Finances in order, Wilber seeks seventh term
Jeremy Wilber has been town supervisor of Woodstock for 12 non-consecutive years. Why do it again?
“I realize its a test of my sanity, no comment on that,” says the supervisor, a Democrat, who, if he wins the November 3 election, will be the longest tenured of Woodstock’s top political position, dating back 66 citizens (two women) to Elias Hasbrouck, who served from 1788-1791. “But I feel I still have a couple of useful years to give.”
Wilber is consistent in his conviction that being the chief financial officer of the town is the overriding consideration of the position. “There’s nothing in town law about marching in parades and kissing babies. I think that when people have confidence in the finances…not necessarily agree with how its being raised and spent…but that the town board is watching it and we’re not seeing 10 percent increases and fiscal crises and the shit hitting the fan…it makes other solutions and issues seem more credible.”
Wilber’s budget for the coming year, on which the town board will vote shortly after the election, calls for a tax levy increase of 0.823 percent, meeting the state’s imposed cap on taxes, factoring in Woodstock’s growth rate. In the three years since Wilber returned to the supervisor’s post after a four year hiatus, Woodstock has met the tax cap each time.
“As far as the budget is concerned and getting us on a sustainable track, I feel this is possible now that the big pieces, the highway garage, Town Hall, and Community Center renovations have been addressed.
“It’s very important that you do your very best,” he says. “Does that mean that there’s not a nickle wasted? Well, no, but you try your very best. And that has helped us with the projects, people trusted us to do it within the budget.”
Wilber was born in Toronto, Canada and turned 65 this summer. “I showed up here in 1951. When I was 15, I ran away to the west, came back in a couple of years, and continued to serve as Woodstock’s youngest bartender…when people ask me what qualified you to run for supervisor, I always say it was tending bar here on a Saturday night. I thought it was glib, but increasingly I think it’s true. I got a GED in 1970 or 71, I wrote (and still write) novels and plays and banged nails. I was fortunate enough to marry my wife, and have two kids, now grown.”
Wilber had a difficult past year with health problems but says that is behind him now.
“My health is pretty good. I went down [to the city] last week, and found all that surgery I had had good results. The docs said ‘your sentence to a rickety old age has not been commuted.’”
He sees a changes coming in the town and wants to be prepared.
“I’m really keenly interested in starting another process for a Woodstock Comprehensive Plan,” he says. “The reason is I really think that, why we have these parking problems at the top of the mountain, for instance, is the attractiveness of the location and that in this modern age of communications, the world is told to come and see it. The illegal parking on Millstream Road…some publication advertised it as one of the ten best swimming holes in Ulster County. There is benefit to all of it, eat in our restaurants shop in our shops… how do we keep commercial businesses well fed? Is there some sort of compromise we’re going to have to make with the modern age and keep our economy thriving…
“That’s why I think it’s really time for a dialog and to initiate the Comp Plan process. Form the committee, furnish it with the document I call the inventory, where we are now…describing facilities and parkland, etc. and laying down the challenge as to what sort of town do you want to see in the next ten years in the age of airbnb, uber, instant messaging, etc.
“As far as airbnb is concerned…if airbnb were mom and pop wanting to rent out a room, that’s one thing. It’s different when mom and pop go to move out and rent the house. That’s essentially running a hotel. I want to have a community conversation about it. Under the current definitions hotels are only legal in the commercial district.
“Santa Monica completely banned short term rentals. That was one community’s response. Others lay out the red carpet for it. Some are OK but make you register and go to the building department, make sure its safe and pay a fee…so the red carpets are different hues.”
Wilber comments on the uncertainties of the job.
“You never know what’s going to jump out at you. A year ago, the whole Niagara thing jumped out like a genie out of the bottle,” he says. “But right now, I don’t feel any crisis around us.”
Of the water issue, he says that the board is motion. “The town board is going to engage an attorney cognizant of water issues, to look at the 1929 decisions [that govern Woodstock’s relationship with the city of Kingston, which owns Cooper Lake and a goodly portion of its watershed, utilizing the water for its citizens] and making sure our understanding of them and the DEC’s coincide…let’s get on the same page and get some modern language.”
And finally, Wilber says, “ I thank the voters for the 12 years of a really interesting and fascinating job. It’s always something new. I ask for your support.”