Ulster County Republicans have selected John Parete, still a registered Democrat, to run against Democrat Kathy Nolan, incumbent legislator for District 22, comprising Olive, Shandaken, Denning, and Hardenburgh. Parete, who served as a legislator for six years, including a stint as chair, lost to Nolan in the 2017 election in a three-way race that hinged on absentee ballots for a final verdict. Nolan prevailed by 60 votes in the final tally after trailing by 20 in election night returns. Earlier, Parete had lost primaries — to Nolan for the Democratic line and to Cliff Faintych of Denning for the Republican ticket slot. Parete ran on the Conservative and Independence Party lines.
In her first term, Nolan has served on the Public Health, Public Works, and Trails and Rail Committees, as well as working as a liaison to Healthy Ulster. “I feel good about some expanded job opportunities in the area generally, and specifically in my district,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of work to expand trails and trail networks, and we’ve seen new businesses that seem to be springing up in relation to them, new cafés and other increases in tourism revenue.”
She cited the business activity stimulated by Rail Explorers during their first year in Phoenicia. The Ashokan Rail Trail is more than halfway completed and scheduled to open this year, with trailheads in proximity to commercial areas in Boiceville and Shokan. Nolan considers the promotion of outdoor recreation not only a health benefit for residents but a source of jobs and tourism income for the region. “When we construct new trails and link up trails, it invites longer-distance tourism. We’ve made improvements and restoration of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and we’re working on construction to connect the Walkway Over the Hudson to New Paltz.”
Nolan has supported the establishment of electric vehicle charging stations both to benefit the environment and make the area attractive to “the increasing proportion of the traveling public using electric vehicles. I’ve also made efforts to improve access through the rural transit system.” Mountain biking trails are on the increase at Jockey Hill near Kingston, in Wawarsing, and in the future, at Belleayre Ski Center.
She was among those legislators pushing the county to offer film production tax credits, which has boosted film production in the area. Besides the creation of jobs in the film industry, benefits include the opportunity for people to list their properties as sites for shooting.
Nolan sponsored legislation to protect young teens from nicotine addiction by raising the age to purchase tobacco products in Ulster County and helped to pass Ulster County’s forthcoming ban on single-use plastic bags. She also worked to improve broadband and other communication services to the remote areas of western Ulster County.
Her previous experience working with environmental and watershed groups in the community makes her “able to improve communication with those groups, in the spirit of accomplishing things together. I’ve helped bring that spirit to the county government, helping people understand each other and work together.”
Housing, opioids, ORDA
“I’ve had conversations with people around here who encouraged me to run again,” said Parete, speaking from his business, the Boiceville Inn. “They’re not getting the representation they think they’re entitled to, especially concerning jobs and housing. They’re concerned about the short-term rental industry squeezing out opportunities for people to rent or buy homes, and opportunities for people registered in the hospitality industry to exist.”
He feels the opioid issue is a major problem that needs addressing. “The legislature down there talks a good story about it, but the young people are being consumed by this. They have to be treated as infrastructure that we repair and maintain. The state and Governor Cuomo have done a good job making facilities available for folks who are addicted, but we have to be concerned with awareness. We have to look up a level to fund it, but we have to take action on our own. I have ideas on how to leverage money from the state and federal government to educate people.”
With the district lying within the New York City watershed, he sees continued cooperation with the city as vital to the region. “I don’t think there’s any problem with jobs and business going hand in hand with making sure our environment is clean. I’d like to see the State of New York and the city fund more water treatment facilities.”
As a member of the ORDA board, he is pleased with the state’s investment in jobs at Belleayre, where the state has spent $23 million on gondolas, trails, snowmaking, and improving the environment by replacing diesel with electric-powered equipment.