Former Woodstock Supervisor Jeff Moran is giving the job another go, challenging incumbent Bill McKenna with a write-in campaign for the November 5 election. “Obviously it’s not an easy thing to do to get people to vote for somebody who›s not on the ballot,” said Moran, realizing it’s an uphill battle for the job he held for two terms from 2008 through 2011. “Public service is a funny gene to have,” Moran said when ask why he wants the job again.
“It’s not a well paid job. Doesn›t get you a lot of pats on the head,” he said, comparing it to the person in the duck suit at the carnival dunk booth. “Every day, every week, every month, you’re in a fishbowl.”
The difference is, having experience under his belt, Moran believes he has something to add to the conversation. “Woodstock is faced with a lot of challenges we weren’t eight years ago. We have a lot of competition for eyeballs,” he said as one example, pointing out the proliferation of signs cluttering up the landscape. “The zoning law doesn›t permit sandwich boards. Sometimes there’s two, three signs for the same business. I wish the merchants would voluntarily follow the law.” Unfortunately there isn’t much of a penalty for illegal signs, he noted, and it adds to visual confusion.
“Keep it the kind of nice small town it is and should stay,” he said. “Our success comes from being small and charming and beautiful.”
At the same time, the town should accommodate short- and long-termers, tourists, visitors and day-trippers from all walks of life, he noted. “We don’t want to close out anybody. An effective supervisor finds that balance,” Moran said.
The job of supervisor is what you make of it, he said. It can be a part-time job, but as the late Jeremy Wilber, the longest-serving supervisor told him, it’s effectively a full-time job. “The supervisor job, by law, you have to maybe show up for the board meetings. It’s not really well defined,” Moran said. “You can make it a part-time job but you›d really be doing a disservice to the community. Fires pop up. Problems happen. It is a certain kind of fun to be able to be charged with that responsibility and have a bureaucracy in place to be able to handle it.”
Moran is big on the idea of citizen task forces, something he assembled as supervisor to keep people interested and involved in the community. Projects ranged from sidewalk repair in front of the cemetery to pocket parks. As supervisor, Moran expanded cable service in the western parts of town and added T-Mobile as a cell provider among other accomplishments.
After serving on the Planning Board, Moran first ran for supervisor in 2007 when Jeremy Wilber asked if he was interested. In his bid for a second term, Moran lost the 2009 Democratic primary to Liz Simonson, but won in November on the Republican and Working Families Party lines.
Wilber came back as supervisor in 2012, serving until his death in 2017.
The budget shortfall
Moran touts his ability to navigate a municipal budget, but the story of his tenure is not complete without mentioning a significant budget shortfall in 2011. It was discovered the highway fund was short $250,000 and the general fund was about $150,000 lean. Moran said the town was not able to determine where the money went and neither were state auditors. He blamed the error on antiquated accounting software.
Moran said he tried to spend $7000 on better software, but faced resistance from the board at the time.
The shortfall and other calculation errors then turned a proposed 2012 spending plan that was under the state tax cap into one that would increase taxes nearly 8 percent. Proposed fixes including elimination of police dispatch proved unpopular and cuts were made elsewhere.
Life as a private citizen
Moran moved to Woodstock 30 years ago and married photographer Dion Ogust. Over the years he has worked on various commercials and has experience in silversmithing and the construction industry.
He is proud of his unique take on the periodic table of the elements in the form of a spiral. He also started historyatlas.com, an online world history from the beginning of humans to the present.