Ulster County Legislator Mary Wawro, 55, grew up in Saugerties. Though she moved around quite a bit in her twenties, she has been back in Saugerties, where she owns and operates Mary’s Little Lambs daycare, since 1988. The mother of five children and grandmother of two, Wawro has been active in many organizations, including Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and her local PTA. She was elected in 2011. She has the endorsement of the Republican and Conservative parties.
Why are you running for office?
I’m running again because I love it and I’m just getting started. I’m chairman of the Public Safety Advisory Committee and our recommendations are due Nov. 20. This is an amazingly dedicated committee that met every two weeks. We had law enforcement presentations, we had mental health presentations; just a broad range of presentations. It was amazing because I found out about a lot of things that were available in the county that I was not aware of. I believe that there are a lot of contributing factors to public safety other than guns. One of our goals was to see what barriers there are and what things we can tweak to make things a little safer. There’s a lot of little things that can be done that are going to make a difference.
What issues are you most interested in?
Public safety is one of them. I’m on the Environmental, Energy, and Technology Committee. We just passed flow control so it looks like there will be no net service fee this year. We’re trying to get a little more voice with the Resource Recovery Agency. I’d like to see a way to create some jobs that use the recycling resources.
What have you learned in the past two years as County Legislator?
I’ve definitely learned a lot. I wish that the term was a little longer. Your first year you’re just learning the ropes. You have all different personalities and different committees. The longer you’re there, the bigger network you have, and the broader base of resources. It’s a process. Because it’s only a two-year term you’re only a year in and then you’re campaigning again. The Public Safety Advisory Committee is going to come out with its recommendations in November. If I’m reelected then it’s fine, but if not, will the people behind me not feel it’s important? Is it just going to disappear or are they going to pick up the ball?
What is the job of county legislator as you see it?
We set policy for the county and the budget. We’re a resource for our constituents and a voice for people’s concerns.
Why do you think you’re the right person for the job?
I think that I represent the people that are actually in my district. We have a lot of the same struggles and concerns. When my husband left, my youngest was a year old and I had to go on social services, which I fought tooth-and-nail to do. I found a way to open my own business and use it as a stepping stone. Growing up in this district and doing daycare for 22 years and Girl Scouts for eight years and Cub Scouts for eight years, I know most of my constituents on a personal level, so I feel like they know that they can talk to me about whatever and I’m on the same page as they are.
Describe your district. How is it changing?
My district is unique. There is some industry down Malden Turnpike, but it is primarily residential. A lot of people in my district were affected when Vertis shut down, and IBM earlier. There are fewer houses with ‘for sale’ signs in my district than in the village, but it’s scary, because I have kids and I want them to stay in this area. There’s not a lot of job opportunities. When I was growing up in this area, and when my kids were growing up, this particular area was a huge stay-at-home-mom area. Now there is a much larger percentage of families with both parents working, or people working two jobs to try to keep it together.
How can the county Legislature help with this economic situation?
We really need to draw some jobs here. I think there is a unique opportunity in Ulster County, and particularly Saugerties, because the cost of labor in China is not as cheap as it was, so I think we’re going to see a lot of businesses coming back to this country, and we’re in a unique position to try to grab some of them. We need to create the right environment for businesses to get started. There are so many hoops to jump through that it’s easier to go somewhere else. We need to prioritize. We have to go back to bare bones and make things as simple as we can to try to encourage people to be successful.