Two four year seats currently held by Republicans, and one open town justice position are the contested races in Olive this year, with Democratic supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle, previously town clerk for 30 plus years, going for her second term unchallenged.
The incumbents in the town board race are Peter J. Friedel of West Shokan and Donnie VanBuren of Boiceville, who last ran four years ago as the town was still reeling from major flood damage from tropical storms Irene and Lee, with preparedness and town response the key issues at the time.
Friedel last ran for supervisor, unsuccessfully, against Rozzelle two years ago, but retained his town board seat, as it was mid-term. The 52 year old is a lifelong Olive resident, an Onteora High graduate who has worked as a salesman for various firms over the years after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from SUNY Cortland in 1988. He is a member of the Olive Fire Department, is an Olive First Aid emergency medical technician and a former volunteers with Boy Scout Troop 63. He and wife Michelle, who works for Ulster BOCES, have two children.
Friedel, seeking his third term, runs as a solid Republican with deep concern for his home town. Over the years he has questioned the town’s comprehensive planning, inclusion in the regional Scenic Byway project, and application for state NY Rising funds for flood mitigation projects, but has also helped move all such projects along, once enacted. He first rose as an activist in the Olive Matters protest against “large parcel” tax assessments and charges over a decade ago, and sees himself as a loyal voice of opposition with ties to the town’s volunteers. Last spring he indicated he would be having a low key political year, given health issues in his family.
“I remember setting up at Olive Day with my dad and hearing one of our elected town officials telling me how, if you want to be involved, you have to tell people what they want to hear and then do what you have to do,” he recalled in a past interview, after failing to get back to calls in recent weeks. “I decided to run right then, for judge my first time, and am still running now for the reasons I had then — there are many things that need to be done…I like home rule…there’s too much grant writing without realizing that for everything you get there are strings attached. We have to get this town back on track and all these Democrats want is bigger government and bigger control by the government.”
VanBuren, 57, is a Kingston High graduate who’s worked in the grocery business and has lived in Olive for 23 years. He is widowed with two children, a member of the Olive Fire Department and the Onteora Sports Fans booster club.
“Many of you know me, but for those of you who don’t: I was married to Cindy Klippel for 23 years, who passed away March 11, 2010 after a battle with cancer. Her family owned and operated the Landmark in Boiceville for over 30 years,” VanBuren, who does not keep an answering machine at home, has written on his campaign’s Facebook page. “We have two children, Amanda and Donnie Jr. Both are recent graduates from Onteora and are continuing their education at college. I am a member of the Olive Fire Department, serving over 20 years now. I am a former Boy Scout leader. I was and still am active in the Onteora football and wrestling programs. I would like the opportunity to serve the people of Olive. I will be an open minded conservative and make decisions based on what is best for our town.”
Challenging the two Republicans for Olive Democrats are longstanding planning board chairman Drew Boggess, who ran unsuccessfully for the same position two years ago, and political newcomer Bill Melvin, both in their 60s
Boggess, retired from Rotron and Chair for the Olive Planning Board for nine years and who has represented Olive on the County Planning Board, has said that he felt it was time for him to serve at a higher level. Also a member of the town’s Flood Advisory Committee and the Central Catskill Collaborative which helped push through the Route 28 Scenic Byway, he added that he believed his engineering expertise will be a positive addition to the Town Board.
“He feels the laws of a town are there for a reason. If people object to the law, then they have the right to change it,” says his campaign literature. “Drew has read the code books for the Town of Olive. He has a retentive memory and almost total recall…He has a passion for doing things according to the law. When the law is unclear or poorly defined, he seeks a compromise with those coming before him.”
Melvin, a retired Onteora teacher now working as a ski instructor at Belleayre Ski Center as director of an adaptive program for disabled skiers, is proud to have been on the Olive Rec Committee for 15 years, for which he’s managed the town’s swimming pool for the last three years. He is also known by some for his stints, years ago, as a leading singer for the Shandaken Theatrical Society.
“Hi, I’m Bill Melvin, and I’m ready to serve on the Olive Town Board,” reads his simple Facebook page. “My decades of experience in community advocacy will allow me to help solve problems faced by our Town Government.”
In a phone interview, Melvin added that while working at the pool he’s been around the town building in West Shokan a lot, “becoming more and more familiar with what’s going on…I have the time, I have the ability now to give back,” he said. “There’s a lot we can still do with local flood mitigation. We need to reduce the impact of these disasters.”
With the retirement of 20 year Democratic town justice Ron Wright, a former town assessor and town board member, a four year town justice position has also opened up.
Running for Olive Democrats will be Tanya Davis, a West Shokan resident since 2001 who graduated Albany Law School in 2010 and currently serves on the Onteora School Board. She will face John Kurz in the November election, who was nominated at the Republican caucus last summer.
Davis is a native of Colorado whose three children are students in the district. She holds degrees in Secondary Education, Literature (with a minor in Linguistics), and Law and is currently working as a solo attorney, practicing real estate and elder law.
Kurz is a lifelong Olive resident and town policeman of 20 years with two boys he wants to see “growing up doing the same things I did when I was a kid…I am running for the Town of Olive Justice for the love of my town, the love of its people and my desire to help keep it a safe place where people, young and old, can be proud to live,” he says on his campaign page.