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The First Woman Mayor

John Conway - Sullivan County Historian
Posted 3/19/21

It was March 19, 1974, and voters in the village of Monticello elected the first woman mayor in Sullivan County history. Anne Kaplan, who had been serving as acting mayor since January, defeated …

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The First Woman Mayor

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It was March 19, 1974, and voters in the village of Monticello elected the first woman mayor in Sullivan County history. Anne Kaplan, who had been serving as acting mayor since January, defeated former village manager Thomas Belmont by 62 votes in the historic election.

“It's one of the happiest moments of my life—the second happiest moment I should say since I became a grandmother at the age of 36,” Ms. Kaplan told the Times Herald-Record following her victory. “The vote of confidence that my beautiful community has given me is something I will always cherish.”

Anne Kaplan was born to Isadore and Esther Rappaport on April 20, 1921, and grew up on a farm in Maplewood, just outside Monticello, attending a one-room schoolhouse along with her six siblings. She married Moe Kaplan, and together they ran Kaplan's Deli on Broadway in Monticello for more than 30 years. Under her watchful eye it became one of the most famous eateries in the Mountains, and its name was recognized throughout the country.

Ms. Kaplan was long active in local affairs, and in 1971 she became the first woman ever elected to the Village Board in Monticello. She was an active and outspoken trustee, and when mayor David Kaufman was elected Town of Thompson Supervisor in November of 1973, she immediately became the favorite to replace him.

“Being the first woman mayor in the county would really be a feather in my cap,” she said at the time. “I've come a long way from a girl, born on a farm, who attended a one-room school.”

When she was appointed acting mayor in January of 1974, she became the first woman ever to hold that office in any of the six villages in Sullivan County. That March, after an often contentious campaign, she was elected to the post.

Ms. Kaplan was also active in New York State Democratic party circles, and she was selected as co-chair of the party's 24th annual Women's Conference in Albany in 1975, which also featured newly elected Assemblywoman Jean Amatucci. Appropriately, the theme of the conference was, “The New Face of Government, 1975.”

Ms. Kaplan served as mayor until 1976, when she lost her bid for re-election.

Following her defeat— she lost to retired banker Edwin Motl by just under 100 votes—Ms. Kaplan said she couldn't give any specific reasons for her loss.

“I haven't really sat down to analyze it,” she told TH-Record reporter Tom Weir. “I just know I gave all I could give. I did the best I know how.”

She remained popular even in defeat, and later that year more than 175 Monticello residents signed a petition asking that a new street in the village be named Anne Kaplan Drive.

“I think this a wonderful gesture in view of the fact that I am a lifelong Monticello resident,” Ms. Kaplan said when asked about the petition by a reporter. “And I did become the first woman mayor.”

The petition apparently did not impress the Republican controlled Village Board, and the measure never came to a vote.

Ms. Kaplan's legacy as mayor included construction of the Monticello Neighborhood Facility on Jefferson Street, and the Sullivan County Government Center, located in the village, also became a reality during her tenure.

She moved to Houston in later years, and then to Las Vegas, before returning to Sullivan County. Suffering from Alzheimer's, she died at the Achieve Nursing Facility in Liberty on October 2, 2012. She was 91.

“I cannot think of Monticello and Sullivan County without fondly remembering Anne Kaplan,” former Congressman Matt McHugh told the Sullivan County Democrat newspaper at the time of her death. “She was a warm and beautiful person, known and loved by her family and many friends and admirers. ... She was a good friend and for me was representative of the warmth and genuine quality of the people of Sullivan County. She will be long remembered and sorely missed by us all.”

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.

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