HUDSON — Wednesday’s Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation Committee meeting appeared to have no ill will after the mayor announced the director of the city’s Youth Department was reinstated after being demoted for less than a week.
At the meeting, held at City Hall, 520 State St., Nick Zachos announced he will be staying on as director of the Youth Department, hours after he, Mayor Rick Rector and Youth Commissioner Mark Bryant issued statements about the move. Zachos was briefly demoted from the position Nov. 1, which sparked outcry from city residents.
“I am writing to express my willingness and enthusiasm to remain in my position as the director of Hudson Department of Youth,” Zachos said in his statement. “The department will be developing and implementing new practices and policies to improve efficiency and accountability moving forward, which will provide improved and increased services for our community’s youth.”
Rector declined Wednesday to explain the demotion or why the decision was reversed.
“We can’t discuss any personnel issues, so I just want to give that warning,” 1st Ward Alderman Kamal Johnson said to the public before the comment period. “…I am very happy that Nick [Zachos] will remain with us after many conversations with the mayor and common council president, I think it is the right decision.”
During the meeting’s public comment period, Johnson called on the crowd to be respectful and to keep “all items to themselves” — a nod to an incident where feces were thrown at the mayor during a meeting Nov. 1 about the 2019 Youth Department budget.
“I wanted to express how glad I am and the mayor for understanding the importance of his [Zachos’] role in this community,” city resident Maija Reed said.
Pamela Badila, an educator at Kite’s Nest, a center for liberatory education based on Front Street, called on officials to make future decisions public.
“I definitely agree with having transparency — we just have to be careful from an HR [human resources] perspective and for the safety of Nick [Zachos],” Johnson replied.
“In the spirit of moving forward and making positive progress, I am appreciative of the mayor for making this process move forward in this way and responding and listening to the public,” said Kaya Weidman, executive director and youth educator at Kite’s Nest. “I am grateful for the ability to have these kinds of conversations and the exchange. Thank you for your willingness to respond in kind.”
Johnson applauded city youth who showed up at the Nov. 1 meeting.
“They [the youth] got to see that their voice mattered,” Johnson said.
Weidman asked committee members how city youth can become more involved in the committee’s operations in the future. A youth advisory board used to exist, said committee member 5th Ward Alderman Dominic Merante. A new advisory committee could be formed in response to the latest developments surrounding Zachos’ demotion and his reinstatement, he said.
Common Council President Thomas DePietro asked the public in January to volunteer for various committees, he said. DePietro reiterated that statement at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The one caveat is that they can’t be voting members of the committee because they are not elected, nut that doesn’t mean their power would be diminished,” he said. “They would be heard, but it does mean a commitment you have to show up to meeting.”
The youth department’s proposed 2019 budget is projected to be $540,832, Zachos said. About 100 youths attend night programs at the Youth Center, located at 18 S. Third St., Zachos said, adding about 200 attended summer programs at Oakdale Beach.
“Today, I have advised the mayor that after careful deliberation, conversations and discussions regarding the direction and management of the Youth Department, Nick Zachos and I have come to an agreed understanding of improvements needed for the department and he will remain in his position as the director of the Youth Department,” Bryant said in a statement before the meeting.
Bryant was not present at Wednesday’s meeting.
“This has been a difficult period for the department, however, it is my belief and intent that Nick and I will be able to closely work together, in improving all efforts towards making the department the best possible facility for the youth of our community,” Bryant said.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to email@example.com, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.