Town campaign season starts early

donkey and elephantTown elections are nearly eight months away, but Saugerties already has plenty of candidates.

Greg Helsmoortel, who served as supervisor for 12 years before being defeated in 2011, has announced his candidacy. He’s expected to cruise to the Democratic nomination.

Incumbent Supervisor Kelly Myers hasn’t decided. She said she’s concentrating on the demands of the office and will decide sometime before party nominations in a few months.

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The supervisor position carries a two-year term.

On the Town Board, Democrat Bruce Leighton and Republican James Bruno are up for election. So far no one else has announced from the left, but two have from the right: Gaetana Ciarlante and Bill Schirmer.

The board seats carry four-year terms.

Highway superintendent is also up in November. Republican incumbent Doug Myer has announced his bid for reelection. That’s a two-year term.

If Myers decides to run, the supervisor race will be a rematch of 2011. Six-termer Helsmoortel is expected to point to achievements made while in office, including the acquisition and renovation of a former warehouse on High St. to serve as the Town Hall and bringing municipal sewer and water services to Kings Highway to spur industrial growth.

Myers would point to her accomplishments, including a tough ban on synthetic drugs, enforcing competitive bidding on town contracts, various examples of fiscal conservatism and possibly her view that her administration is correcting fiscal problems that began under Helsmoortel. (Expect plenty of he-said/she-said on that issue, which is far from cut and dry.) Before her election, Myers served three terms on the Village Board.

Leighton, who had the endorsement of the Democratic Party as well as the Independence Party, is seeking his third four-year term on the Town Board. He has previously served three terms on the Village Board. He said the board’s main task in the next four years will be to rebuild its fund balance. “The economy went south over the past few years, but it is coming back,” he said. “We want to keep taxes down, but we also need to build up our reserves.”

Bruno also sees budgetary control as the major issue facing the board. “We’re always looking for ways to save money,” he said. “Next year, I hope to keep the budget increase as close to zero as possible.”

Schirmer is a newcomer to politics. He is a Saugerties native and the CEO of a title company. A fiscally conservative Republican, Schirmer said his two prime goals in running for the Town Board are to keep spending low and to encourage economic growth. “I hope to expand the tax base by bringing in more business, especially along the Kings Highway corridor,” he said. “Also, to hold the line on taxes. I found the downgrading of our bond rating disturbing. I want to build a fund balance so we have a rainy day fund.”

Gaetana Ciarlante is also seeking the Republican nomination for a Town Board seat. While this is her first run for office, Ciarlante has been active in community affairs as a leader of SACRED (Saugerties Assertive Citizens for Responsible Economic Development), which has opposed subsidized housing proposals in Glasco and the village. She has also opposed what she sees as excessive government spending in a number of areas. And while most in government have a “why not?” attitude about applying for grants from higher levels of government and outside groups, she says there are often strings attached — including additional regulations (in the name of conservation) and pledges to encourage housing for all groups (including those unable to purchase their own homes). “It seems like every time I go to a Town Board meeting, I hear about another grant that’s being applied for,” she told this paper last month. “I think we’re getting involved with things that are not going to be good for us in the long run in terms of single-family housing and in terms of being economically viable as a community.”

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

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