A quintessentially small-town caucus took place this past Wednesday night at Gardiner’s town hall as Gardiner Democrats met to nominate and vote on who would represent them in the November elections. It was a standing-room-only crowd.
There was some confusion on procedure and a brief introduction by Ulster County comptroller Elliott Auerbach, who is being challenged for his third term in office by Republican candidate James Quigley, the supervisor of the Town of Ulster. Quigley had lost by a narrow margin to Auerbach back in 2008.
“As Democrats we need to unify and get people out to vote, as this is will be a very local race,” said Auerbach. “There’s no one on top of the ticket.” He provided statistics about the dramatic decline in voter turnout in off years. He encouraged all Democrats to get out and vote, and urged them to bring “one friend with them, as one vote could very well determine who your supervisor is or who your superintendent of highways will be. Start enrolling people to vote now.”
This November will see the election of a town supervisor, two councilpersons, the town clerk, a town judge and the highway superintendent.
Although she’s a Republican, longtime town clerk Michelle Mosher was nominated and seconded, with no other candidates coming forward. “Michelle Mosher is the face of Gardiner,” said Ray Smith, who nominated her. “She’s the first person you see when you come into town hall. She’s been our clerk for 18 years and despite being the tax collector she’s a proven vote-getter always receiving the highest number of votes in our local elections.”
Up next was a call for nominations for one of two open seats for town justice. Bob Rich was nominated and seconded to represent the Democrats in that race. Rich served for several years on the New Paltz school board and was its president. He was nominated by longtime friend John Apuzzo and his nomination was seconded by his own daughter, who termed her father “an excellent person, a hard worker, fair-minded, and whatever task he takes on he does it to the fullest.”
Leonard Tantillo nominated lifelong Gardiner resident Brian Sticia, who has worked for the town highway department for 20 years, for the position of highway superintendent. “He’s lived in Gardiner his entire life, worked for the highway department for two decades, is a volunteer firefighter who also served as chief,” said Tantillo. “His reputation is top-shelf, beyond reproach, and he has the skill-set the knowledge the experience to run our highway department.”
Charles Haynes, the longtime superintendent of highways and a Democrat, did not seek the town Democratic committee endorsement. Sticia said that Haynes frankly told him he would support whatever decision Sticia made about seeking the position. “We have a great working relationship and he’s behind me 100%,” said Sticia.
Supervisor Carl Zatz was also nominated and seconded with no competition for reelection on the Democratic ticket.
Three individuals were nominated to run on the Democratic line for the two available councilperson seats. Carmine Mele, a Republican incumbent, and Rich Koenig, an independent, have declined to run for re-election. David Dukler, Laurie Willow and John Hinson, the only one of the three who is not a Democrat, were nominated. The registered Democrats in attendance were asked to write in two names of those they wanted to see on the ballot. Dukler and Willow garnered the highest number of votes.
This Wednesday the Gardiner Republicans will hold their caucus at 7 p.m. at the Gardiner’s town hall.