Those on the ballot for Town Board races felt write-in candidate Barry Samuels crossed the line when he tried to speak at a meet-and-greet event paid for by the other candidates, a move he now admits was regrettable.
Samuels attended an event October 19 at the Creekside Grill that was paid for by Town Council candidates Lorin Rose and Richard Heppner, Judge Richard Husted, Supervisor Bill McKenna and County Legislator Jonathan Heppner. He requested permission to speak to attendees and was refused.
“I feel the (town) Democratic Committee has been dissing the 248 Democrats who signed my petition,” Samuels said.
The Ulster County Board of Elections disqualified Samuels’ petition for a sot on a primary election ballot after a complaint because he had written “Town Board” instead of “Town Councilman.” Samuels contends everyone who signed his petition was aware he was running as a Town Councilman candidate, not for supervisor or any other position. In a Facebook post after the event, Samuels said he had been “Trumped,” by the town Democratic Committee, something other candidates find objectionable.
McKenna noted the event didn’t have anything to do with the Democratic Committee and the five candidates on the ballot paid to rent the restaurant for the evening.
When Samuels arrived there was “no effort to kick him out,” McKenna said. Nobody raised objections to him being there and it wasn’t an issue until Samuels requested to speak. McKenna noted none of the other candidates made speeches. The only remarks were introductions made by McKenna.The supervisor said he respects Samuels and even gave him advice when he decided to continue as a write-in candidate.
But McKenna said Samuels is doing what he feared, which is fracturing the local Democrats when they should all be united in defeating Congressman John Faso next year.
“I was mistaken. I admit that,” said Samuels, who added he might have reacted the same way if he were in their shoes.
Samuels was allowed to speak at a prior candidates’ night at the Lake Hill firehouse sponsored by the Ladies’ Auxiliary, though he was not permitted to sit at the table.
Now onto what matters.. The issues. The following are the candidates’ backgrounds and thoughts on things that matter to Woodstockers.
There are three running for the two Town Council seats up for election. The supervisor position is unopposed as is town justice and the County Legislature seat that covers Woodstock.
Town Republicans, having no viable contenders, skipped their caucus.
Voting is November 7 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The polling place for Districts 1, 4, 7 and 8 returns to the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center.
Richard Heppner was appointed to fill McKenna’s Town Council seat when the board appointed McKenna to replace the late Jeremy Wilber. Heppner is now running for his first elected term.
Heppner has been married to Deborah for 37 years. Their son, Jonathan, is the District 23 county legislator serving Woodstock and part of Hurley, Their daughter, Eliza, works for AARP in Washington, D.C. He is a retired professor and former academic vice president of Orange County Community College and has served as town historian for 16 years. Over the years, he has served on many town committees, “too numerous to remember.”
He has formed a committee to present recommendations for dealing with the proliferation of short-term rentals and the effect on permanent housing and quality-of-life issues. He hopes to make a presentation to the board by year’s end.
“There has to be a balance. If people want to rent their apartments and their cottages, that’s fine,” Heppner said. “But when people come into town and buy up houses just for the sake of renting them out on short-term basis… One, it’s not within the zoning law, and two, what does that do to the housing market in Woodstock? It drives prices up. It takes places off the market.”
Added Heppner, “I think we’ve got to start thinking ahead. I think we got caught off guard by the short-term rental thing. I think it started mushrooming and all of a sudden it was there and we hadn’t done anything about it. Trying to get it back in a box is hard because people have been allowed to do certain things.”
The proposed budget is a good one, he said, because it doesn’t bust the state cap, but he cautioned the town needs to make sure people aren’t driven out because they can’t afford to live here.
“The harder it becomes to live here, basically you end up with a bunch of fairly well-off people and then who runs the little leagues, who does all those things that need to get done,” he said.
Heppner also said something needs to be done about parking. More capacity could be added by delineating the spaces at the Mountain View and lower Comeau lots. The town also needs to explore crosswalks. More are needed in some places and perhaps less in others. It needs expert study, he said.
Richard Husted has served as town justice for 19 years, appointed in 1998 to replace Sydney Slayton, who had retired before the end of his term.
Husted, a Dutchess County native, settled in Woodstock in the 1960s.
He is a former county legislator, rescue squad member and Zoning Board chairman. He is a former high school teacher and retired ironworker. He was also one of Santa’s helpers for 20 years during the town’s Christmas Eve program.
For recreation, he plays basketball in Woodstock and Kingston, where he is known as “The Shooter.”
Husted said a lot of what he sees from the bench never changes. Assaults, burglaries and disorderly conduct are most common. Crime in general is up because of opiate use. People break into houses because they’re desperate for money. Alcohol use leads to bad decisions in general, he noted.
The economy also takes its toll on those who are otherwise law-abiding citizens, he said.
“It’s not against the law to be poor, but people on hard times are made to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”
Husted said he tries to walk people through the process in a compassionate way and hopes they learn from their bad deed.
“I tell everyone in court, even when I’m arraigning them, you’ve had a pretty bad day. As you stand before me, you’re presumed innocent,” he said. “We’re going to take this one step at a time. I inform them of the arraignment. I inform them of counsel, I inform them of the crimes and I say eventually you’re going to put this behind you.”
Husted said he gets satisfaction from seeing people continue to lead their lives long after they were in his courtroom.
Bill McKenna, appointed as supervisor in January, was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and spent much of his youth in New Jersey. He moved to Woodstock when he was 23. McKenna is married to Hilary has a stepson, Jory, 37, and a son, Gabriel, 19, who is attending SUNY Purchase. In addition to being supervisor, he is a contractor.
McKenna gradually assumed more duties of the supervisor when Jeremy Wilber became ill in February 2015 and established a working relationship with the staff. He was also in regular communication with Wilber.
“Coming in on January 1 was not as big a jolt as it could’ve been,” he said.
McKenna noted so far he is able to balance his contracting business — which he scaled back — with work as supervisor.
“I usually get in the office about 7 in the morning for a couple hours, then I’ll go swing a hammer midday and typically back here in the afternoon,” McKenna said. “Kerry (Muldoon) keeps my schedule. If there needs to be meetings during the day, I adjust.”
McKenna said he is even open to keeping Saturday hours for constituents and though he often comes to the office on the weekends, nobody has requested to meet with him then.
McKenna is also amenable to adjusting the supervisor’s salary if it doesn’t require being in the office for a full day.
“It’s conceivable that were things to stay the way they are and that I continue to not have to be sitting at the desk 8 hours a day, that I would make an adjustment in the salary downwards. I’d like to go through at least another year before we made any radical changes,” he said.
McKenna said his first year has been one of preparation and is excited to see two projects funded by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery begin next year.
One is the redesign of drainage on Mill Hill Road, eliminating the non-functional drainage slot dreaded by drivers and a new culvert on Reynolds Lane.
Another project is the installation of reed beds that will eliminate the need to transport sludge to Albany to be treated, saving the town trucking and fuel costs.
“We had hoped to have that under construction, but one of the requirements of the DEC is they want genetic testing done to the reeds to make sure they’re not invasive,” McKenna said.
“Longer term goal is to see the buildings up here renovated,” he said.
“I don’t think we could ask for a more beautiful setting for an office, but I’d like to see them more energy efficient. I’d like to see the electric and heating systems upgraded. The big one is ADA compliance. I want to pull the people from upstairs, get them downstairs and create an addition along one level so the people go right in there with no problems.”
Lorin Rose, a Woodstock native, is a former Planning Board member and current member of the Fire Department. He’s running for one of two Town Council seats. Along with Jim Hanson Richard Heppner and Tom Unrath, he formed a volunteer group called the Geezer Corps, building projects such as the information kiosk on the Comeau Property, the base for the Keegan Bell at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, various bridges on the Comeau trail and various things for Family of Woodstock. The latest project is a stone memorial to Jeremy Wilber, to be dedicated October 28.
Rose worked for I.J. Rose Construction Company and was the third generation to run it. He went to Onteora and has been married to Shirley for 28 years.
“I think I bring a very good understanding of the town, how it works, and I bring a work ethic, and a good attitude towards getting things done, and I give a damn about the town,” Rose said, noting he can utilize his longtime relationships with every division of town government.
“We need to rein in the Airbnbs now because I see it being a bigger problem. If that goes corporate we’re really in trouble,” Lorin said of the major issues facing the town.
“If that becomes strictly investments, then you don’t have a neighbor that let your dog out or feed your dog or anything like that… You have a holding company,” Rose added.
“The rest of it is the same municipal circles we keep turning. We’ve got to do something about parking. It’s kind of the same stuff, but I bring a different attitude towards it.”
On traffic, Rose said “The first thing that we got to do it look at the town properties and see where we could make more parking. That’s the big step is getting places where people can just drive and park because a lot of there traffic is people driving back and forth looking to get off the road and they can’t.”
Barry Samuels, a write-in candidate for one of the Town Councilman seats, was born in Brooklyn and obtained his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University. Destined for academia, he went to graduate school at the University of Michigan. But it was 1965 and other things took priority.
Samuels eventually came to Woodstock in 1979, where he met college friend Ellen Shapiro and opened the Golden Notebook bookstore, which he sold in 2010. Samuels is finishing a five-year term on the library Board of Trustees. He is married to Sandy Rarick and they are currently raising their granddaughter, Gabriella.
Samuels is a former president of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Arts, served on the Woodstock Film Festival board, started the Memoir Festival which became the Woodstock Writers’ Festival, assisted with the Volunteers’ Day picnic among many other things.
Samuels started Woodstock University, which featured local experts giving seminars on various topics, such as Leslie Gerber on the Magic of Mozart and Ed Sanders on investigative journalism.
“This is my chance to show my granddaughter who is 16, maybe inspire her generation to be in it as well, to get involved and don’t take the easy way out, which I could at 74… just retire into a little heap in my house and just read or watch movies forever,” Samuels said.”
“My main thing is to listen. Being in business for so long, I think I have an advantage for the local business community as a voice for them, more so than any other candidate.
He said the town needs better ways to get the older population into town and engaged.
“We really should have some sort of alternative transportation for the seniors who live out in Lake Hill and Shady, to bring them into town. Have them be part of the community. Let them go to Maria’s or wherever, and then take them back home, but to be here in this physical space rather than just remain in their houses and away from other people.”
Samuels pointed out the need for affordable housing, noting when he spoke to people who work in the stores, “95 percent of them don’t live in Woodstock and I assume…that the couldn’t afford to live here.”
Samuels said there needs to be a way to let the Airbnb-type rentals co-exist in the town.
“We need to find a way to combine both the regulations and the rules with accommodation and friendliness. Being the most famous small town in America, it really behooves us to be welcoming.”
At 29, Jonathan Heppner is the youngest serving member of the Ulster County Legislature. He represents District 23, which is part of Hurley and all of Woodstock. He was elected in 2015, succeeding Don Gregorius, and is now seeking his second term. He serves on the Energy and Environment and the Public Health and Social Services committees and the Climate Smart and the Train and Rail Advisory subcommittees. He is also on the Ulster Coalition Against Narcotics and the Human Rights Task Force. Prior to becoming a legislator, Heppner served on the Woodstock Environmental Commission.
He is the press secretary for the New York State Senate Democrats.
Heppner helped create a county position of family advocate to deal with the rise in opiate addiction, having seen several Woodstock youths fall victim to the epidemic.
“It helps families and friends seek treatment. It helps them navigate the bureaucracies of treatment centers and insurance,” said Heppner of the position, that works in partnership with family services.
Heppner also advocated for the proceeds of a new excise tax paid by marijuana dispensaries to go toward combating opiate addiction instead of the general fund.
Heppner touted successes of the Energy and Environment Committee, including a solar array at the former county landfill, advocating against anchorage of oil barges on the Hudson and opposition to the Pilgrim Pipeline.
Heppner said the county needs to continue to be more creative in attracting business.
“The days of the giant IBM are gone,” he said, noting people are reminded of that every day when they drive past Tech City.