Berndt Leifeld’s 38 years as the top force in Olive politics, came to a filled-room close as the two decade supervisor’s Democratic Party caucused Thursday, July 11 to find a candidate to succeed him. Every time Leifeld rose to endorse a candidate or comment on the proceedings, he was greeted by lusty cheers from all in attendance, with regular ovations. Yet by evening’s end, no one Leifeld had backed got the SRO crowd’s approval at the Olive Meeting Hall in Ashokan.
More importantly, a new power appeared firmly in control of the night…Sylvia Rozzelle, town clerk for the past 31 years, who hugged each of he evening’s winners of contested races before and after they reached forth to the room’s 200 or so Democrats and onlookers, and then proceeded to grab the supervisor’s nomination in a landslide over longtime councilman Bruce LaMonda, 145-56.
The question now, Leifeld asked towards the evening’s end, was whether the two factions of the town’s long-powerful Democratic Party would pull together for November elections, or stay fractured — something that occurred with Olive Republicans when they lost their entrenched power decades ago.
The evening, called to order by new town party chairman Michael Pantliano, with longstanding former chairman, former county Democratic chair, and current county legislator John Parete seated quietly across from him, started off with non-contested nominations. Speeches extolled the virtues of reelecting non-enrolled town justice Timothy Cox to his third term, along with highway superintendent Jimmy Fugel to his.
The unopposed Cox, who the current supervisor seconded in his first appearance of the evening, was Leifeld’s only big winner of the night.
Town board nominations
A three-way race for two town council seats saw 11-year incumbent Linda Burkhardt nominated by her husband and seconded by Leifeld’s longstanding secretary, Susan Horner, who herself was running for town clerk. Planning board chairman Drew Boggess, a Rotron engineer and manager, was nominated by his wife Judith and again seconded by Horner, who noted his background as someone familiar with technical aspects of modern life…a theme quietly played out over the evening as some noted Rozzelle’s unfamiliarity with and distaste for voice mail, cell phones and email. Finally, Rosalie Burgher, who recently received a state Senior of the Year award for her years of service to the Olive Free Library and other community organizations, nominated local engineer, former film technician and anti-fracking organizer Jim Sofranko, with a second from his wife.