Real political races forming in Olive

Berndt Leifeld

Berndt Leifeld

The Town of Olive, which has had the same Democratic town supervisor, Berndt Leifeld, for 24 years now, is about to enter into its wildest political season perhaps in decades, and at least in this century, with all eyes currently on a tough Democratic Party caucus on July 11 at the town meeting hall on Bostock Road in Shokan. Although on-the-record interviews from involved shy Democrats were not available, some people spoke freely about what they saw happening, as door to door stragegy sessions are observed.

But that’s all the Democrats. To date, Shokan Republicans are being particularly close-lipped, on and off the record.

For years it’s been assumed that longstanding deputy town supervisor, Democrat Bruce LaMonda would be Leifeld’s chosen successor, even though he’s been in office nearly as long as the Leifeld (not including Berndt’s other terms, a previous eleven years as a town councilman) and is currently in his early 70s. But then long time town clerk Sylvia Rozelle, a single West Virginia native who’s made Olive her home, and has held her position for decades, declared her intention to run for supervisor, too — as a Democrat, under who’s banner she’s been elected for years, even though she’s been non-enrolled of late…and non-attendant at most town Democratic events, from Olive Day to committee meetings.


Two seats are coming up on the Olive Town Board in November…LaMonda’s and that held by incumbent Linda Burkhardt, who is running for reelection. Two other candidates, town planning board chairman Drew Boggess and local electrician and musician Jim Sofranko appear ready to join the fray presenting three candidates for the two seats.

With Rozelle, if she gets in it, running for supervisor, that leaves her town clerk position open, and all appearances are that longtime secretary to the supervisor Susan Horner will seek the office, but, apparently at Rozelle’s behest, court clerk Dawn Giuditta may also.

Things get more interesting as there are grumblings and rumblings that the town’s Democratic chairman and county legislator, John Parete, may also be facing an in-party challenge for the legislature despite having received a nomination at the party’s county caucus last week. (The county committee’s nomination is not binding. Petitions must be sought and if a challenger has enough signatures, a primary election will be held.) Seems a number of Parete’s fellow legislators are not happy with his maverick status on a number of recent votes, and his hosting of an Independence Party convention at his Boiceville Inn. Some have been ruminating about the legislator’s residence — while owning a business in Olive since the 1970s, when he took over its Democratic Party, he has actually lived in the Stone Ridge area all this time. Paula Sirc, an Olive-based journalist, has been mentioned as his possible challenger.


On the other side…

And what about those tight lipped Republicans, who may see, after decades of domination, an opening? Meanwhile, everyone’s wondering what might be up on the town’s Republican side, beyond the naming of John Scanlan as the official challenger for Parete’s District legislative seat.

While many have spoken in the past about councilman Pete Friedel running for supervisor, attempts to reach the busy man, who has a new salesperson position with Advanced Auto Parts that takes him throughout the region, went unanswered as of press time. Craig Grazier, who ran unsuccessfully in 2009, has been mentioned, but more than not people have spoken about some of the disarray the party has been in of late, and former councilmember and supervisor candidate Cindy Johansen’s being off to Maine as often as she’s here.

There’s only a month now to sort things out before the caucuses start up and the real battlelines begin forming.