Two born-and-raised Lloyd boys, Jeff Paladino (R) and Fred Pizzuto (D), are hitting the campaign trail in a bid to win the position of town supervisor. Paladino has served as a town councilman under veteran Highland supervisor Paul Hansut (R), who announced that he will not be seeking another term last spring. Pizzuto is currently the chairman of the Planning Board, so both gentlemen are well-versed in the machinations of local government.
The New Paltz Times interviewed both candidates, with the same list of questions, to get a better understanding of where they stand on the issues and what their vision is for the town.
When asked why they decided to run for office and what experience they felt they would bring to the job, Paladino said, “For the same reason that I served for eight years on the Town Board: to try and do what’s right for the community, rather than playing politics. When you’re dealing on a small, local level, it’s not about a ‘left thing’ or a ‘right thing’ or a ‘developer thing’; it’s about what’s best for the town.” He said that the current climate, in his estimation, is “too politically driven. It’s disheartening.”
Besides being on the Town Board, Paladino also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, and believes that, beyond his local government experience, having been involved in the farming community and owner of Milton Hardware and Building Supply for 20 years, as well as having a family who have been in Hudson Valley real estate for most of his life, all help to give him a wide breadth of knowledge that he could harness if elected to the supervisor’s position.
Pizzuto, a fourth-generation Highland resident, said that, besides chairing the Planning Board, he has also served two congressmen and been on various city councils in Dutchess County where he lived for a time, all giving him a grasp of how municipalities work from the ground up; and, because of his 30-year stint in the mortgage banking business, he can also bring financial acumen to the job. “We’re talking about a several-million budget, 80 town employees and an implosion in growth that requires a full-time supervisor. I’m retired and have the time to dedicate to the position.”
When asked what they believed are the greatest challenges that are facing the town, Pizzuto said, “Growth. We are facing a monumental explosion of growth, with three major subdivisions planned and at least three more commercial/residential projects, all within 1,000 yards from the bridge on 9W to the Rite Aid on 9W.” Pizzuto estimates that if all of these projects were to go through, it would create a ten percent population increase, not to mention an “enormous impact on our current infrastructure and services. We’re looking at 800 new beds, mixed-use buildings, a hotel, a stand-alone urgent care…all on a postage stamp. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
While Pizzuto said that, “For any town to survive, it must grow,” he feels that a major challenge facing the town is to update its Comprehensive Master Plan and to try to bring all of “these developers together, so that we can soldier through this in a way that helps us go forwards and not backwards.”
Paladino added that “At this point in time, it’s our personnel. We have lost so many qualified people, [including] our assessor, the confidential secretary to the supervisor, our town clerk, a building inspector. We’ve suffered a real morale problem, and we need to turn that around.”
Asked what areas they would tackle first, in terms of being liaisons to specific boards or committees, Paladino said, “The budget in general. Obviously, the supervisor needs to put in major work on the budget, but all of the councilpersons need to do their work as well. A lot of people claim to be a liaison to this board or that board and then never show up, do not know what’s going on, and therefore can not only not keep tabs on things, but cannot have any real input into the budget for those departments.”
He added that, under his leadership, he would want his fellow councilpersons to be “responsible and accountable,” if they were to take on liaison positions. He felt that he would be most suited for the Planning Board because of his experience in real estate. “People may call that ‘pro-development,’ but based on my record, I think people can see that I’m fair. I do want to see the town grow, but I also don’t want to chase good businesses away.”
Pizzuto felt that, with his chairmanship of the Planning Board, he would also pick that as one of his main liaison positions. “My experience in planning and zoning is extensive, and I also am a financial planner. I look at our town budget with a keen eye and ask, ‘What is this going to cost, and how are we going to pay for it, and can we pay for it?’”
In terms of planning, Pizzuto is proud of the current board and the “diversity of the Planning Board members. “We have an engineer and electrician, someone with a water-and-sewer background and two gentlemen that have been around long enough that they’re encyclopedias of about every development that has ever happened in Lloyd. We really need to dig into our Comprehensive Plan, so that we have it updated and ready to answer questions before they’re asked, and harness the funding that is out there, but that requires an updated town plan.”
In terms of what the town is doing well, and what they can capitalize on, both Pizzuto and Paladino concurred about harnessing the steady stream of visitors to the Walkway Over the Hudson into downtown Lloyd. “The Walkway brings a million people each year,” said Pizzuto. “That’s a staggering amount, and Highland has the parking; we have the rail trail, which is now part of the Empire State Trail that connects us to New Paltz and beyond. So, we need to tap into this amazing resource of tourism and try and channel it towards our businesses in the downtown area, our farm markets, our restaurants.”
“We’re the hub of the lower Hudson Valley,” said Paladino. “Agritourism is huge, the Walkway is taking off, the state is now committing to the rail trail and we’re starting to see more tourism. We need to support our downtown Events Committee and attract more residents and tourists downtown with a monthly street festival. We have wonderful recreation benefits in our town, and I’d like to see us hopefully capture that and tie it into our businesses, and would love to see the Highland Bank become a restaurant that would attract more people.” He said he would like to see Highland become more “themed,” like Beacon is for art and New Paltz is for outdoor recreation and other places are for food and dining.
“If there’s a threatened resource in our town, it’s people,” Paladino said. “Taxpayers in our community are struggling. We have a high cost of living, and that’s hurting our middle-income people. We have a lot of younger people that grow up here and want to live here, but they can’t find enough employment and careers to be able to afford to live in New York. That’s what we have to be concerned about.”
Pizzuto focused more on community character and local ecology. “We have a beautiful town with an incredible quality of life because of its small rural character. We have multigenerational farms, and I think it’s that rural character that we have to protect, because it’s why we love living here. We also have to grow, but grow in a way that supports our tax base without jeopardizing what we value so much.”
For nine days — October 26 through November 3, you can vote at one of seven polling sites around Ulster County. Hours of operation vary, but include a mix of day, evening and weekend hours.
Early voting sites will be open in New Paltz, Ellenville, Accord, Highland, Woodstock, Kingston and the Town of Ulster.
Early voting schedule:
October 26, early voting 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; October 27, early voting 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; October 28, early voting noon to 8 p.m.; October 29, early voting 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; October 30, early voting noon to 8 p.m.; October 31, early voting 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November 1, early voting 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November 2, early voting 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; November 3, early voting 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Early voting locations:
Woodstock Community Center, 56 Rock City Road, Woodstock; Russell Brott Senior Center, 1 Town Hall Drive, Lake Katrine;SUNY Ulster Kingston Campus, 94 Mary’s Ave, Kingston; Accord Firehouse, 22 Main Street, Accord; Ellenville Public Library Community Room, 40 Center Street, Ellenville; Redeemer Lutheran Church, 90 Route 32 South, New Paltz; Highland American Legion Hall, 84 Grand Street, Highland.