Saugerties mayor, facing rare challenge, makes the case for reelection

Mayor William Murphy

Saugerties village mayor William Murphy is running for his fifth full term. He’ll be running this year against trustee Don Hackett, Murphy was appointed to the mayor’s job in April 2010 after Robert Yerick resigned. Murphy had served on the village board since 2003.

Yerick was a tough act to follow. Murphy said he felt “honored” when Yerick asked him to step in, “and I’ve always felt it was necessary to keep up his vision. When I screw up – and everybody does, everybody makes mistakes – I ask myself, what would he have done?”

Murphy took on the job in the midst of the consolidation of the village and town police forces into a single department. The police consolidation took effect on January 1, 2011.
 The merger has worked out well, Murphy said, because there were benefits for both the town and the village. He supported the consolidation “because nobody lost a job.” 

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Could the village and town consolidate more services? “Over the past eight years, we have looked at other consolidation options,” Murphy said. At the time it was looked at, he said, consolidation of the village water and sewer departments didn’t make sense for the village.
“That had to do with the debt that the town had on their sewer department at the time,” he said. “When you do a consolidation it has to be financially responsible for both parties.”

Possible consolidation with the town highway department has also been discussed, Murphy said. The town highway department and DPW have somewhat different functions. “The town highway department is a true highway department,” he said. “Our DPW is a full-service department. For instance if a tree falls on someone’s property, I’ll send DPW guys to help them. We do the leaf pickup, which the town doesn’t have. We do the brush pickup. If someone’s basement floods, I would send one of my workers out with a pump. I feel that if we merged the departments we would lose that personal touch.” Murphy praised the work of the highway department, but said that they are not a public works department; “there is a distinct difference.”

Murphy said it didn’t make sense financially for the town to inherit the village DPW. But as a result of those conversations, we put into place a shared-services agreement with the town. The town has taken over some of our responsibilities that make more sense for them to do, and we’ve taken some of their plow routes that make sense. We also assist each other on road work. Rather than us going out and renting a piece of equipment, we can borrow from the town or vice versa. We share services with the school district when we can.”

“We all have each other’s backs”

Murphy said he sees the mayor’s job as part of a team. “When I say I, I don’t me myself alone. Everything that has been accomplished in the past nine years is everybody in this group. It’s myself, it’s the trustees, including Mr. Hackett, who has been a valuable trustee for many years. It’s my office staff, it’s my department heads, and it’s my laborers. I treat this village, and my trustees and my employees – it may sound ‘kumbayish, but we are a family. We all have each other’s back. We trust each other, and I think that’s what has made us successful for the last nine years. I was lucky to come in on the coattails of Mr. Yerick, who really got this whole thing going.”

For his first few years in office, Murphy said he was able to work with grants that had been secured during Yerick’s administration. Among them, money for new water lines in the village, Since then, with grant money Murphy secured, “We have replaced all the water lines in the village, we did the Streetscape project, we brought back the cross boxes, we made the streets safer, and that’s been a great partnership between my office, the police department and some community members.”

Murphy said he takes pride in the upgrade of Washington Avenue, a major thoroughfare through the village and the road to the high school complex. New blacktop, curbs and sidewalks. With cooperation from Ulster County, there was  a reduction of the speed limit. “That was an example of cooperation between the town, the county, the village and the school,” he said.

No one accomplishes anything on their own, he said. He praised former village clerk Mary Frank, but was quick to note that her replacement, Lisa Mayone, was doing “a great job.”
Among the mayor’s goals for the next two years are the beach and the water. He acknowledged Hackett’s role in researching and proposing solutions.

Leaving room for sports

“I’ve been on a committee for the past year with Fred Costello, members of the town board, Jeff Helmuth from my board, Stan O’Dell from the waterfront advisory committee working with Cornell Cooperative Extension to find the best solution to help with the milfoil and water chestnut removal problem. And I know Mr. Hackett is passionate about that problem, and I asked if he wanted to join the committee, and he said, absolutely.”
Another goal would be the restoration of Clovelea, the former Dragon Inn. “We have a new owner now [T.J. Anand of Baran Hospitality Group], who is very positive that he can do something with it while preserving the historic nature of the building and making something positive for our community.” Anand’s  plans include a bed-and-breakfast and  a restaurant.

One of Murphy’s brothers died as a result of drug addiction. While the village does not have a drug prevention program, he and former town supervisor Kelly Myers were able to get legal synthetic drugs off the drugstore shelves. 

Murphy and his wife Dana are both passionate about sports. Murphy was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. At the time the award was given, he commented that the honor was probably more for his coaching and developing young players than for his performance on the field or the court. Murphy and his wife are involved in coaching and leading youth sports. “We’ve coached basketball, we’ve coached softball, basketball,” he said. “I’ve been running the youth basketball program in Saugerties; this is my 30th year,”
 Prior to working at IBM, Murphy worked for the town recreation department for ten years, a job that included maintaining sports facilities. Currently, his work with IBM gives him enough flexibility to allow him to work outside the office and handle the mayor’s job as well.

Murphy has two daughters, one a sophomore and one, a senior, who is getting ready for college next year. “They’re both very involved in sports.” And despite having a full-time job and the mayor’s office, he doesn’t miss sports events. His wife teaches at Riccardi Elementary School.

The village election will be held Tuesday, March 19 at village hall.

There are 4 comments

  1. Anthony Kordich

    I think Murphy has done a decent job as in any political position it’s not a career position. He has severed on the board and Mayor for 9 years He has been following someone else vision so tack on those years of the previous mayor that’s a long stint of the same old same old. My comet isn’t to disrespect the Mayor and his accomplishments. I just think it maybe time to get different insight in the position to build on the old vision from new eyes

  2. NYArtist

    The streets are impossible to navigate with the piles of snow along the curb. There is no access for walkers, wheelchairs and seniors that have trouble with balance. Shame on the village for not clearing the snow and ice. It’s downright dangerous to go into town to shop. CLEAR THE SNOW!

  3. Steve whitaker

    May the Better Man Win , And the village Continue to prosper . I will be Moving out of the area soon . But this will always be my Hometown .

    Steve Whitaker .
    Village of Saugerties water Dept .

  4. Clarence Darrow

    Put a referendum on the ballot to dissolve the village, give all assets and liabilities to the Town, and walk away. No petition required, according to the State’s Village Laws books, all it takes for this village board to do is vote a majority in favor of the referendum being on the ballot. It’s one of the five powers of the Village Boards of the State, they, as a unit, can put on the ballot the question of dissolving the Village to the Village voters. Then you can be done with the lot of them, the extra Village taxes, and the Village maintenance crew joins the Town.

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