John Schoonmaker may be the youngest member of the Saugerties town board in history. After graduating from Saugerties High School in 2010, he studied biology at Siena College. He did volunteer work for Bernie Sanders’ Get Out the Vote initiative last year and canvassed for Zephyr Teachout’s campaign in 2016.
The work in political organizing seems to have unleashed the 26-year-old Schoonmaker’s inner wonk. His campaign emphasized the need for the cleanup of the Esopus Creek in conjunction with the DEP, the consolidation of village and town services to lower tax rates, and weekly office hours to foster public involvement in town matters.
His win on November 7 was unexpected. “It took my breath away when I had to look at the numbers on election night,” he said. “I was the underdog.”
He doesn’t lack for ideas. “Some of the things I’d really want to get tackled would be to get that coalition of towns and nonprofits together for environmental issues,” he said. “I’d like to talk to other towns to see how they’re keeping costs down and working together to find what solutions they’re using.”
He thinks greater transparency, such as from making documentation related to town matters more available, should be a priority. “I went to a budget meeting, and the actual budget proposal wasn’t up until a week afterward. That isn’t something that should be been overlooked.”
He’s task-oriented. “As an administration, we need to get together and decide what points we want to work towards,” he said. “There’s only so much time and resources to get everything done, so it’s definitely going to be a collaboration in figuring out the best path to go forward together as a team because we only have so much time to accomplish things. Some of the things that we campaigned on might be more realistic, some might be more difficult and might have to sit on the backburner until a more opportune time comes for them.”