

POUGHKEEPSIE – Wesley Lee has seen first-hand the ugliness of the human spirit and the racial divide it can create; he has also witnessed the beauty of fighting for justice, bringing people together, and being a priceless part of progress.

Lee, a long-time resident of the City of Poughkeepsie, who has been married to his wife Charlene for 27 years and has seven daughters and nine grandchildren, spent his childhood in North Carolina and teenage years in Baltimore before attending A & T State University in the mid-60’s during The Civil Rights Movement. Equipped with a political science major and history minor, the passionate, young Lee was intent on helping bring any piece of inclusion – fairness and equality – he could back to his hometown of Ayden, North Carolina.

“I remember helping to integrate the businesses, particularly the movie theater,” recalled Lee, who pointed out how African-Americans were relegated to the balcony. “What was amazing about that experience was the African-American actor Sidney Poitier was the lead in the movie – Lillies of the Field – that was playing there when the integration went into effect, and for that role, he went on to become the first black actor to win an Oscar.”

Embedded in Lee’s memory, that moment served as an early reminder of the potency for community (and beyond) involvement and advocacy, gems he has carried with him, intensifying over time, for over half a century. It’s also the bedrock upon which he stands as he makes his City of Poughkeepsie Mayoral bid, whose elections take place at a June, 2023 date to be determined. For the remainder of the year the position will continue to be held by Mark Nelson, who replaced Rob Rollison when he stepped into his New York State Senate role last month.

Meanwhile, Lee, who carries 14 years of New York City Public Housing Management experience as well as a four year role as Executive Director of the Greenburgh Housing Authority, another year as the Resident Initiative Coordinator for Poughkeepsie Housing Authority-helping people find good housing and jobs- and another six years with the Poughkeepsie School District, where he helped lower income families improve quality of life through the power of literacy, is now hoping to bring that expertise to the political realm.

“Retired,” Lee these days is a history professor at Dutchess Community College as well as creator of the not-for-profit, “Save at Risk Children for Corporate America (SARCA),” Lee has always held a special place in his heart for the youth, a central impetus for his Mayoral aspirations.

“The Poughkeepsie City School District has been performing way below average, graduating less than half of their class,” indicated Lee. “My real passion is to help change that, working to improve the schools with the School Board and Superintendent, which I feel is the missing link.” He added, “Poughkeepsie is a wonderful place to live, but the low graduation rate really needs to improve, and I’m hoping my platform as Mayor can help me ask for the needed resources from the state, local businesses and other places to help make that happen.”

Lee has seen up-close-and-personal the positive impact of partnerships with his not-for-profit. Having local college students assist eighth graders in math, science and English, SARCA is serving as an effective motivator to make high school a more attractive option than the streets.

“The idea is to help kids to take some of the knowledge they are using for bad things, such as selling drugs, and use that business sense to go to college,” said Lee about SARCA’s objective. “They can see how college is a better choice than joining a gang, as they will be helping society rather than going to jail and using their knowledge as a negative; it’s a program I would really like to see develop as Mayor.”

Another issue Lee is hopeful to address- and possesses extensive experience with- is affordable housing for all people. He doesn’t simply aspire to people stopping at securing the needed housing, but more pressingly: attaining and empowering themselves with the needed knowledge and skills to reach for more.

“I want to do everything possible to help people to develop financial literacy, so they can move out of public housing and move on to even a better situation,” explained Lee about his affordable housing philosophy.

Developing the Waterfront area so all people can enjoy it as well as more transparency, “so people really know what is going on in City Hall,” are other cornerstones of Lee’s campaign platform.

When asked why people should cast their vote for Lee in a little over four months time, the life-long fighter for others, who deeply believes in the physical beauty, talents of its people, multiple offerings and untapped potential of the City of Poughkeepsie, was quick to respond.

“The City of Poughkeepsie deserves better,” said Lee. “I want to help take them in that direction.”

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