● Problem-solving leader
● Executive Director for 6 nonprofits
● Master’s Degree in Business Leadership
● Classroom teacher for more than a decade
● Successful small business entrepreneur
● Lifelong service to community organizations
Peter Criswell is serving his first term as an Ulster County Legislator. He serves as Deputy Chair of the Health & Social Services Committee and is a member of the Energy & Environment Committee and the Legislative Programs, Education, and Community Services Committee. He was appointed, by County Executive Ryan, to the Behavioral Health Task Force.
His priorities include ensuring that Ulster County has laws, policies, and resolutions that defend human rights, build the economy, and protect the environment. He’s committed to working with colleagues and constituents to develop pathways to quality affordable housing; to provide equitable opportunities for residents to use the county’s educational resources; to support county services and programs; and to encourage economic development in an atmosphere of inclusiveness and transparency. He’s particularly interested in advancing the county’s thriving arts scene, as he understands the power of art to change lives, bring communities together, and serve as a force for economic growth.
Born in Bethlehem, PA., he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bard College and a Master of Science degree in Business Leadership and Strategic Management from Manhattanville College. His professional career has focused on the nonprofit sector. He’s worked as Executive Director for six nonprofit groups: Hudson River Heritage, Historic Philadelphia Inc. & Betsy Ross House, the International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership, the New York City Gay Men's Chorus & Youth Pride Chorus, the Dharmakaya Center for Wellbeing, in Cragsmoor, N.Y, and currently, the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center.
Mr. Criswell is currently serving his second term on the City of Kingston’s Arts Commission. He sits on the Bard College Alumni/ae Association Board of Governors and served as that body’s president for two years. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Key of Q, the Hudson Valley’s LGBTQ and Allied Acapella Singers.
A fun fact is that he portrays old Rip Van Winkle in the annual Sinterklass parade in Kingston. He is looking forward to continuing to serve the communities and people of Ulster County and the constituents of District 7 - City of Kingston Wards 6, 7, and 8.
➢ Restored funding to social services organizations
During the budget approval process, constituents alerted me that a number of critical social service agencies, serving domestic violence victims and children and families at risk, were slated for drastically reduced or eliminated funding. I communicated with the heads of agencies, including Family of Woodstock, Family Services, Families Now (YWCA), and Youth Advocate Program; organized constituents to write to the legislative Ways & Means Committee; and initiated discussions with county Deputy Executives. I then worked with the County Clerk’s office and a fellow legislator to craft budget amendments to fully restore the funding. After lining up bipartisan support, I presented amendments that passed both the committee and in the full legislature, restoring funding to all the agencies.
➢ Protected local libraries and arts organizations from proposed funding cuts
In the budget process, libraries and the arts faced drastically reduced funding. During the pandemic, with schools shuttered and parents struggling to keep children engaged, local libraries and arts programs have been an invaluable support. I led the effort to protect them from proposed cuts by reaching out to the director of the Kingston Library and the Executive Directors of Arts Mid-Hudson and Ulster County Performing Arts. With their input I crafted a message to constituents around the county via directors of every county library, Midtown Arts District, Kingston Arts Commission, Saugerties Arts Commission, and individual artists. More than 100 constituents sent emails to legislators. I also crafted a letter urging fellow legislators to support the libraries and the arts, ultimately I gaining bipartisan support from the full legislature to restore vital funding for these critical community agencies.
➢ Joined the effort to fight the loss of mental health beds in Ulster County
I co-sponsored a memorializing resolution that called on HealthAlliance to bring back to the county 40 in-patient mental health beds, 20 dedicated to chemical dependency. I worked within the Public Health Committee to find incentives to bring HealthAlliance back to the negotiating table, and urged the County Executive to continue discussions with HealthAlliance as well as come up with alternative solutions until the beds are restored, such as enhancing the county’s mobile mental health services.