Bruce Leighton has served on the Saugerties Village Board, Town Board, and a number of committees. But as of Jan. 1, for the first time in 16 years, he won’t be an elected official. The Dec. 11 board meeting was his last, and he took a moment during the meeting to say it had been “an honor” serving on the board and wished the remaining board members and his replacement, Bill Schirmer, “the best of luck as I fade into retirement.”
What are some issues you championed during your time on the Town Board of which you are particularly proud?
I’m particularly proud of being involved in the Kings Highway Water and Sewer Project, improvements in the town parks through grants, and attracting new business to Saugerties.
Are there any issues you wish had been addressed more thoroughly during your tenure on the Town Board?
I wish that the Winston Farm development plan had panned out, but when the economy tanked, so did the talks about major development.
Do you think you’ll ever run for office again?
No, I’ve had a good run, with eight years on the Village Board and eight years on the Town Board. I’m officially retired from local politics.
What is the most important lesson you learned while serving on the Town Board?
I’ve learned that you can’t keep everybody happy, no matter what your decisions are. I have no regrets about any vote I’ve ever cast. For me, it’s always been about the community and not whether you are Conservative, Liberal, Republican or Democrat. I leave that to the people who have political aspirations and wish to contribute to the mess we have in Washington, whether good or bad.
As someone who’s lived in Saugerties as long as you have, do you feel like the time you served on various boards and committees changed the way you view Saugerties?
I would say yes. I remember when our village was full of empty stores and Saugerties was not even on the map. We now have a bustling village and the town was voted one of the top 10 coolest towns to visit. This was due to the efforts of our Town and Village Boards, our Economic Development Committees and our Tourism Committee, among other volunteers.
Regarding this year’s election, many Saugerties residents found this year’s local election, overall, somewhat distasteful and contentious. Do you feel like it was in terms of your own candidacy?
In 16 years, this campaign was the worst I have ever seen it. It was ripe with lies, innuendo [and] character assassination. Heck, there were a couple instances where people almost came to blows. I’m not, in any way, talking about the candidates, by the way, [who] all were very respectful. This is the first time I have ever seen a whole ticket write to the newspaper apologizing for their chairman [the Conservative-endorsed Republican candidates’ disavowal of ads run by Chairman Joe Roberti Jr.].
Were you taken by surprise by the results of the election?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. That being said, Bill Schirmer, who is taking over my seat, worked very hard, and I think he’ll do a fine job. It’s all about community, and I think Bill gets that.
What are some words of advice you would offer newly elected town board members in the future?
I’d like to see more young people getting involved in their community and even the not-so-young running for office. I had a great time and enjoyed every minute.
What do you plan to do with your retirement?
The first thing is to clear my calendar of any reoccurring meetings and pay more attention to my family and our business [Leighton Enterprises, a water treatment business]. We can now travel a bit more without worrying about which day we can leave and which day we have to be back, but I’ll still be around.