Vivian McKenzie Makes History as First Black Female Mayor in Peekskill

Vivian McKenzie was sworn-in as the first Black female mayor of the City of Peekskill as Congressman Mondaire Jones, husband Eric McKenzie watch [Black Westchester]

History was made January 1st when Vivian McKenzie was sworn in as the first Black woman to be mayor in the City of Peekskill. The former Deputy Mayor became only the second Black Woman to head a municipality in Westchester County, only after Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard who made history in the November 2019 General Election. McKenzie is the third woman to hold Peekskill’s top elected post.

Approximately 200 or so were present at Peekskill’s Central Firehouse to witness the historic two-hour inaugural celebration, including her husband, Eric. Others in attendance included U.S. Congressman Mondaire Jones (17th District) and Peekskill NAACP president Valerie Eaton. Among those present on zoom were U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, New York State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, Peekskill City Court Judge Honorable Reginald Johnson, Westchester County Deputy Executive Ken Jenkins, and Westchester County Legislator Colin Smith.

“My parents instilled in us strong values, morals and the importance of education, of saving money and serving your community, church and God,” she said.

Jones joined McKenzie’s husband as she was sworn in by former Peekskill Councilwoman Drew Claxton. In a heartfelt speech of gratitude, McKenzie thanked her large, extended family and those who had supported her.

“I also realized that I didn’t just become mayor or accomplish the things that I have on a whim,” she said. “I had the strong shoulders of other women of color in my life to stand on to reach these goals.”

Schumer lauded McKenzie as a natural-born leader. “This is a great day,” he said. “Vivian has always given back to this community, not only as a small business owner of Kathleen’s Tea Room, but Vivian got here the hard, old fashion way, by working her way up the ladder step by step. Vivian has worked so hard on so many issues — grants for small businesses, outdoor space, revitalizing downtown Peekskill.”

Schumer added that McKenzie’s voice will speak out for the working poor, immigrants, exploitive workers, the elderly and for diversity. “It’s a great day for Vivian, for Peekskill and for our country. This installation represents the best of America,” Schumer said.

Jones had equal praise for McKenzie. “Vivian is going to be an incredible mayor. She’s very talented and she will rise to the occasion. I look forward to partnering with her in running local government.”

In his last official appearance, former Mayor Andre Rainey served as master of ceremonies.

“We have made history again in New York State,” he told the audience. Rainey’s 97-year-old great-grandmother gave her a blessing at the beginning of the program.

Reelected Peekskill Common Council members sworn in were Ramon Fernandez and Dwight Douglas, followed by newly elected Rob Scott. Peekskill Common Council member Patricia Riley was appointed as the new Deputy Mayor.

Also sworn-in were five Peekskill Fire Department chiefs: Fire Chief James Seymour, First Assistant Chief Michael Sniffen, second Assistant Chief John Kelly, third Assistant Chief James Sniffen and Deputy Chief John Rose.

McKenzie was born and raised in Peekskill and has raised her family here as well.  She is the Owner-Operator of the locally renowned Kathleen’s Tea Room in downtown Peekskill.  McKenzie most recently served as the Deputy Mayor of Peekskill, and before that she has sat on the City Council for seven years.