After years of Democratic dominance, a Republican was elected to the top post in Saugerties town government in 2011. But Democrat-backed candidates managed to hold onto a 3-2 majority, and were able to block some of Supervisor Kelly Myers’s plans.
This year, as long as Democrats can retain one seat on the board (of the two up for election), they’ll keep that majority. But they want more. They want to reinstall Greg Helsmoortel as supervisor and capture Jimmy Bruno’s seat on Town Board.
The other races aren’t as ideological, but just as interesting. Lanny Walter is once again seeking the office of town justice and incumbent Highway Superintendent Doug Myer, a Republican snubbed by his party at last month’s caucus, is hoping the Democrats will give him support.
It should be said, this is just what we know at this time; these are the people who have expressed an intent to run publicly. Anyone can show up at the caucus and put their name in the hat.
The Democratic Party caucus will be held Tuesday, July 9 at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center, corner of Market and Robinson streets.
So far, Town Board is the only office for which the supply of declared candidates exceeds the demand; three candidates will seek two nominations. Over the last few months, the Democratic Party’s search committee sought out and interviewed candidates for office. It presented its recommended candidates last week. For Town Board, it chose Bruce Leighton and Marjorie Block. Krista Barringer will also seek the nomination. (Recommendations are basically political endorsements; they have no bearing on the caucus, which is what actually selects the candidates.)
Bruce Leighton is seeking his third term. Leighton said the first time he ran he caucused with the GOP, however, they “weren’t interested in anyone who could think for themselves, but instead wanted people to do their bidding in a rather self-serving manner.” (A sentiment Doug Myer would echo later.)
It was that attitude, Leighton said, that drove him to register with the Independence Party.
“The Democrats approved of the job we were doing as a board and supported me in the next election along with the Independence Party,” he said. Ever since then, he’s allied himself with the Dems.
For Leighton, the biggest issue facing Saugerties is economic development. “Over the course of the last eight years, we have seen Simulaids, Elna Magnetics, the Armory, the Anderson Center in Barclay Heights, EmUrgentCare, the expansion of Precision Flow, the recent Planning Board approval for a 100,000 square foot manufacturing site on Kings Highway that has yet to be named and the approval for Spinnenweber Supply.”
He said “the ultimate goal is to drive down taxes, create jobs, and drive up our tax base.”
Leighton credits the leadership of Helsmoortel — in office from 1999–2011 — with helping make much of this development a reality, thanks to infrastructure improvements. He said the town has expanded access to municipal water and sewer, as well as high-speed Internet, and soon natural gas lines would be extended down Kings Highway to Mount Marion.
Krista Barringer noted that of the three, she is the only “lifelong Democrat.” She’s a deputy clerk with the Ulster County Legislature and a former assistant to state Senator John Bonacic (R-New Hope) and Ulster County Youth Bureau director. Barringer said she’s running for office because she believes too little of Saugerties is represented by the current crop of candidates (including Republicans and incumbents).
“I noticed that everyone on the Town Board is from a small corridor — the village, Barclay Heights and Glasco,” said Barringer, who lives off Rt. 212 in the town.
“I bring a wealth of knowledge about state, county and local issues,” Barringer said. “I will listen to what people have to say and would like to bring good government back to Saugerties.”
She said she was “taken aback” by the board’s support of a proposition to offer big tax breaks for new businesses (not yet passed) and was also surprised by the resolution protesting the state’s gun control measures.
“I would have spent more time in taking input from the public on the issues,” Barringer said.
Marjorie Block is best known as president of the Historical Society and village historian. She also chaired the Saugerties 200th Anniversary Celebration in 2011, is a member of the Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce Board, chaired last year’s Holiday in the Village, worked on the Great Saugerties Bed Race and Old Timers’ Day, is chair of the Saugerties Tourism Board and is a member of the Mum Festival Board.