Olive Dems set for contested caucus

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

The Town of Olive is holding what many are saying its hottest electoral event in decades next Thursday, July 11, when the town’s Democrats caucus to choose candidates for the November elections.

The situation, everyone agrees, has been exacerbated by the looming resignation of Democratic town supervisor Bert Leifeld, first elected to his position in 1988 after over a dozen years as a councilman before that.

“We’ve had close votes before; our present highway superintendent Jimmy Fugel, who doesn’t seem to be facing any opposition in the caucus this year, won his race the first time by a single vote. And there have been other squeakers for town board and other seats,” said longtime Olive political player John Parete, who served as the Democrats chairman for years and is now a county legislator (as well as owner of the Boiceville Inn). “Right now things seem balanced between the different candidates so no one can tell what direction things will be going.”


The big draw on July 11 at the town meeting hall on Bostock Road will be who gets the party’s nod for Leifeld’s replacement in this Democrat-heavy town. Bruce LaMonda, deputy supervisor for years and a councilman of many decades now in his 70s, is making the move up. But so is longstanding town clerk Sylvia Rozzelle, first elected to her position in 1982, who said this week that she’s been asked to step up for decades, too.

“When I took this office 31 years ago my desire was to run for supervisor,” Rozzelle said this week, noting how things had held her back, including a wish not to split her party by running against an incumbent…and she needed the “less uncertain” position of town clerk to stabilize her family while her husband was ill (he eventually passed away in 1992). “People have been asking me to run for a long time, though, and now it’s my turn to step out from behind the scenes and assume a leadership role.”

She answered some rumors around town by noting that she was not planning to hold on to her clerk position come November, and would in fact be nominating longstanding court clerk Dawn Giuditta for the position she’ll be leaving open.

Giuditta will be facing Leifeld’s secretary of many years, Susan Horner, who has helped build and maintain the town’s website and notes the need for Olive to start using digital technology more extensively. Horner grew up accustomed to the position she is running for by being the daughter of a long term Town of Hurley town clerk.

Rozzelle said she’s worked with Horner over the years and didn’t mean to say she couldn’t work with her as a town clerk should things work out that way. Asked if she was nominating anyone else at the July 11 caucus, she said Giuditta would be it.


Solidly Stable Olive

“The past three decades have been productive ones for all of us in Olive. I am proud to have had a leadership or ancillary effort in these major accomplishments of this town board,” noted LaMonda in a statement/invitation to Olive Democrats, listing a number of accomplishments from senior housing creation and the purchase of the town meeting hall to the bringing of a sewer system to Boiceville and building of the town pool complex. “Olive has been solidly stable. I would like to lead Olive forward in the direction of planned progress.”

Two seats are coming up on the Olive Town Board in November…LaMonda’s, which he is retiring from, and that held by incumbent Linda Burkhardt, who is running for reelection. Filling out the roster of folks running for town board from the Democratic side, leaving three candidates for two slots, are town planning board chairman Drew Boggess and local electrician and musician Jim Sofranko.

Jimmy Fugel, the town’s highway superintendent, will run for re-election as a Democrat unopposed, at least as of press time, while Republican incumbent town justice Tim Cox was expected to be nominated as well, again without opposition.

Rozzelle said she’d heard there was a chance of a third candidate coming forth for town clerk, and possibly another town board candidate.

Parete, who’s been in close touch with current Olive Democrats chairman Michael Pantliano, said that he hadn’t heard of any challenges for his position as a county legislator, excepting the name of GOP-nominated Kevin Scanlan. Both he and Rozzelle added that the only thing they’d heard to date about their possible opponents from the other party come the fall were quips from Olive Republicans chairman Chet Scofield, owner of Snyder’s Bar, about how they would fit everyone come Thursday night.