The Town of Olive has long been known for the steadiness of its political character. Starting in the 1980s, it’s been a Democrat majority place. Often, local Republicans won seats on the town board, but never the big ones…or a majority. Until now.
Also, for the first time in decades, the town board that comes into office at a reorganization meeting to be held on the evening of Thursday, January 2 will do so with a majority of new blood…at least in terms of the seats filled.
Replacing longstanding board members Bruce La Monda and Linda Burkhardt, both Democratic incumbents who failed to make it out of their party’s caucus last summer, will be two first-time board members…Democrat Jim Sofranko, a former film industry worker who’s made his home in town for years; and Republican Scott Kelder, whose father was a supervisor back before Democrats took control and the retiring Bert Leifeld started his decades-long reign supervisor.
Taking over from Leifeld will be fellow Democrat Sylvia Rozzelle, who’s served 35 years as the town clerk for the town.
Filling out the board will be Rozzelle’s opponent for the supervisor position in the recent election, Republican Peter Friedel, now in his second term of office, whose seat was not contested in the recent election, and fellow GOP member Don Van Buren, still in his first term, giving Republicans a 3-2 majority.
“I really don’t foresee any problems; we don’t play party politics here like they do in Washington and other places,” Rozzelle said this week of her unique position shepherding a majority not of her party. “We’ll all work at our best and keep the best interests of the town in mind…I can’t predict how they’re going to act, or me, so I’m just going to assume we’ll all work together on the many issues facing Olive. I just want to accentuate the positive…and really have to get my feet wet in this new position before saying more.”
Leifeld, whose last year in office has been characterized by a cranky frankness and a number of instances where he’s berated opponents, fellow board members, and the general public, will stay on as a town and county representative to the regional Catskill Watershed Corporation…in which role he’s spent many of his busiest and apparently happiest hours of late.
Rozzelle, meanwhile, spoke of her recent work helping shepherd the state’s new NY Rising funds, which should total $3 million apiece for participating towns chosen to come up with projects to assuage damage and divert disaster from recent and future flooding events. This past week, for instance, her hours were filled with phone and in-person meetings with fellow NY Rising committee members from the town and county, as well as final sessions with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials.
“Boiceville has lots of issues, our buildings are in bad repair, and we need to do some major maintenance around the town,” she said, stressing the need for projects to be readied for March 1start-ups. “They don’t want us in the streams, or building berms; we have to be used to the fact that streams flood, and get people out of their flood zones.”