The tension between District 2 County Legislature candidates Chris Allen (D) and Joe Maloney (R) was palpable on the floor at the Candidates Forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on October 23. This tone was in stark contrast with the amicable nature of the previous debate between the town board candidates, most of whom asserted that the town would be in good hands no matter who was chosen in their closing statements.
Due to a medical emergency in District 1 candidate Mary Wawro’s family, Allen and Maloney were the only candidates that responded to the questions of attendees after Wawro’s opponent Mike MacIsaac gave a quick opening statement; although they cohabited the space for a full hour, the prickly candidates never exchanged glances and looked downward as the other spoke.
At the polls on November 7, Saugerties residents will choose between two candidates for both legislative Districts 1 and 2. In District 3, incumbent Dean Fabiano will run unopposed. Following are sketches of the candidates.
Mary Wawro, District 1 incumbent
Mary Wawro, 59, will hold the Conservative, Republican and Independence lines on the ballot in November. She is a 1976 graduate of Saugerties High School and owner of Mary’s Little Lambs Daycare in Saugerties since 1992; she claims to have shepherded over 200 children alongside her staff. Wawro has served as a PTA member, a Girl Scout Leader and a Sunday School teacher in the community. She is a mother of five and a grandmother of four.
Wawro is currently serving her third term as District 1 Legislator, and serves as the chair of the Legislative Programs, Education and Community Services Committee. She serves on the Energy and Environment Committee. She is also on the Hope Rocks Committee and the Ulster County Coalition Against Narcotics, and is the legislative appointee to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County. Wawro co-sponsored a local law prohibiting the usage of stryofoam food containers by food service establishment. If she is re-elected, the incumbent plans to continue to focus attention on addressing the opiod epidemic, support the Catskill Mountain Railroad and aims to find an appropriate location for the much needed fire training center in Ulster County.
“Although we’re making strides for giving people treatment, we don’t have infrastructure set up for when they get out,” said Wawro. “One of the big problems is that people don’t like homes like this in their neighborhood. We have a drug tip line with the Sheriff’s department that I cosponsored a budget amendment [for] — you can call or text tips confidentially. We need more education across the boards.”
Wawro plans to start an advisory board that would assist people who have had healthcare treatment in communicating with members of the Department of Health.
“I believe that I have a better contact with the public [than Mike MacIsaac],” said Wawro. “I have a more broad based contact with my constituents. I’m very good at my job, and there are things I’d like to continue doing.”
Mike MacIsaac, District 1 challenger
Democratic and Working Families District 1 candidate Michael MacIsaac, 57, is a systems programmer for ADP, served in the Marine Corps from ’79 until ’83, and has volunteered as a soccer coach, with the Boy Scouts and with Habitat for Humanity. From 2003 until 2007, MacIsaac served on the Saugerties School Board, the last year of which he was Vice President.
“I was a good team player,” said MacIsaac of the experience. “I helped with redistricting — it was proposed and turned down. I led the committee to reconsider the redistricting approach — it was voted on again and passed. [I also proposed] an initiative to have a lower tax bracket for senior citizens — it passed unanimously.”
MacIsaac attended Coleman Catholic High School, and graduated from high school in Connecticut in 1978; he earned an associate’s degree from Saddleback Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern. He has three children.
Among MacIsaac’s issues of interest are affordable home ownership, senior citizen housing, the local opiod crisis, the establishment of an adequate fire training center in Ulster County (and finding a more suitable location for it than its previous proposed site in Cottekill), energy sustainability and energy conservation.
“I hope to work on the Smart Energy Committee. Although Washington isn’t doing a lot to promote energy efficiency, I’m seeing [a push on the part of] grass roots organizations [to do so]. I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction from the grass roots up.”
A major component of Macisaac’s platform to facilitate more widespread access to broadband internet services throughout the county.
“I’m an IT guy and I believe that Ulster County citizens are being limited in their choice of internet,” said MacIsaac, who claims that up to 1.3% of county residents don’t have reliable access to the internet. “Because there isn’t competition, we don’t get the best rates. Our country set up super highways and railroad systems to open up our country; just like water and electricity, internet is a necessary resource. I could see Saugerties researching and possibly implementing some way of making internet available and making sure that everyone has access to the internet. We need it to be affordable and reliable and we need everyone to have access.”
Chris Allen, District 2 incumbent
Incumbent Chris Allen, 49, was first elected to the Legislature in 2013 after defeating longtime Republican legislator Robert Aiello, the reelected in 2017. The self-proclaimed “policy wonk” has since served two consecutive legislative terms, acts as Deputy Chair for the Public Health and Social Services Committee, and holds positions on the Ways and Means Committee (which recommends the Legislature’s position on financial and budgetary matters) and the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
“I first became involved with politics in 2012 as a political consultant, as I had set up a communications consulting company that provided technical advisement to State-level and Congressional-level candidates,” said Allen. “After finding the business to be too much about who knows you and who you know, and after surveying the state of local politics, I decided to run for office myself. I have become even more pragmatic and logical in my approach…I do not believe that one set platform that corresponds with a particular political party has all of the answers…Having served for four years, I realize that my deep education and ability to deconstruct societal problems contributes towards me being an effective legislator.”
Allen, who currently resides in Barclay Heights, graduated from Saugerties High School in 1986; he also holds an associate’s degree from Ulster Community College, bachelor’s degrees from SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Binghamton, and master’s degrees from Rutgers and Northern Colorado University.
Allen worked in the industry of personal athlete representation for nine years, as well as serving as a political consultant and canvasser for campaigns and for the passage of referendums. He says that he is self employed as a home health care aide, writer and communications consultant.
Among Allen’s priorities are accessible healthcare for the disabled, elderly and particularly for Lyme Disease patients, especially after being diagnosed with Lyme in 2008, working on the county’s policy on Lyme Disease Awareness via the Health Committee. He has been endorsed by the New York State Nurses Association.
Allen has also pushed to get natural gas lines on Kings Highway that he feels will bring economic development and jobs to the area. He prides himself on various instances of assisting his constituents, including pushing the CXS Railroad to clean up leftover debris at the Doyle’s Lane railroad crossing, facilitating the removal of dangerous trees from property owners in Barclay Heights, working with the town and village boards to enforce Truck Idling laws and facilitating the replacement of the gazebo at the Esopus Bend Trail.
Joe Maloney, District 2 challenger
Republican candidate Joe Maloney, 37, has run a campaign advocating more straightforward spending and transparency in local government. He is a lifelong Ulster County resident who has owned Maloney’s Wine and Liquor in Saugerties for the last two and a half years. He is the father of two boys, and his wife, Elizabeth Weredyk, is the senior auditor in the office of Comptroller Elliot Auerbach.
“What frustrates me…is [the] lack of specifics [in politics],” said Maloney at Monday’s forum put on by the League of Women Voters. “We hear a lot of big words like ‘transparency’ and ‘efficiency’ with no real understanding of what’s going to take it from point A to point B. On my palm card, in my platform I can tell you what I’m talking about, where it’s been implemented in Ulster County, how many legislators are for it and against it and what my plan is to get to 12 — if you want to get things done in the county, it takes 12 people to vote for it. It’s not enough just to talk about it.”
Before his stint as an area business owner, Maloney worked a collective 15 years with disabled children, spending five years working at the Anderson School for Autism and a subsequent ten with the Taconic DDSO.
“I want to make a point about the kind of individuals we want getting involved in local politics,” said Maloney in his opening statement at the forum. “I think it’s meant to be people that have had success in the private and public sectors that want to lend their services to help run the local government like a business with compassion.”
Among his goals, Maloney plans to push for the imposition of term limits for public officials if he wins the November election, which would make Ulster the third county in the state to do so.
Maloney calls for a consistent online budget format to ease the ability of taxpayers to track local spending, the reinstatement of memorializing resolutions with a subsequent extra meeting to discuss them separately from budgetary matters, a more definitive mileage policy for legislators and to develop a county debt repayment plan.
Sustainability is also on Maloney’s radar, citing his own usage of free canvas bags in his liquor store despite higher costs.
Dean Fabiano, District 3 incumbent
Running unopposed in District 3, which contains parts of both the Town of Saugerties and the Town of Ulster, 58-year-old Dean Fabiano has served the county legislature for seven terms.
“I’m a hands-on guy,” said Fabiano. “I’m not textbook smart. I didn’t go to college, but when one of my constituents calls me with a problem I do what I can to solve it. Once the election is over, I don’t care [what their political affiliation] is — I grab the bull by the horns and 85% of the time I solve their problem.”
His primary concerns include being involved in the solution to the drug epidemic in the county and to try to bring new businesses to Ulster County. He stated that there is too much “divide between the environmentalists and the developers,” citing the recent deal with the Niagra Bottling company that was turned down, which he felt should have been consummated.
“I’m third generation here,” said Fabiano of his lifetime in Saugerties. “My family’s here, my children are here and I enjoy being here. I like the tradition of home town. [I wanted to run again because] I chair the Public Works Committee and we have a lot of construction of roads [going on] right now. We have some projects out there that I’d like to see through.”
Among these projects is the relocation of the Family Court to Ulster, which will need to be financially monitored by the PWC.