At the polls on November 7, Saugerties voters will choose between two veteran members of the town board for town supervisor, James Bruno and Fred Costello, who often ride to board meetings together. They will also find the names of a captain in the sheriff’s office, a former town cop, a town planning board member looking to make the jump to town board, and the youngest person to seek office in the town.
Current supervisor Greg Helsmoortel decided not to seek re-election. Candidates vying for the two four-year town board seats are Vincent Altieri, Paul Andreassen, John Schoonmaker and Donald Tucker.
All the candidates seeking office on the town board cited taxes as one of their main concerns. Each expressed the belief that he will be able to cut costs or bring in new business to offset higher governmental costs.
Costello and Bruno were profiled previously.
Here are sketches of the town board candidates.
Don Tucker, 63, wasn’t born in Saugerties but he has lived here for 50 years, and served for 43 years as a cop with the Saugerties Police Department. His name will appear on the Republican, and Conservative party lines.
“The number one issue residents are saying when I go door-to-door is their concern about taxes,” he said. He believes cost cuts can be made without affecting services by negotiating with the various unions, cutting equipment costs and personal-service contracts, and making services more efficient. “We need to be obligated to get something done,” he said. “And we need, and can cut the rate more than just one or two percent.”
The second biggest issue, Tucker said, was property assessments. Tucker says the town needs to be more people friendly when dealing with assessment complaints.
He also wants to better scrutinize development in the town. “I want to make sure these developments, and businesses coming into the town are not only good for us in the short term, but in the long term won’t end up costing us money.”
“I’ll try my damndest to help the residents of Saugerties.”
John Schoonmaker, 26, was born and raised in Saugerties, and is the youngest resident to run for office this year. “I’ve volunteered to work with political candidates, including Bernie Sanders,” he said, “and I’ve always believed that it’s important to get involved to help make a difference.”
Schoonmaker decided to run for office after a number of talks with his younger brother, Steven. about the importance of people of their generation getting involved.
“Why don’t you run?, he asked me.”
His campaign platform includes holding office hours twice a month at the senior center. “This would give residents three chances including the town board meetings to discuss their concerns. At town council meetings residents might not get a chance to really talk about their concerns, at these open office meetings they could have a longer time to discuss their issues.” He wants to make sure residents are listened to, and their concerns are heard and acted on.”
Schoonmaker also wants to see the town get more active environmentally. He said the town board vote against the Pilgrim Pipeline was a start. He also wants to see the town work with other communities to clean the Esopus Creek up. “Not only do we need to clear out the water chestnuts, but make sure that no other invasive species harm the creek.”
Like the other candidates, Schoonmaker is concerned about the economy and taxes.
“Reducing taxes is not that simple,” he said. “I would look at merging town and village into one entity, like we did with the police. The state has money to help communities that want to merge.”
Paul Andreassen, 62, was born and raised in Saugerties and is a member of the town planning board.
Andreassen wants to take a close look at the cost of infrastructure for the town, such as the costs of operating Cantine Park, the water and sewer department.
He also wants to make the town budget more easily understood for the layperson.
He wants to see the many abandoned commercial buildings utilized. There are a number of empty commercial buildings along Kings Highway that Andreassen would like to see either rented or sold to companies. “I want to what we can do to attract investors to these buildings.”
He also wants to see the town and village of Saugerties continue to talk about shared services and combining departments. “It was done with the police department, and doing more makes sense in the long term.”
Vincent Altieri, a 15-year resident of Saugerties and Ulster County native, will be on the Republican, Independence, and Reform party lines. He is captain in charge of the sheriff’s office Police Services Unit, which has a seven-million-dollar budget..
Altieri said he’s running because he wants to make Saugerties a better place. “I’d like to be involved in seeing the town council get involved in more shared services to help save taxpayers money.”
He’d like to see more shared services in law enforcement. “We would work closely with not only the sheriff’s office but the state police as well.”
Altieri also said he’d like to work to make the economic climate better in Saugerties so that small business would not only survive but thrive as well. “I’d like to help the town council be more fiscally responsible, and make sure there is a checks-and-balances system in place,” Altieri added.
Unopposed town officials seeking re-election are Lisa Stanley running on the Democrat, Republican, and Conservative lines for town clerk; Julie Dunn running on the Democrat, Republican, and Independence lines for town receiver of taxes; Douglas Myer running on the Democrat, Republican, Conservative and Independence lines for superintendent of highways, and Daniel Lamb running on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence lines for town justice.