Shandaken town board positions are up for grabs

On Election Day, Shandaken residents will vote for two out of three candidates running for town board. Incumbent Faye Storms is on the Democratic ticket, while council member Tim Malloy is retiring. Nancy Holgate was nominated by the Republicans, and Kevin Van Blarcum, an enrolled Democrat, received the endorsement of both major parties.

Nancy Holgate

Nancy Holgate has lived in Shandaken since 1977 and in Greene County before that. She has a bachelors and a masters degree in math education from SUNY New Paltz. After several years of teaching math at SUNY colleges, she worked as an accountant and has been Town Justice Tom Crucet’s legal secretary for the past 20 years. She is a member of Phoenicia Rotary and helped run this year’s rubber duck race fundraiser. As a scoutmaster and mother of two boys — now college graduates — she organized trips for the Boy Scouts for 30 years, planning, preparing, and raising funds for various adventures. “Youth in this community need to see more of the world,” she said. “I took the scouts to Puerto Rico, Glacier and Yellowstone Parks, the Grand Canyon.”

Holgate described herself as “always budget-conscious.” Her husband, Gary, worked as an accountant for the town, with her assistance. “I can help with grant work,” she said.

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She sees the economy as a major issue and would like to see the train back in town. “It’s a historic attribute for our community. It helped bring people to Phoenicia and to the Emerson. Also we’ve lost so many restaurants. We need to have more small businesses, some general stores. Businesses need help with sewage issues.” For people who move to the area to open businesses and raise children, she feels it’s important to have a good school district.

With Airbnb and other short-term rentals becoming significant in the town, Holgate favors some regulation, such as making sure property owners or their representatives are available in case of problems. One benefit, she pointed out, is that owners keep their homes in good shape.

Regarding flood resilience, she said the town handled the last flood better than she expected. “We still need the DEP to get rid of some debris,” she commented. “The Stony Clove, north of the bridge, needs work, and so do other streams. Planting alongside streams is very helpful. There’s always going to be flooding.”

Faye Storms

“I’ve been able to manage and run a business for 38 years,” said Faye Storms, owner of the Blue Barn antique shop and a local realtor. “I’ve figured out how to keep going through lean times, and I’ve been fiscally aware.” She has served as a council member for the past four years, after sitting on the planning board for a year.

“I’m a people person,” said Storms. “I know how to work with people from all sides, and I’m in for the long haul. There are so many organizations I helped start or helped run,” including Shandaken Chamber of Commerce, Shandaken Women’s Network, Shandaken Theatrical Society, and Belleayre Conservatory.

One of the goals she put forth the first time she ran for office was to have a health clinic in Phoenicia again. Since then, she has been working towards the opening of a health center at the town-owned building opposite the post office. “There will be all different modalities — medical, mental, physical — and we’re ‘this close’ to an agreement.” The projected opening, if all goes well, will be in the spring of 2018.

Storms said the town board has worked toward flood resiliency during her tenure, receiving grants to rebuild bridges and roads damaged by flooding. Her support of the Scenic Byway Committee has helped organize towns along Route 28 to create and promote events that bring tourist dollars into the area. With the Pine Hill 20/20 visioning committee, she is looking at improvements to the business atmosphere to bring more people to the hamlet.

Regarding the railroad, she said, “We can’t control it. Mike Hein is in control, but I’d love to have the trains back. We have a history we have to preserve.”

Her focus for the next four years will be affordable housing. “It’s difficult with so many second homeowners and Airbnbs competing,” she said. “We need houses and apartments for people who live and work in Shandaken.”

Kevin Van Blarcum

Born and raised in Shandaken, Kevin Van Blarcum received a degree in geopolitical science from SUNY Albany and has returned to settle in Pine Hill with his wife, Cassie. He is on the board of the Morton Library, heads the committee for the annual Pine Hill block party, and has helped with the Pine Hill 20/20 visioning process. Currently he’s heading up the volunteers installing new playground equipment.

“I definitely have a different perspective because I’m 27,” said Van Blarcum. “A lot of kids I went to school with have gone to the city or out West where there are more jobs, but I decided to settle here.” He drives to Kingston every day to work at Keegan Ales, and his wife drives to Delhi, where she is a professor. “It’s hard to make it work. We need to find more stability where we can support young families. We should getting second homeowners to invest in the community — not just come up on weekends but also start businesses, come to town board meetings.”

Van Blarcum sees the proposed Belleayre Resort and the railroad as hot-button issues. “If the right plan can be agreed upon for the resort, possibly it can be a success, if they can reach a middle ground. The railroad is a huge part of our history. I don’t want to see the railway museum eradicated. I also think the rail trail could be good, connecting scenic spots in town. But the railroad made this place.”

As the son of Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum — also a former Shandaken council member — he credits his father with “instilling in me a sense of civic duty. I’m not running because I think something is terribly wrong with the town but because I love this town. It has given me everything I have, and I would love to give back. I hope if I get elected, I will lead with dignity and respect.” ++

Violet Snow

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