Ulster County Legislature candidate Beth Murphy, 63, was born in Detroit and grew up in Michigan. She moved to Saugerties 22 years ago with her husband, who had spent summers in the Hudson Valley as a boy. She spent 30 years working at IBM, where she conducted marketing and research on a wide range of subjects such as electronic voting and port security. Murphy spent four years on the Saugerties Economic Development Committee, including two as chair, during which time she helped to create the first Discover Saugerties guide and conducted a local work force summit. She has the endorsement of the Democratic and Working Families parties.
I’m very active on the Saugerties Democratic Committee. I’m on the Executive Committee and we had a meeting at our house in February and were talking about who we could get to run this year. We were going through the list of potential candidates, and when everybody left, my husband saaid, “you’ve got to run.” I took early retirement because my husband is nine years older than me and you never know what could happen. I asked him if he knew what he was saying from a time commitment standpoint. I told him I really needed him to think about it before I committed to doing it. He said, “No, you’ve really got to run.” So I’m running.
I’ve never run for office and I figured it’s time to do it because if I’m trying to get other people to run maybe it would be good to know what the whole process is about and learn from it.
What is the job of the county legislator as you see it?
It’s to set policy and the budget. I don’t think the current legislature has done either. I think they defaulted to whatever the county executive has done. I think Mike Hein is doing an overall very good job, but I think that he could use a strong Legislature to work with. He needs somebody to bounce ideas off of and not be obstructionist just to be obstructionist.
It’s also to focus on economic development. I’m not sure of all the mechanics of working with the county executive and the Chamber, but has a business survey been done? Who’s in town? Out of town? Are there logical clusters of businesses?
Why do you think you’d be good at the job?
I’ve got the experience and the background to be curious about how it works and think about ways to have it work differently. That’s part of my market research background. I think we definitely need people who think outside the box. We need to look at some of the problems we’re facing because government doesn’t have all the answers, nor do we want it to. There are things that we need to figure out how to do for ourselves.
I know I’m up against an incumbent who’s second or third generation in Saugerties, who, from everything I’ve heard, is a nice person. I just think I could do a better job. I’m retired. I don’t have a political allegiance. I don’t think Mary has introduced any legislation at all this session. I don’t know how productive she’s been as a legislator.
What issues are you most interested in?
Economic development. We have Kings Highway here, shovel-ready. We’re halfway between Albany, with its nanotech center, and SUNY New Paltz with 3D printing. We’re off the Thruway, we have the railroads here, and the space.
Controlling costs by trying to figure out how to work horizontally across various departments. I know it has worked with the county under Greg Helsmoortel. You’ve got Greg Chorvas and the parks, the school system with their sidewalks and roads, and Marie Post up at the recycling center with her need to move equipment and garbage. [Highway Superintendent] Doug Myer has worked across all of those departments. It’s trying to figure out how to work horizontally across departments that have things in common to control expenses.
Communicating better with citizens. I think people need to be more involved with their government. It’s their government. I also think government needs people’s opinions to help figure out how to solve problems.
Describe your district. How is it changing? What issues does it face?
It’s an interesting district. It’s big. It’s not concentrated like the village or Barclay Heights. It’s a mixed district, with very expensive homes and trailer parks. The one thing that’s consistent throughout the neighborhood is that everyone is complaining about taxes. The one thing that’s changed since we’ve been here is that we’re seeing more people from the city move up, more weekenders, and more people moving up full-time. The issues that the district faces are the same as the rest of town. The ones that I’m hearing about are taxes, jobs, and schools.