Saugerties’ 2018 town board will include a builder, somebody still in his 20s, an environmentalist and, now, a computer programmer.
Mike MacIsaac, the losing Democratic candidate in County Legislature District 1, was chosen by the town board on Dec. 23 to fill Supervisor-elect Fred Costello Jr.’s vacated council seat starting in January.
MacIsaac, along with Paul Andreassen, John Schoonmaker and Fred Costello Jr., will be sworn into service at noon on Jan. 1 at the Senior Center; there will be refreshments, and Grammy winner Malcolm Cecil will perform. MacIsaac said he will take an online webinar and attend classes in Albany later that month to learn more about his responsibilities as a councilman.
“We requested résumés and we were able to interview anyone who did submit a résumé. After interviewing everyone, we met to discuss the résumés and to discuss who everyone thought was the best choice based on what they brought to the board,” said Costello this week. “He brings a technical component to the board that the rest of us don’t have. He also has previous management experience and board experience from his [stint] on the school board. He was also vetted by the public — he only lost to Mary [Wawro] by six votes.”
MacIsaac is only guaranteed one year on the board, after which a special election will be held for someone to finish the remaining two years of Costello’s term. Seven other hopefuls vied for the available slot, including losing town board candidate Vincent Altieri, losing District 2 candidate Chris Allen, frequent town board meeting attendee Al Bruno, Bob Thoman, James Mooney and Jamie Fine.
“As with all the candidates interviewed, Mike was very informative [regarding] his areas of strength and weakness,” said Andreassen. “He attested to not being an extrovert and maybe being more prone to being analytical due to his background in computer science. He was interested in improving marketing, job opportunities [and] broadband [access] and the combination of [town and village] services. … Saugerties is fortunate to have all these candidates in their midst. Mike will be an asset to the town board and the people he represents.”
Before running for a seat in county government, MacIsaac served on the Saugerties school board from 2003 and 2007, securing lower school taxes for senior citizens and playing a role in its redistricting.
“I was on the school board for three years and I questioned whether I could find a wider scope of government. At the county level, you have a larger scope, but it’s about the county and not the municipality. I thought [after the school board] that if I did this again, I’d want to do it on a county level,” said MacIsaac. “If I had gotten [six] more votes, I wouldn’t have considered the town board,” said MacIsaac. “The day after the election, I learned that the town board seat was open. I had done a lot of work on the political campaign — I’d knocked on 1,000 doors and about 40 percent of the doors in Saugerties. I had met Fred [Costello] and John [Schoonmaker] and Paul [Andreassen] and got along with all of them, and I feel I can give back to the community, be it on the county or the town level. Why not take that open seat?”
After graduating in 1978 from Stamford Catholic High School in Connecticut, MacIsaac, 57, served four years in the Marines as a ground radio repairman, and was stationed in Twentynine Palms and El Toro in California as well as Okinawa.
“I wanted to the most futuristic stuff they had, so I worked on radios with tubes in them,” said MacIsaac. “I have a logical mind. I liked math and I [initially] went for electrical engineering [at Northeastern University]. I was in the library and picked up an issue of Psychology Today and it said that the hardware is always a year or two ahead of the software and it was then that I decided to switch from computer hardware to computer software because they would need people.”
Running for county legislator “rekindled” MacIsaac’s concern for the ecology; while he feels that, since the government has begun to abandon the environment on a federal level, change must take place on a grassroots level. MacIsaac said he plans to represent Saugerties on the Ulster County Climate-Smart Committee.
“I showed up and people said ‘cool, someone from Saugerties,’” said MacIsaac. “I ran at the county level and now I’m performing at the town level, so I’m the perfect liaison.”
MacIsaac works as a systems programmer at IBM, where he has worked in various capacities for the last 30 years. He often works with IBM mainframe computers, which are still manufactured in the Hudson Valley. Due to his background in computer science, a key element of MacIsaac’s campaign has been to provide steadfast internet access to the small percentage of those in Saugerties who don’t have it. He hopes to improve the town website and to be consulted on “any IT issues.”
“The United States needs an information superhighway,” stressed MacIsaac. “In the late 1800s, we opened up the country with the transcontinental railroad; in the 1950s, we again opened the country to cars and trucks with the United States Interstate Highway System. Today, I feel that we need to open up the country again to fast, reliable and affordable Internet.”
“The future of Saugerties is bright,” said MacIsaac. “Even though it’s hard to bring jobs to New York State, Saugerties has a special spark. We have good town leadership and I feel like we can make Saugerties grow and prosper. With the King’s Highway corridor, the town has done a very good job at enabling businesses to come into town with shovel-ready locations. We have a lot of property available.”