There is no lack of local candidates vying for a seat on the Lloyd Town Board. Democratic incumbents Mike Guerriero and Joe Mazzetti are being challenged by Republicans Bud Walker and John Fraino. All four candidates were interviewed by the New Paltz Times to see where they stand on various issues and concerns that impact the quality of life for Highland residents.
Bud Walker, a local farmer who was born and raised in Lloyd, said that he decided to run for office because he “feels strongly that [Republican] Jeffrey Paladino needs to be our next supervisor.” Walker said that both Paladino and Fraino inspired him to join their slate. Paladino’s “eight years on the town council, his business experience and his vision for the town is what I want to support,” said Walker. As for Fraino, who had already stepped forward as a candidate, Walker said that he was “blown away by his history of community service and was inspired to run and support these spectacular candidates.”
The multigenerational Lloyd apple farmer also noted that he has “a long history of business success expanding and diversifying the family farm,” which has been in operation since 1889. Walker is also in the radio business and started Highland’s WRWD. In terms of budgetary experience, he referred to spending the past “eleven years working hard on a business board of directors that reports to 6,000 voting constituents.” He said that this board oversees a budget of approximately $11 to $12 million annually, which he believes is equivalent to the “Town of Lloyd consolidated budget,” including water and sewer districts. He said that he “looks forward to bringing this experience to the board on behalf of the taxpayers.”
In Walker’s estimation, among the top challenges facing the town right now are “increasing the tax base while minimizing the impact on school population” and “replacing critical (town) employees who have recently departed.” He said that he feels it is imperative to “ensure that we have the best people working on the town’s behalf, whether it is in replacing the superb employees who have decided to move on or [appointing residents] to our critical planning, zoning and economic development boards and committees.”
Asked what liaison positions he felt might best suit his strengths if elected, Walker felt it was “a bit presumptuous to claim a liaison position at this point,” saying that as a newcomer on the board, he would “expect to fill in where needed. More importantly, I would go to work and give my all to whatever liaison position I might be in.”
In terms of what areas he felt that the town was succeeding at, he said, “the Walkway [Over the Hudson], the [Hudson Valley] Rail Trail, agriculture and entertainment,” adding that he believed the board needed to work on “business development that will support it [tourism].”
When posed a question about what resource he believes to be threatened in the town, Walker said, “a tax base that makes middle-class home ownership affordable. Property taxes, not weather, are driving so many people from upstate New York to the Carolinas and Florida.” Most underutilized resource? “The phenomenal business corridors that run through town, Route 299 [east/west] and Route 9W [north/south].”
When asked what he believes will help ensure that Lloyd is a place that is affordable to live, he said that the town needs “development that pays a lot of property tax and does not put kids in school.” Mostly he feels that he is running as part of a “team,” and intends to “work hard as part of whatever team I may end up on, whatever the political breakdown of the future board might be, to do the best job possible for the taxpayers/residents.”
A veteran town councilman and another longtime Lloyd resident, Mike Guerriero said that he decided to run for another term on the Town Board “because I love this great town. I ran a small business in the village for over 40 years, raised my two children here, and I owe it so much!” Guerriero said that he feels he brings his “many years as a small businessman” to the table, as well as “my belief in spending taxpayers’ money the way I spend my own: conservatively.” He also said that he tries to be the “voice of reason and work in a bipartisan fashion,” in an effort to get things done that are in the best interests of the residents.
Asked what he feels are the top challenges facing the town, the town councilman said that, while he is “pro-development,” there are “several proposals before the Planning Board to develop the 9W corridor that have the potential to negatively impact traffic and the safety of our residents.” He said that he believes in “smart development,” and not unwieldy development proposed by “outsiders and developers that come into our town and look for their own best interests while leaving you, the taxpayers, holding the tab.”
In an effort to rethink some of the myriad of large proposals that are before the Planning Board, Guerriero said that he, “right now, along with my fellow board members, are proposing a moratorium, which will allow us to halt development and reevaluate these projects before moving forward. Our reason for doing this is simple: the safety of our residents and our quality of life.”
He also feels that taxes are of great concern. “We [the Town Board] have come under the [state-mandated two percent tax increase] cap for the past eight years, keeping our taxes as low as possible, which will continue to be a top priority. Local government, like all government, should exert restraint whenever spending taxpayers’ money.” To this end, he said that he wants to make sure that whatever growth the town incurs improves the “quality of our lives, rather than benefiting the pockets of developers.”
As the liaison to the town’s active Environmental Conservation Committee (ECC), Guerriero said that he wants to “ensure that as we move forward, development does not impact our local sanctuaries,” and would like to remain as the board’s liaison to the ECC if reelected, as well as the Planning Board, which he believe help inform one another. “For me, oversight on the Planning Board is so important to all residents,” said the councilman. “For many years, the Planning Board was out of control. We had developers and many appointees not looking out for the best interest of the community, but for the best interest of their projects. It is important for every resident to know that I am not a developer, nor do I hold large parcels of undeveloped land.”
He felt it was important to note that “Democrats have only had control of the Town Board for the last two years” after having been the underdogs for decades, and that he prides himself and his fellow Democratic board members on “appointing both Republicans and Democrats” to the Planning Board. “Fairness to residents and balance of power is always a concern of mine, as unchecked power has to the potential to lead to corruption.”
As for what he believes is going well in the town, the councilman said that the current Town Board has been “accomplishing a lot,” including “the extension of the Rail Trail, the construction of the Highland Landing and the soon-to-be-built pavilion in the village. We just received a $125,000 grant to build it, and the pavilion will be used for movie viewing and community events, and will have public restrooms.” He feels that the most underutilized resource in Lloyd is its “beautiful hamlet and our local businesses…we need to support these businesses and allow them to continue to grow. The village is the center of Lloyd, the heart of our town.”
He said his top priority is to push back against the slew of large developments facing the town: “We can’t have a town run by developers.” In closing, he said that he is a “fiscally conservative” and honest man who believes he is a fair and calm voice who works in a bipartisan fashion because “We are all in this together.”
Democratic incumbent Joe Mazzetti said that his decision to continue his tenure is based on his love of the community and desire to see it move forward, as he is a lifelong resident of Highland. “My roots are here and my future is here, where I chose to raise my family. I embrace the opportunity to make a difference in our great community so others can be afforded the same opportunities for their children.” He said he’s not afraid to ask the “tough questions” as a leader, and that his experience as a school administrator for over 16 years has provided him with a solid foundation to be able to help the Town Board “stay under the two percent tax cap,” “successfully settle union contracts” and “look at situations from multiple perspectives to ensure the best solution is brought to fruition.”
When asked what he saw as the most important challenges facing the town, he said, “ensuring our residents are provided with a high-quality community, the impact of high-density housing, smart growth, which is a balance between residential and commercial development.”
He said that as a board member, it is his job to “consider what financial impacts these new projects will have on our community” and how they will impact the town’s infrastructure. “We need to address these areas by reviewing our current codes in the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Our current plans allow for waivers, which allows projects to build on a scale and in an area the project would not be allowed without the waiver. These waivers need to be removed from our codes, and our Comprehensive Plan needs to be rewritten to guarantee that future growth shall not to adversely affect the health, safety or welfare of the citizens of the town.”
With his education background and profession of principal in the Poughkeepsie City School District, Mazzetti believes that he has qualifications that provide him with “expertise in safety, security, contract negotiation, civil service law, staff morale, budgeting and a myriad of other areas. These strengths make me a suitable liaison for any department needed.” He is currently the liaison for the Highland Central School District.
In response to questions on town resources, Mazzetti said that in his view, “The most threatened resource I see in our wonderful community is the threatened balance between our beautiful rural countryside and the development proposed by those who dare not see the wonder we are fortunate enough to possess. We must remain cognizant at all times to this delicate balance as we move forward, because once a mistake is made, there will be no turning back.”
Asked what would be his top priority if reelected, he said, “We need to address development in our community. I support smart growth with a balance between commercial and residential growth. We also need to reflect on how new projects impact our residents’ quality of life. We as a community have been growing steadily at about one percent a year. The current number of residential projects being proposed will increase our population by ten percent in the next two years. This is concerning because, by 2025, according to a recent engineering study, the town will have to put a second shift on at the Water Department to meet the rising demand; more roads will need to be maintained, paved and plowed in winter; and there will be pressure to hire more staff, such as police and dispatchers. I believe we need to do something because, as we progress forward and these plans keep moving and if we keep waiting, our whole landscape and infrastructure is going to change and there will be a huge tax burden upon the taxpayers.” That is why he supports a moratorium that “would allow time for the town to review and clarify density issues, maximum height allowed for buildings, perhaps increase setback buffer zones when a development is infringing upon a residential neighborhood, and also study traffic patterns.”
In response to why he believes he is the person for the job, Mazzetti said that he is “experienced at creating an environment which meets and exceeds the needs of diverse our community.” He added, “During my last four years on the Town Board, I took a proactive stance to ensure we did not exceed the two percent tax cap,” as well as untangling outdated laws that did “not allow solar energy plants to be built in residential neighborhoods, suspended the adaptive reuse law because it has no density requirements, specifications on how much of the former structure needed to be used, formed a committee to review the Comprehensive Plan and make recommendations for needed changes.”
In closing, he said, he has a “natural enthusiasm for serving on the Town Board and helping our residents. My goal as a councilman is to inspire and motivate others to make decisions in the best interests of our community.”
John Fraino, Republican challenger for the Town Board, is also a lifelong Highland resident like his fellow running mates, and said that he is someone who loves his town and cares for the residents of his community. “I have been approached to run for town office several times over the years, but always declined,” he said, despite having regularly attended and watched Town Board meetings, which finally made him decide to accept the request to run for the council. “For the past few years the Town Board meetings have become negative and ineffective, and quite honestly an embarrassment to the town.” He believes that some of the people on the board are more concerned about “their political differences than what’s best for the town.” He points to the moratorium being proposed as an “example of my opponents sending a message that Highland is closed for future development, and they do not have the knowledge or willingness to work through specific issues to mitigate the problems.”
Fraino believes that his experience and knowledge attained from being employed by IBM for more than 40 years in various management positions, including human resources and budget development, have adequately prepared him for a seat on the town council. He also says that “I care about people and their problems.”
Like Walker and Paladino, Fraino believes that one of the greatest challenges facing the community begins right in Town Hall. “The morale of the town employees in various departments is at an all-time low,” he claims. “That is a direct reflection of how they are being treated by the current board, and as a result we have had several key positions leave. This drain of skill and experience in our Town Hall will take years to backfill and is a serious concern of mine.” He feels that his personal skills and work with thousands of employees at IBM will enable him to help revitalize the core Town Hall staff.
Another concern he has is “encouraging growth without losing Highland’s hometown feel and charm.” He believes that by “utilizing the resources that we have on the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Building Department and DOT [Department of Transportation],” they can “grow the tax base” without losing Lloyd’s charm. “Obviously taxes are a direct result of spending,” said Fraino. “I would use my budget management experience to control spending without negative impact to the town services or infrastructure,” which he believes could be accomplished through shared services within the town departments and with neighboring townships. “I would explore every opportunity to gain efficiencies in all that we do.”
Fraino has also served as a member of the Highland Hose Company, with 14 years as a fire commissioner for the town, and believes that if elected, this experience would lend itself toward being a liaison to the town’s emergency services and an interface with the Police Department. His 20-year career in real estate, dovetailed with his lifelong involvement with heavy machinery and equipment, would allow him to “function well as a liaison to the Highway Department, Buildings and Grounds and the Water/Sewer Department.”
In terms of Lloyd’s strengths, Fraino believes that the “development of our downtown is moving in the right direction,” and that if elected, he would utilize his position to “make every effort to support the downtown businesses and attract new ones to town.”
When asked what he believes Lloyd’s most threatened resource is, he said, “our young residents. Highland and the immediate area offers little in terms of career opportunity.” He said that his own three children had to move out of town to pursue their careers. “Encouraging light industrial and small niche businesses could help reserve this migration from our town…our proximity to New York City and the natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley position us to have a blossoming tourist trade. We need more lodging and restaurants to accomplish that.”
If elected, Fraino said that his first priority would be to “foster a spirit of teamwork,” as he finds the current Town Board to be “virtually ineffective, with all of the infighting.” He compared them to a “dysfunctional family that needs to be fixed before they can move forward.”
Fraino said that what makes him most qualified for the position is the fact that he has “always had a desire to serve my country and my town,” from being a Vietnam veteran to being involved with town soccer, baseball and Cub Scouts, as well as the Planning Board and weekly counseling at the Dutchess County Jail. “The bottom line is: I care about people and I care about my town.”
The Town of Lloyd certainly has no shortage of qualified candidates running for a seat on the board. Now the question is: What kind of future does Lloyd want?
To learn more about the Lloyd supervisor candidates, visit https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2019/10/14/paladino-pizzuto-square-off-for-lloyd-supervisor-race/.