Common Council Majority Leader Bill Reynolds is stepping down after representing the residential east side neighborhoods of the Seventh Ward for nearly two decades. The race to replace him features a onetime Kingston sanitation man turned solid waste entrepreneur and a member of a family with roots in city politics.
Despite Democrat Reynolds’ long tenure there, Ward 7 is the most Republican-friendly of the city’s nine districts. Republican and Conservative Party members make up 20 percent of the electorate while registered Democrats are 28 percent of the ward’s 1,642 registered voters. Ward 7 also contains the largest proportion — 46 percent — of non-enrolled voters in the city.
Curtis Dankelmann, who’s running for the seat on the Republican and Conservative lines, said Ward 7 voters are less concerned about political parties than bread-and-butter quality-of-life issues and property values in a ward dominated by single family homes.
“The 7th Ward resident is a homeowner, a working stiff who goes out in the morning and does his job, then comes home and works on his yard,” said Dankelmann, 60. “They’re salt of the earth people.”
Dankelman is a former Kingston Department of Public Works employee who parlayed his experience hauling trash for the city into his own solid waste and recycling company. Dankelmann said he also gained some experience with the machinery of local government working as the recycling and solid waste director for Putnam County. The experience, he said, gave him a feel for the possibilities — and limitations — of public service.
“Anybody who comes in and says they’re going to do this and cut that and lower everybody’s taxes, is not a person you want to vote for,” said Dankelmann. “Because they don’t have a fiddler’s clue how things really work.”
Instead, Dankelmann said, he would focus on consolidating services within the city and with surrounding communities and the county. Dankelmann cited the dual Citibus-UCAT public transportation systems and waste transfer stations in Kingston, the Town of Ulster and Esopus and various maintenance shops for government vehicles as examples of opportunities to merge services and cut costs.
“We’ve got to get beyond this parochial idealism,” said Dankelmann. “‘I’ve got this and I’ve got that,’ it’s almost like keeping up with the Joneses.”