Over the years, Bruce Leigh-ton has seen a lot of changes in the town of Saugerties, not only as a Town Board member, but as the owner of Leighton Enterprises. The former village water commissioner and Village Board member was there during the rebuilding of the water treatment plant and the renovation of the sewer treatment plant. He also served on the Town Board under the leadership of former Supervisor (and current candidate) Greg Helsmoortel throughout the completion of the Kings Highway Water/Sewer Project, an economic development plan to bring new businesses to Saugerties.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, but raised in Saugerties, Leighton, 62, has three sons with his wife, Kate. Leighton has served on the Town Board for eight years and acts as liaison to the building department, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, the town Justice Court and the Ethics Committee. A member of the Independence Party, he carries that line and the Democratic line.
Why are you running for office?
When I started on the Town Board under the leadership of Greg Helsmoortel, our focus has always been economic development, keeping taxes as low as we possibly could, and raising the tax base through having businesses relocate in Saugerties. We worked extensively to complete the Kings Highway Water Sewer Project, and we have the biggest shovel-ready piece of property in the county that goes from Saugerties all the way to Mt. Marion. Businesses now are starting to relocate there. Two of the newest ones are Spinnenweber Supply from Port Ewen and E-ZPass. They just got their final site-plan approval from the Planning Board to relocate the testing facility in the town of Saugerties on Kings Highway. Craig Thomas Pest Control bought the old Central Hudson property and relocated to Saugerties, not to mention, on Malden Turnpike, Elna Magnetics, Simulaids—these represent hundreds of jobs in the town. EmUrgentCare in Barclay Heights, Quik Check, Anderson Center for Autism, these were all some of our achievements. The reason I’m running again is because I’d like to continue to work for the residents of Saugerties. I feel like I have a lot to offer. I’ve been in business for 30 years, and I think I bring that business experience to the table as a town councilman.
What is the job of a Town Board member as you see it?
A Town Board member’s primary job is to oversee the budget of the town. That’s our job. As Town Board members, we’re each assigned departments, so we kind of split up the departments in the town and oversee the budgets of the various departments, but work with the department heads in coming up with the budgets, and then, of course, bringing it all together into a preliminary budget, and then seeing where we can go from there. But our job, primarily, is a budgetary job. Of course, it’s to legislate, too. Introducing new laws, zoning, planning, things like that, those are delegated out to various committees of volunteers.
What issues are you most interested in?
As a business person, I know firsthand that the cost of doing business goes up every year. It’s the same thing with a town. The cost just keeps on going up. A lot of our costs are contractual. They’re state-mandated. My main concern is keeping spending in check. Our current supervisor introduced a preliminary budget that was artificially low, because she didn’t include any wage increases that have already been agreed on with union contracts. The union is going to have a hay-day with us. That obviously has to be changed because it’s contractual. It was political posturing on her part. That’s all it was.
My main focus is on creating jobs and lowering taxes. I know it sounds cliché-ish, but that’s what it’s all about; making it more affordable to live here and create jobs so people stay here.
Many candidates have identified the local economy as a top issue. Should the Town Board be doing more to address this?
Over the past two years, it’s kind of stalled. We need to continue economic development. That’s what it’s all about. Tourism is a big part of it, but it’s not the only part. Tourism is one of the largest industries of the county, and it certainly is important to Saugerties, but we really need to address the people who are here, creating jobs so people stay, and jobs with a living wage.
Do you feel the town government is being run effectively and transparently? If not, what problems need to be addressed?
Over the past two years, absolutely not. Over the past two years, our current town supervisor has done everything she can to keep the Town Board out of the loop, and that even includes her own deputy supervisor. We had a preliminary budget that was submitted to the town clerk for public review. I only found that out second-handedly, and I called the [town] clerk, and she verified it. I asked her if she could please make copies of it to give to us at the [Oct. 2] Town Board meeting. [Supervisor Myers] didn’t even know we were going to have copies of the budget. And yet, Joe Roberti Jr., the Republican chair, had a copy that morning that he sent into the Kingston Daily Freeman. In effect, the Freeman knew and the public knew about the preliminary budget before the Town Board did. That’s just one of the things. It’s just gotten so politically-driven that we have not worked together, and it’s not because we haven’t tried. She just has not kept the board posted.
Do you feel more communication between the supervisor and the board would alleviate these issues?
My prior six years on the Town Board, that’s exactly what we had, and it worked beautifully. It seemed seamless. I know, politically, people took stances against Greg Helsmoortel, but he was a good supervisor, and we all worked well together. It shouldn’t be a political tug-of-war for a local government. We’re not dealing with national issues as much as we are local issues. We’re here for the taxpayers of Saugerties.
What’s your message to the voters?
If reelected, I will continue to work for the entire community of Saugerties, not just a certain area. Being in business for myself, I have the flexibility to do that.