It’s been a wild ride. Over the last few years, many jobs — and even entire industries — have gone the way of the dinosaur as the economy collapsed. While many people feel grateful just to have a job in this topsy-turvy world, others are now rethinking the whole concept of work.
Of course, for most people, a job is more than just a way to pay the bills. Personal satisfaction, flexibility, and benefits also play a huge role in how you perceive your chosen career. For instance, while a policeman or firefighter is never going to bring home a Wall Street-size paycheck, the intrinsic satisfaction of a career spent serving others (as well as the fact that retirement comes with a pension worth half their salary after 20 years) can be more appealing.
It goes without saying that there is a huge amount of variation in salary figures even within an industry. This is especially true in the more entrepreneurial ventures. One dog groomer may pull in $35,000 a year, while in the very next town, someone else may be primping and pampering Fido to the tune of $75,000 per annum. Even among the corporate and nonprofit bigwigs there is a huge range in take-home pay. It is interesting to note that several local leaders — including two college presidents — have voluntarily lowered their salaries in recent years in an effort to avoid mass layoffs of staff at their institutions.
So where will the jobs be in the Hudson Valley in the coming years? Industry insiders tell us that healthcare and high-tech industries are poised for the greatest growth; “green” jobs will also be offering new opportunities. In this piece, you can see what some of these positions pay here in our region. We also speak with four Valleyites about the ups and downs and ins and outs of their current jobs. It’s a lot of food for thought, so get to work!
Firefighter $74,650 (average, City of Poughkeepsie)
Eric Dodd didn’t dream about being a firefighter when he was in kindergarten; nobody in his family had ever fought fires. But after a few high school pals joined the New Paltz volunteer force, Dodd gave it a shot, and soon realized “this was a passion of mine.” He went to the University of New Haven to earn a bachelor’s degree in fire science — although a college degree is not required for the job — and considers himself lucky that he quickly landed a gig with the City of Poughkeepsie Fire Department at the ripe old age of 21. Nine years later, Dodd is still burning with excitement. “I love every minute of it,” he says. “It’s the best job in the world.”
HV: Did you need to go to the fire academy even though you have a college degree?
ED: Yes, we are all trained to the same level, we can all do everything. Most guys here go to a 13-week academy in Westchester.
What is your schedule like?
We work three days on, seven to five, three full days off, and then three nights on. The nights are 14 hours. There is no routine at all. Sometimes it’s tough. You sleep when you can.
When you’re not fighting fires?
We go to car accidents, we go to EMS calls, we carry oxygen, we do basic life support until an ambulance comes. Of course we go out for alarms — oftentimes it is just someone who has burnt their food. Another thing we do is fire prevention with the kids; that is really a joy.
Any strange calls?
Well, we had a golf cart accident; being dispatched to the ninth hole was kind of strange. Then we had a guy try to harm himself by sticking his head in front of a moving train at the train station. That was an interesting one. He got pushed back onto the platform, but he survived.
What has been the most gratifying moment on the job?
Several years ago I pulled a guy from the second floor of his burning apartment. I was glad that I was at the right place at the right time.
Any injuries on the job?
We were doing some hose testing. There was an equipment malfunction with a hose that started whipping wildly in the road. I got banged up pretty badly. I was out of work for about a month, but it was not a fire.
So you can retire with a pension worth half your salary after 20 years. Do you think you’ll do that?
I honestly don’t know right now. It’s nice to know that the pension is there. It’s one of the perks of the job. We don’t get Christmas bonuses, we don’t get bonuses for doing a good job. But right now it’s nice to know that I have a steady job. I can tell you that most people do not retire at 20 years. It’s not uncommon to have guys stay over 40 years. It becomes a part of your identity, a part of your life.
What about overtime?
There is a fair amount.
So is the firehouse like it is on TV? Is somebody always cooking chili?
There is definitely some reality in what you see on TV. I’m sure someone is making dinner now. We work in this house as a group. We have a bunk room — we can’t sleep all day, of course — we have a kitchen, a day room, where we have a table and can sit around and play cards or read a magazine.
Is there a pole?
Oh yeah, we slide down the pole.
No, unfortunately. We did have a lab mix when I first got hired. She would climb on the fire engine when there was a call and go to the fire. She kept an eye on things.
What do your parents think of your job?
I have educated parents and they wanted me to continue my education outside of high school. But they respect what I do. They realize that it makes me happy, and that is really important. I don’t know if any mom would say she wants her son running into a burning building. But you know, I’m more scared to drive down the Taconic Parkway than I am to go to work in Poughkeepsie.
Caption: Sound the alarm A few of Poughkeepsie’s bravest stand tall (from left): Christopher Burke, Eric Dodd, and Andrew Stone
Doula $950 (per birth)
While nobody can deny that giving birth is one of the most natural — and wonderful — things in the world, the truth is that it can also be a frightening event for many women. The old stereotype of fathers fainting in the delivery room has thankfully faded away; men now routinely play an active part in welcoming their children into the world. But still, the long tradition of women helping women to give birth endures.
No wonder the doula profession is growing rapidly. A doula is a trained professional who provides physical, emotional and practical support to a mother before, during, and just after birth. Sandra Trimarchi of Hopewell Junction, herself a mother of three, has worked as a doula for four years. She tells us about the days (and sometimes late nights) of a doula’s life and why “it is an amazing experience to be part of something so incredible.”
HV: Before you had kids you worked with deaf and autistic children. How on earth did you decide to become a doula?
ST: Well, I had a very different birth with my third child than I did with the first two. It was completely natural, I wasn’t medicated, I didn’t even have an IV. I was really left alone to labor the way I wanted to; it was great. After my daughter was born, I realized I wanted to switch my focus and work with pregnant women.
How did you get started?
You take a training course for three full days through DONA (Doulas of North America). After that, you have to read a lot of books, write a lot of papers, and treat some clients. I became a certified postpartum doula first, then a certified birth doula, then shortly after that I became a certified lactation counselor.
What does a postpartum doula do?
It is not always about postpartum depression, though it is certainly very beneficial to those women who are suffering from that. It can be for moms who aren’t sleeping well or who are having trouble breast-feeding or for people who are new to this area and don’t have a support system. Sometimes women just want the chance to take a shower.
How does it work?
We have an initial consultation, which is free. It is really important that you can connect with your doula because you are in such close proximity with each other on labor day. Next we have a meeting, where we talk about what you like — are you comfortable with massage? Have you had any kind of trauma or anything that may affect your birth? We talk about what kind of birth you want. Then, I come over when you go into labor. After the birth, I stay with you for about an hour and make sure that you initiate breast-feeding and that everyone is comfortable. Then I go to your house when you come home and help with breast-feeding and anything else.
How much does this cost?
It’s $950 for the birth package. Sometimes I’ll offer a sliding scale if the family can’t come up with the money. After that, postpartum visits are $35-$45 an hour.
What do the dads say?
The fathers are extremely grateful. Often, they are looking at a monitor but don’t really know what is going on; they want to know — is this normal? I’m able to explain what is happening for them, to reassure them.
What hospitals do you work at?
I go all over the place. I’ve been at Vassar Brothers (in Poughkeepsie) the most. I’m in Tarrytown a lot too, Greenwich, Danbury, Rhinebeck. In December, I have a home birth.
How do you get in the right mode when it is time for a birth?
I prepare myself to leave my kids home with dad and then I enter a different mind-set; I get really excited and a little nervous, too. You think, “Will I be able to help this woman, and do everything she needs me to do?” You put your faith in the fact that birth is a natural process. And you go with it.
Did you ever miss any big family event because of a birth?
No, but I have doula friends who have had to miss Christmas morning with their kids.
Have you ever missed a birth?
No. I always hire a backup doula just in case, but I know this woman is counting on me.
In January, I am starting teacher training for yoga so that I can do prenatal and postpartum yoga and incorporate that into helping new moms.
Caption: Mother’s helper Doula Sandra Trimarchi helps moms-to-be by offering support before, during, and after the birth of a new baby
Elementary School Teacher $72,000 (average)
Hyde Park resident Brian Alnwick, 41, teaches fifth grade at Nassau Spackenkill Elementary School in Poughkeepsie. A graduate of Dutchess Community College and SUNY New Paltz, Alnwick has been a teacher at the school for 18 years.
HV: Most people would say that teachers are relatively well-paid, and that they have a certain amount of job security. Did that factor into your decision to become a teacher?
BA: Absolutely not. Teaching, I think, is something that you’re born to do. It’s pretty much a calling.
How and when did you determine that you were born to do it?
When I was 14, I volunteered at rehabilitation programs with handicapped children in Poughkeepsie. I fell in love with children then, their innocence, the way they carried themselves, everything about them. I thought I wanted to go into business. I did one semester of classes at DCC, and realized that business was not for me. I got a job with the YMCA, helping out with the after-school program there, and that solidified my decision to become an educator.
The children you teach are 10-11 years old. Is it easier to teach them than it is younger kids?
Younger kids require a lot more patience — the runny noses, the tears, the zippers. At the fifth-grade level, they’re still young enough to be innocent about the world, but old enough that I can talk with them, not just to them. I can get information about their lives, and I can share my experiences with them, and try to open their eyes to the different things we’re trying to expose them to.
Now turn that around: what’s the downside of working with this age group?
The biggest challenge is keeping them entertained. Video games and TV companies have billions of dollars to spend trying to get their attention. I have four walls and myself. So I have to be a showman, and I am: I stand on my hands, walk on the desks — anything to get their attention. And they remember that, too.
Elementary school teachers are most often female. Are there any specific difficulties in being a male teacher of young kids?
I’m always concerned with how people perceive male elementary school teachers, especially in light of some of the news articles that have come out of kids being abused. I try very hard to put an end to that negative perception. It’s never been a problem for me personally. I think by bringing sports into the classroom, my family into the classroom, my life into the classroom, people see me as a whole person. But I don’t give hugs, just fist-pumps or high-fives. Which is sad, because some of the kids really need a hug.
Do the kids have a different perception of you because you are male?
I don’t know. I like to think that it’s because of me, that they’re treating me a certain way because of who I am. I have a bit of a deeper voice than a female, and sometimes it’s a little louder, but aside from that… I think they are young enough at this point that they see us all as just people.
So who’s more difficult to deal with: the kids, or their parents?
(Laughs.) The parents in this district are wonderful. Every now and then you get one who is hard to deal with, but I really can’t say that as a whole the parents are difficult. I click with kids, though. I’d much rather spend an afternoon with 3,000 kids than five parents.
What was the funniest thing one of your students ever said to you?
One student asked me, “Mr. Alnwick, how do you spell ‘relief?’ ” And I said, “R-O-L-A-I-D-S.” And the kids all wrote it down!
I have so much fun here. We laugh all the time. There are times when I have to be stern, and then I have to walk outside into the hall because I’m laughing.
You have children of your own, right?
Yes. They’re 11, 10, 8 and 5 — all boys.
Do you find that being a teacher makes you a better parent, or does being a parent make you a better teacher?
Both are true. I have seen through the years what to do with my own children, and what not to do with them. I have had some great role models both ways.
Saying that, I’ve also experienced the other side: nighttime when the kids come home, there are 7,000 different activities — and homework — and the juggling act that goes on in households. I think I see things in a different light than would a teacher who did not have children. I don’t give as much homework as I used to.
If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
I’d change the demands of the state in terms of what they expect children to do on their assessments. We tend to look at children in terms of numbers. We need to look at their experience over the course of a year, rather than just during a single test. We try to fit everybody into the same square hole, and we shouldn’t be doing that. Education does not have the respect that I think it should have. It’s the gateway to our future. If you look at teachers in other countries, they are revered; right now, there’s a lot of teacher-bashing going on here. That’s very bothersome to me, as a person and as an educator.
I think education is changing right now, going through a metamorphosis. Children are our future, they are all we have. I don’t want everyone to be a robot. I want their strengths to come out, rather than just meeting the mandated criteria. Everyone is an individual, I want that to shine.
What do you like best about being a teacher?
The children. Their innocence, their enthusiasm, their willingness to learn, to soak things up, their playfulness, their honesty. When we become adults we become more reserved in what we say and do. Children will tell you, they’ll come right out and say it: “Mr. Alnwick, your hair looks awful today.” That aspect of children is wonderful.
School Superintendent $189,005 (for 2009)
Lois Powell, who has been the superintendent of the Spackenkill School District in Poughkeepsie for the last seven years, essentially oversees all aspects of the district’s operation: academics, curriculum, personnel, financial accountability, operating efficiency, and health and safety. She also advises and communicates with the school board and implements its policy initiatives. So, the former teacher is basically the public face of the school district — the CEO if you will. But to the kids, says Powell, “I’m just the person who closes school on snow days.”
HV: Are you a saver or a spender?
LP: I’m more of a spender. I like to spend on experiences — travel, theater, cultural events.
What would you do with an unexpected windfall?
I’d share it, first of all. I used to do a lot of work for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. I would give to them. They do amazing work for kids going through a tough time.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The worst is knowing that you’ll never make everybody happy. The best thing is any direct interaction with the kids. That’s still the highlight. Indirectly, it’s what you can do for the kids behind the scenes. Making sure the schools are healthy, safe, caring places that operate efficiently and responsibly.
Do you get to interact with the kids often?
I meet a few times a year with teams of student leaders at the various schools. It’s an open dialogue. The kids are what it’s all about. Recently, I happened to run into a kindergarten student with his grandmother. I was aware that he was having a tough time transitioning to school. His grandmother introduced me by saying that I was friends with Dr. Sicina (the principal of this kindergartener’s elementary school). The boy got very upset and said, “Don’t talk about that!” But we had a conversation about sometimes having to go places we don’t like to go, and we ended up high-fiving each other.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A teacher. I used to play school with my father. We had a little classroom set up in the attic. I always think about how patient and supportive he was in being my first student. I couldn’t bring myself to call my father by his real first name, so I gave him the name Billy for when we were playing school. Billy got into trouble a lot too, let me tell you!
Future job prospects in education?
The economy is tough for new teachers looking to get jobs. Salaries are certainly becoming more of an issue as people are questioning contracts at every level. Many will see the slowing of growth of salaries. Across the state, there are many retirees in the near future at the superintendent level. •
Are you better paid — or worse off — than someone doing the same job in another part of the country? See how your salary compares
*Local mean, National mean,
Occupation annual wage
School Bus Driver $34,850 $28,050
Bakers $25,310 $25,350
Plumbers, Pipefitters, Steamfitters $57,900 $49,870
Electricians $62,170 $50,850
Legal Secretaries $39,330 $42,940
Postal Service Mail Carriers $47,980 $48,940
Tellers $25,440 $24,780
Real Estate Sales Agents $45,000 $53,100
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors $33,870 $35,340
*Local mean, National mean,
Occupation annual wage
Maids, Housekeeping Cleaners $21,460 $20,840
Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, Other Recreational Protective Services $22,420 $20,490
Home Health Aides $29,370 $21,620
Veterinarians $104,730 $90,110
Physical Therapists $82,020 $76,220
Public Relations $57,380 $59,370
Graphic Designers $45,070 $47,820
Floral Designers $26,140 $24,940
Librarians $63,420 $55,670
Lawyers $108,790 $129,020
How’re we doing?
The state of the Hudson Valley economy is… “improving.”
So says Dr. Christy Huebner Caridi, affiliate assistant professor of economics and director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Marist College.
That’s not to say it’s great, of course. “Unemployment, underemployment, home foreclosures, and housing values remain important concerns,” Caridi says. Indeed. Marist’s quarterly “Economic Report of the Hudson Valley,” published in October, showed that unemployment remained at nearly 7.25 percent at the end of the second quarter of 2010. As has been the case throughout the economic downturn, residents in the lower Valley (Putnam-Rockland-Westchester) experienced a lower rate of joblessness than those in the upper Valley.
But things are getting incrementally better. The unemployment rate has fallen, from 8.28 percent in the first quarter of 2010. But wages increased in only three Valley counties in the period between the first quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010: Westchester (up 7.8 percent), Rockland (up 3.6 percent), and Greene (up 2.32 percent), indicating less-than-robust growth. Home prices in the region are also showing slight improvement, but remain well below the peaks recorded prior to the mortgage crisis.
Caridi believes, however, that things are poised to get a lot better. “The region is in a unique position to capitalize on the structural changes occurring in the national economy,” she says. By that she means the shift from old industry to new, as represented by high-tech and green-based manufacturing. “The region’s highly trained labor force, in concert with established industrial campuses with access to the Hudson River, have made it a magnet for green economy jobs,” she says. “Proximity to New York City is an important added attraction.”
It will take several years, Caridi says, for the national economy to reemploy the pre-December 2007 labor force and generate enough new jobs to provide gainful employment for new entrants. But the Hudson Valley may be one area leading the way.
“The region’s business leaders and economic development agencies are forward-thinking. They have recognized the need to position the region for green development, and they have done it,” she says. “I am very impressed by what I have seen. New jobs are already here, and more are coming. We are in a very good position.” — David Levine
County Employees Salaries vary widely from towns to cities throughout our region. The fire and police employees from Clarkstown in Rockland County take home the most pay, with an average salary of $146,067. In fact, Clarkstown Chief of Police Peter Noonan is the highest paid municipal employee in the state (outside of New York City) with an annual salary of $301,534.
County Employees Salary
Columbia 918 $41,691
Greene 540 $40,614
Dutchess 2,149 $55,545
Orange 2,806 $51,101
Putnam 628 $64,548
Rockland 2,854 $62,126
Ulster 1,938 $45,951
Town Employees Salary
Chatham 20 $40,274
Chatham (village) 12 $23,194 Fire & Police 15 $14,500
Hudson (city) 65 $34,782
Fire & Police 26 $63,552
Kinderhook 24 $27,463
Kinderhook (village) 11 $14,567
Town Employees Salary
Catskill 61 $25,342
Catskill (village) 31 $38,893 Fire & Police 20 $41,550
Hunter 29 $21,366
(village) 7 $30,987
Fire & Police 10 $13,557
Windham 38 $18,860
Fire & Police 9 $11,786
Town Employees Salary
Ellenville (village) 27 $33,791
Fire & Police 24 $29,952
Highland 16 $24,730
Kingston 6 $23,256
Kingston (city) 197 $41,572
Fire & Police 129 $67,241
New Paltz 55 $32,362
Fire & Police 31 $53,559
New Paltz (village) 23 $36,665
Rosendale 31 $32,089
Fire & Police 10 $17,009
Saugerties (village) 31 $35,712
Fire & Police 12 $54,109
Woodstock 54 $34,335
Fire & Police 15 $40,252
Town Employees Salary
Beacon (city) 62 $58,007
Fire & Police 49 $91,950
East Fishkill 86 $46,469
Fire & Police 32 $80,061
Fishkill 70 $37,348
Fire & Police 32 $21,792
Hyde Park 51 $33,150
Fire & Police 15 $65,702
Millbrook (village) 9 $27,569
Pawling 38 $31,597
Pawling (village) 11 $28,480
Poughkeepsie 148 $49,047
Fire & Police 83 $82,924
Poughkeepsie (city) 210 $49,043
Fire & Police 163 $77,650
Red Hook (village) 7 $28,390
Fire & Police 10 $20,924
Rhinebeck 26 $32,219
Town Employees Salary
Cornwall 62 $35,277
Fire & Police 18 $48,776
Cornwall (village) 28 $42,200
Fire & Police 16 $23,550
Goshen 42 $37,706
Fire & Police 16 $55,458
Goshen (village) 40 $42,537
Fire & Police 20 $74,575
Harriman (village) 18 $39,550
Fire & Police 8 $72,320
Highland Falls (village) 23 $43,511
Fire & Police 14 $60,434
Kiryas Joel (village) 21 $69,795
Middletown (city) 145 $45,787
Fire & Police 103 $80,067
Montgomery 52 $34,911
Fire & Police 26 $52,316
Montgomery (village) 23 $35,560
Fire & Police 16 $10,788
New Windsor 103 $46,494
Fire & Police 43 $85,308
Newburgh 123 $40,521
Fire & Police 57 $78,660
Newburgh (city) 143 $48,938
Fire & Police 145 $85,757
Port Jervis (city) 57 $45,008
Fire & Police 32 $79,014
Tuxedo 33 $42,573
Fire & Police 12 $70,562
Tuxedo Park (village) 16 $59,043
Fire & Police 6 $43,101
Warwick 99 $42,491
Fire & Police 36 $78,148
Washingtonville (village) 21 $53,685
Fire & Police 14 $76,272
Woodbury 55 $40,854
Fire & Police 23 $90,151
Town Employees Salary
Brewster (village) 12 $54,416
Fire & Police 8 $11,060
Carmel 94 $56,390
Fire & Police 35 $101,658
Cold Spring (village) 19 $23,257
Fire & Police 10 $17,453
Kent 76 $45,165
Fire & Police 20 $81,858
Town Employees Salary
Clarkstown 402 $63,414
Fire & Police 168 $146,067
Haverstraw 109 $41,810
Fire & Police 72 $130,331
Haverstraw (village) 49 $41,035
Nyack (village) 48 $47,976
Orangetown 222 $64,588
Fire & Police 90 $118,592
Piermont (village) 16 $46,062
Fire & Police 8 $129,492
Pomona (village) 5 $26,675
Ramapo 235 $63,231
Fire & Police 113 $132,467
Spring Valley (village) 101 $37,696
Fire & Police 58 $118,497
Suffern (village) 80 $41,648
Fire & Police 28 $118,932
Source: Empire Center for New York State Policy
Local Politicians (2009 salaries)
Beacon Mayor Steve Gold $25,000
Poughkeepsie Mayor John Tkazyik $25,000
Newburgh Mayor Nicholas Valentine $9,000
New Paltz Mayor Terry Dungan $25,000
Orange County Executive Edward Diana $161,293
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein $106,959
Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus $138,908
Congressman Maurice Hinchey $174,000
Congressman John Hall $174,000
Source: Empire Center for New York State Policy
Public School Superintendents (2009 compensation)
Cornwall Central School District Superintendent Timothy Rehm $177,609
Ellenville Central School District Superintendent Lisa Wiles $168,406
Newburgh City School District Superintendent Dr. Annette Saturnelli $217,397
Port Jervis City School District Superintendent John P. Xanthis $191,063
Tuxedo Union Free Schools Superintendent Joseph P. Zanetti $208,617
Private Schools (2009 compensation)
Woodstock Day School Head of School James Handlin $133,417
Rockland Country Day School Headmaster Lee Hancock $133,000
New York Military Academy Superintendent Robert D. Watts $122,862
Millbrook School Headmaster Drew J. Casertano $267,442
Darrow School Head of School Nancy M. Wolf $147,352
Source: IRS Form 990
Please note that both Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill and CIA President Tim Ryan voluntarily reduced their salaries due to the current economic climate. Hill will take a five percent reduction in her 2010-2011 salary; Ryan’s office says he declared $531,438.58 in 2009 — more than $200,000 less than the previous year.
Marist College President Dennis J. Murray 2006-07: $407,600 2007-08: $440,725
Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill 2006-07: $350,000 2007-08: $390,500
Bard College President Leon Botstein 2006-07: $265,354 2007-08: $273,315
Culinary Institute of America President Tim Ryan (2008): $747,981
Interim SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian: $200,000
Marist College Professor: $97,900 (avg.)
Vassar College Professor: $121,100 (avg.)
Bard College Professor: $117,200 (avg.)
Sources: The Chronicle of Higher Education and IRS Form 990
And More …
Donna McAleer President/CEO, Elant, Inc. $529,328
Steven V. Lant CEO, president, and chairman of the board, CH Energy Group (Central Hudson) Salary: $525,000 Total Compensation: $2,308,319
Rocco B. Commisso CEO, chairman of the board, Mediacom Communications Corp. 2009 Salary: $850,000 2009 Total Compensation: $4,155,100
Metro-North conductor (with five years experience): $36.83 per hour
Hudson Valley Renegades player: $600 to $1,100 per month, plus meal money. (Signing bonuses can be anywhere from five to seven figures.)
Toll collector, Bear Mt. Bridge: $16 per hour
West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, Jr.: $188,319
Mixologist at Shadows on the Hudson: upward of $200 on a weekend night
Corrections Officer trainee: $36,420
Corrections Officer (after one year on the job): $43,867
Ned Sullivan, president, Scenic Hudson (2008): $261,071
Jeffrey Rumpf, executive director, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (2008): $82,752
Sources: Phone interviews, Forbes.com, and IRS Form 990