Since the resignation several months ago of Mike Reynolds, who moved to New Paltz, the Gardiner Town Board had an empty seat to fill. At their May 14 meeting, the remaining members unanimously voted in an environmental activist who identifies with the Lorax, the Dr. Seuss character who saves threatened trees. Says newly minted councilman Franco Carucci, “I have a favorite quote, which has helped guide me through so many volunteer opportunities: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’”
A native of Hoboken, New Jersey and a first-generation American – his parents emigrated from Italy in 1972 – Carucci, his wife Rebecca and 14-year-old daughter Sofia have only lived in Gardiner for five years, lured to the area as regular weekend hikers at Minnewaska and Mohonk. But already he has become a highly visible community volunteer, notably as a founding member of the Climate Smart Gardiner Task Force. “I have led or co-led several projects including Community Solar, where I was successful in procuring a grant from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), helping bring clean-energy options and education to the residents of Gardiner,” he reports.
“Our most recent project, Trees for Tribs (Tributaries), was completed this past weekend. We planted 70 trees and shrubs along a sensitive tributary of the Wallkill River within the hamlet of Gardiner. These new plantings will aid in increased flood water retention, while also mitigating erosion along the stream and riverbanks. They will also help keep salt (from winter road work) from reaching the waters, which causes oversalinization of fresh water (harmful to natural aquatic plants and wildlife).”
If you think that sounds a bit like the highly detailed enthusiasm of a science geek, you’re on the right track. Carucci earned a dual BS in Biochemistry from Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey and BS in Medical Technology from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark. He works as a project manager at Siemens Healthcare, where “change management” is part of his skillset. He believes that it will help integrate him well with “a great team,” as he characterizes the Town Board.
“As a project manager, I often must work with many groups that do not directly report to me. Some might find this challenging; however, I see it as an opportunity to understand others’ viewpoints and work towards common goals for the betterment of the project and the community,” Carucci says. “I have an internal drive to find creative solutions for today’s challenges. I believe these attributes will serve me well in working with the Town Board and the many departments we interact with, as well as representing the voice of the people of Gardiner.”
Carucci found himself interacting frequently with the board as a spokesman for Climate Smart Gardiner and an advocate for the Solarize Gardiner project, which seems likely to be high on the new councilman’s list of priorities. Last fall the group concluded the initial public outreach phase of its campaign to bring a solar generation and distribution network to the town, and it is now seeking more assistance from NYSERDA to “contract with a community solar provider and get residents signed up for clean energy.”
Another of his recent environmental stewardship projects was Riverkeeper’s Wallkill River Sweep, which took place on May 4. Climate Smart Gardiner was a co-sponsor and Rebecca Carucci was the coordinator for Gardiner. “We had over 40 volunteers on land and 18 in the water,” Franco reports. “We performed cleanups in Gardiner and Wallkill, and it was the best turnout of the event in the eight years it has been running.”
Other volunteer work includes heading up the environmental committee of the citizen action group Move Forward New York, whose local team just this past weekend completed their biannual Adopt-a-Highway cleanup on Route 208 in Gardiner. Carucci is also an associate member of the Gardiner Democratic Committee, serving on several subcommittees and volunteering as an Election Day poll-watcher.
Carucci is set to serve out the remainder of Reynolds’ term, which expires at the end of this year. So, he’s in the awkward position of having to hit the ground running as a councilman and also start thinking about reelection almost immediately. But he’s already talking like a public servant who wants to reach across the aisle. “My main priorities focus on our local environment. That said, I pride myself on being a good listener and will focus on the concerns and goals of all residents of Gardiner,” he says. “There are many changes occurring around us, and I look forward to continuing to help guide our town through these changes while maintaining what we love about our beautiful community.”