NEWBURGH, N.Y. — Two-term Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy has died after a long battle with cancer.
Kennedy was first elected to office in 2011 as a Democrat, and captured her reelection four years later when she ran as an Independent.
Kennedy had been in hospice care, where she was battling ovarian cancer.
Local leaders applauded Kennedy's fight against the disease, all while continuing to serve a leading role in the community, with City Manager Michael Ciaravino recently sitting down with her to go over plans for Newburgh moving forward.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus released a statement on Kennedy's passing, saying: "Mayor Kennedy made a long-lasting impression on the City of Newburgh. She will be missed for her hard work, compassion and commitment to the residents of Newburgh."
Kennedy was 73 years old.
On Sunday, there were tributes to Mayor Kennedy throughout the city.
One was at a coffee shop she used to frequent, where a patron offered to buy coffee for anyone wishing to come in to talk about Ms. Kennedy and her contributions to Newburgh.
"She was the strongest human being that I know," said Rich Fracassee, a Newburgh native who is now rehabilitating homes in the area. "I've met hundreds of new people because of her. Most of the people you see here are [here] because of Judy."
Fracasse is one of many business owners who praised the late mayor for marketing the city to up-and-coming, ambitious entrepreneurs, and then sticking with them once they decided to make investments in Newburgh.
"She was a big influence on me and a lot of people," said Melanie Collins, who owns and operates Blacc Vanilla Cafe with her husband. "I know, for me, as a woman in business, the conversations that I had with her certainly motivated me to stay strong and fight the good fight."
Kennedy's closest friends said that even in her final days, Ms. Kennedy's main concern was that the positive business and social culture she worked so hard to foster would continue to improve.
"We see that (Kennedy's influence) in the leadership that has worked with her," Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino said in an interview on Sunday, a few hours after learning of her passing. "We certainly work and try to model from her example in our administrative practices, to listen to all voices, and to try to build common ground to establish a common path forward."
Several colleagues said on Sunday that Kennedy deserves credit for blunting the mortgage crisis and taking the beginning steps in diversifying the city's tax base, but most of the praise was for her intangibles and her composure as a leader.
City Council must now appoint a replacement to serve the last year of Mayor Kennedy's second term.
Her colleague on council and her one-time political opponent, Councilman Jonathan Jacobson said "no one can dispute her commitment and dedication to the city of Newburgh."