Ulster County’s government shakeup and redistricting plan cut 10 legislators of 33 from the mix up in Kingston. Those changes will finally come home to roost next week, when voters in Lloyd, Plattekill and Marlborough get to decide who will represent them in the new District 9 and District 10.
For some voters, they’ll only have one candidate to choose from. For others, it’ll be a classic showdown between Republican and Democrat.
Last week, this paper interviewed the three County Legislature candidates stepping up to the plate on Nov. 8 in the Highland area. Here’s what they had to say.
Wayne Harris goes it alone in 9
In District 9 – which covers the western half of Lloyd and northeastern Plattekill – the race to win a county government seat is being sought by only one man, Republican Wayne Harris.
Harris, 63, of Clintondale, is currently a member the Ulster County Legislature, where he started in the ’00s and he has a practiced hand at politics. Prior to being a lawmaker in Kingston, Harris also served on the Plattekill Town Board and the Highland Board of Education during the 1980s. This year marks the sixth time the incumbent has run the gauntlet of public opinion to get elected to the County Legislature.
In some cases – with Susan Zimet in New Paltz and with Paul Hansut and Jon Decker in Highland – the changes and redistricting have caused local politicians to jump ship from Kingston to run in town board races.
“This year, particularly, we’re going from 33 to 23 legislators,” Harris said. “The dynamics of the Legislature are going to be very different.”
Harris, on the other hand, liked what the government restructuring could mean. Instead of sharing a district with three other lawmakers – as was the case in the old District 9 – he’ll be the sole representative for people in the new district.
“That really attracted me,” he explained. “I think there’s going to be a lot more accountability. So now, I think people are going to have to focus on their own community.”
A key issue for Harris is the county-run Golden Hill Health Care Center. The Kingston-based, publicly funded nursing home is slated to become a privately run institution under Executive Michael Hein’s plan.
Harris agrees that Golden Hill will have to be privatized in order to balance the budget at the county level. Privatizing the nursing home would mean tax relief for the county, but it would also keep the needed service running. Shutting it down altogether would be unfair to residents.
“There are 282 beds in that place. All of those people moved there thinking it’d be their last home,” he said. “We can’t close it, and we can’t afford to keep it going.”
If re-elected, Harris would lean on his experience as an elected official and his relationships with people in town.
“I don’t live here because I work here,” he said. “I work here because I live here.”
Harris noted that he’s lived in Clintondale since the late 1960s, and is a committed resident of the Hudson Valley. “I’m going to be here.”
Outside of being on the Republican line on the ballot, Harris’ name will also appear under the Conservative and Independence party lines.