Four candidates vie for two seats on the Gardiner Town Board

Mike Reynolds, Warren Wiegand, Bruna Rondinelli and Laura Walls. (photos by Lauren Thomas)

Mike Reynolds, Warren Wiegand, Bruna Rondinelli and Laura Walls. (photos by Lauren Thomas)

Voters in Gardiner will have to decide between four candidates vying for two open Town Board seats in November. Originally elected as a Democrat, one-term incumbent Mike Reynolds is running for reelection to the Gardiner Town Board with endorsements from the Republican, Conservative, Independence, P4G (People for Gardiner) and Reform parties. Incumbent Gardiner Town Board member and deputy town supervisor Warren Wiegand is seeking reelection, with endorsements by the Democratic, Working Families, Good for Gardiner and Women’s Equality parties. Laura F. Walls, who served one term as Gardiner town supervisor from 2000 to 2002 as well as several terms on the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education, is now running for the Gardiner Town Board on the Democratic, Working Families, Women’s Equality and Good for Gardiner party lines. Bruna Rondinelli, a real estate agent with Century 21 Alliance Realty Group, is running for a first term on the Gardiner Town Board on the Republican, Conservative and P4G (People for Gardiner) lines.

Here are their responses to questions from the New Paltz Times.

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Mike Reynolds

Why did you decide to run for reelection at this time, and what experience would you bring to the job?

My decision to run for reelection was based on the same premise I originally ran on for councilman four years ago. As a community, we need to have people represent us who understand that good government is optimized through fair and open communication. These individuals should debate without personal agendas or beliefs affecting their vote and arrive at the best decisions for all members of the community.

 

How should Gardiner be developed in the future? What kind of businesses would you work to attract to town? What are your thoughts about the potential for a “solar farm” in Gardiner?

My thoughts for the development of Gardiner would include an open space vision for our agricultural development and a thriving hamlet. I would like to see our parks and open spaces enhanced to provide greater opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy our beautiful and unique setting. I would also concentrate on attracting viable businesses in both consumer and commercial industries providing products, services and jobs to Gardiner residents.

I think a solar farm is a must-have for our town and environment. I recently brought solar developers before the Town Board who proposed a solar farm installation on the landfill at the transfer station at no cost to the town. This would save the town, its residents and commercial businesses money, while providing a more independent and environmentally efficient power option.

 

How can the Town of Gardiner optimize shared services with other municipalities?

In order to optimize the benefits of shared services, the town should form a group to work with the Highway Department and be a leader by increasing the communication stream with local municipalities.

What are your ideas for long-term infrastructure repairs/replacement?

Form a project management office-like process for evaluating and tracking issues, providing details and establishing priorities. I would then use common sense to evaluate as many ideas as possible to source, fund and implement the repairs and replacements. I would also leverage volunteer efforts and take advantage of low interest rates.

What are the top three challenges facing the Town of Gardiner right now?

1) Unifying the board to allow for the best solutions for all residents and not a select group.

2) Keeping costs and spending in line and taxes affordable.

3) Maintaining and expanding our continued smart and creative growth while preserving the local appeal that brought us all here.

If elected, what liaison positions would best suit your strengths when you begin your term in January?

I’m very open to anything that can leverage my experiences in new business development, business operations and building successful teams. Transfer Station, Highway Department, parks and all infrastructures would be areas I think could benefit from my strengths.

 

Warren Wiegand

Why did you decide to run for reelection at this time, and what experience would you bring to the job?

I have been serving Gardiner for 15 years. I led the fundraising campaign to build the new Gardiner Library. We raised over $800,000 and got contributions from 40 percent of Gardiner’s residents. I led the effort to protect open space, farms and farming. I collaborated on writing the Open Space law, was the first chair of the Open Space Commission and led the campaign which saved the Kiernan and Hess Farms from development. I have served on the Town Board for eight years and was selected each year by my colleagues to be the deputy supervisor.

 

How should Gardiner be developed in the future? What kind of businesses would you work to attract to town?

I believe the town should continue to focus on agritourism, which supports Gardiner’s very successful farming community and attracts thousands of visitors to our wonderful town. We are fortunate to have the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska Park in our back yard. We should do more to take advantage of these unique advantages by developing a comprehensive social media marketing campaign.

 

How can the Town of Gardiner optimize shared services with other municipalities?

We should continue to share our Highway Department’s resources with other towns to improve roads and bridges while minimizing the spending of our tax dollars.

We should investigate working cooperatively with Ulster County and other towns to improve the effectiveness and to lower the cost of garbage disposal and recycling. By consolidating activities with, for instance, New Paltz, we can cut the cost of our Transfer Station, which loses money consistently.

 

What are your ideas for long-term infrastructure repairs/replacement?

I started Gardiner’s first effort to develop and implement a long-term plan to repair or replace at-risk roads, bridges and town-owned buildings. This plan has identified the town’s key needs from now until 2025. Additionally, I have identified financial reserves of over $500,000 which have been sitting unused and largely forgotten for the last 15 to 20 years. We will use these forgotten reserves to fix essential infrastructure needs without raising Gardiner’s property taxes.

 

What are the top three challenges facing the Town of Gardiner right now?

Keep taxes low, despite pressure to pay for unfunded mandates from the state and federal governments and the skyrocketing cost of medical insurance for our employees. Note: In 2015 town taxes increased by only 1.5 percent, while inflation rose by two percent.

Keep roads and bridges safe and up-to-date, without raising taxes. This will be done by using existing reserves, selling unused property (in 2015 we sold the old library for $100,000) and securing grants from federal and state governments and private foundations.

Enhance the programs offered at Majestic Park, especially the summer camp and activities for seniors.

 

If elected, what liaison positions would best suit your strengths when you begin your term in January?

My strengths can best be used to continue to improve Gardiner’s very strong financial position and to develop new options for funding key projects, without increasing taxes. Note: In 2015 I led the effort to recover for the town $129,000 in legal fees from a taxpayer who sued, and lost, a court case on his property’s assessment. Innovative actions such as this have resulted in Gardiner’s having the second-lowest taxes among Ulster County’s 19 towns.

 

Laura F. Walls

Why did you decide to run for office at this time, and what experience would you bring to the job?

Public service is the way I give back to community; it feels natural to me. The experience I have had as elected official on the school board and as town supervisor was empowering and taught me that public service can be a creative act that makes a positive difference. Public service is fundamental to our democracy; it is worthy of the effort it demands both personally and professionally.

How should Gardiner be developed in the future? What kind of businesses would you work to attract to town? What are your thoughts about the potential for a “solar farm” in Gardiner?

The opportunity for people in Gardiner to earn income is, I think, the root of this question, and as methods of earning income continue to evolve, the answer (hopefully) lies less in the development of land and more in the development of the creativity of our residents. Our lands are finite; our abilities are not. Solar “farming” is a great idea and, as with agriculture, can be a productive way to use land, whether at a large or small scale.

 

How can the Town of Gardiner optimize shared services with other municipalities?

Local highway departments have long been leaders in shared services and are a good example. The key to shared services among municipalities is shared information and problem-solving on matters of common concern. That said, much of what a municipality offers its residents is local, rooted in the community and in service to neighbors. For example, while there may be opportunities to share sports fields, summer recreation programs best meet needs closer to home. Educational obligations and opportunities for community leaders would be a fabulous shared service.

What are your ideas for long-term infrastructure repairs/replacement?

Innovation. Asset management. Long-term financial planning, including multi-year budgeting. Elimination of New York State’s “tax cap” gimmick.

 

What are the top three challenges facing the Town of Gardiner right now?

Cell service. Long-term financial planning. The “tax cap” gimmick.

 

If elected, what liaison positions would best suit your strengths when you begin your term in January?

I am a bit of a “policy wonk” and think policy-in-moderation is an important part of the process to document as a community what we want to achieve and what we are willing to invest to achieve it. I also see local communities as an interconnected part of the wider region and would offer to serve in ways that foster those connections.

 

Bruna Rondinelli

Bruna Rondinelli sent the New Paltz Times the following profile summary in lieu of responding point-by-point to our set of questions.

My constructive ideas are to enable a diverse cross-section of the population to become more familiar with local planning, inviting younger people to join in with their creative ideas, allow seniors with their experience to coach us. We need grants to create activities to enhance the lifestyle of our seniors, help repair their homes, keep taxes low and affordable. I would like to see a more vibrant Main Street, with art galleries and other producing businesses.

My Motto is “Listen, and if the input indicates the need for change, then be willing to change.” Accept criticism. Stay in the economic development loop. Always remember: Think globally, interact regionally and act locally.

I feel, as a Town Board, we need to create and keep an atmosphere of respect, regardless of our personalities or party affiliation. As an elected board member, I will work with passion, respect and integrity while keeping the rural character of Gardiner, our beautiful town, intact.

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