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Brian Maher mixes parenting and politics

Brian Maher, Supervisor of the Town of Montgomery

Brian Maher, Supervisor of the Town of Montgomery in Orange County, enjoys his roles as civic leader, husband, and parent, all of which contribute to his ideal of giving back to his community.

Brian Maher, who was sworn in as Supervisor of the Town of Montgomery in Orange County in January, believes he's found a perfect mix of his roles as a parent and civic leader. That's because the various aspects of his life feed a greater whole, which, in turn, feeds his belief in giving back to the community that he calls home.

Maher is quick to sing the praises of his daughter, Mia, who'll turn six on April 3, and point out the role she and his wife Becky, a local teacher, have played in his success.

"Mia is the love of my life," said Maher. "She's changed every part of who I am and made me more mindful of others' issues. She's taught me what it means to be in charge of another's life, and how that brings us together."

Born and raised in the Village of Walden, where he later served as mayor (2009 to 2015), Maher, 34, is the youngest of five kids. His father's family was originally from Newburgh; his mother came to Orange County from Puerto Rico when she was in her teens. 

"We're a true town and village success story," Maher said of his family, all of whom still live in the area except for a sister, who serves in the military. "It's fed my will to give back."

After high school, Maher received a basketball scholarship to Post University in Waterbury Connecticut. But when play-related injuries interfered with his scholarship, he left the school and transferred to Brooklyn College. By then, Maher's perspective had begun to shift.

"I got bit by the political bug," he said. His basketball coach at Post had asked him to fill the team's community service quota by working for Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits around Connecticut. At Brooklyn College, Maher continued such activities, eventually working in political advocacy, which took him to Washington, D.C. and Albany, where he found himself excited by the halls of power.

"I wanted to fill those chairs," he said. "I wanted to be involved in everything I saw, to help with every issue, from infrastructure and community planning to job creation and youth issues," Maher said, looking back on when he was 21. "I loved every aspect of that world I discovered."

By the age of 23, he made the decision to run for mayor of Walden, his hometown. And won.
   "We never had political discussions at home when I was growing up," Maher said, adding that he found his work with non-profits in college and advocacy work in Albany left him open-minded and with a deep respect for everyone. But loss, also, has has a role in his success, including his sole political defeat to date.

In 2011, the state's 101 Assembly district was gerrymandered into a long salamander-shape that stretched, town by town, south from Herkimer County to the Hudson River in Orange County. Maher decided there was a need for representation from the southern part of the new district and took on incumbent assemblywoman Claudia Tenney as a centrist Republican. He lost.

From that loss Maher learned how to primary another member of his party, which became essential to his win against an incumbent Republican supervisor in last November's election in the Town of Montgomery. The run also connected him to his wife, Becky, with the couple going on to help co-found Hudson Valley Honor Flights. Their daughter, Mia, was born as Maher prepared to move from his mayorship, taking on a role as communications director for the late State Senator William Larkin.

"I love sharing all of (Mia's) special occasions now that I no longer need to be in Albany," he said of his frequent commutes as Walden's mayor. "I love showing up as Supervisor to read for her kindergarten class, being there for her ballet concerts, taking her to basketball practice. I love that Mia knows where I work, and what it is I do. It's my hope that her experience spending time with me in my office will help her be community-minded as she grows up."

"Community," he said. "It's what we're all about."

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley.

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