With only two four-year seats open on the Saugerties town board, three candidates are vying for seats on it — a fire commissioner, a doctorate-holder in environmental studies and a retired social studies teacher who has already served 16 years on the board.
Mike Ivino, 25 and a commissioner of the Centerville-Cedar Grove Fire District and general manager of J&J Treeworks, grew up in Saugerties and said that he intends to retire here. His aim in public office, he said, is to keep Saugerties affordable.
“The amount of friends that I have who can’t afford to live here has driven me to want to further my public service,” he said. “Being in public service in general, as a fireman, this is the next step to be able to do more for the community.”
Ivino said his fire company responded to about 420 calls last year — he is serving his second term has commissioner and his eighth year as a volunteer firefighter. In 2020, he will be promoted to captain. He sought a Democratic endorsement, but he will be running on the Republican, Independence and Conservative lines. Ivino has touted a bipartisan approach on his campaign literature, in his letters to the editor and on the campaign trail. “I’ve been a fireman for eight years. Not once have I gone into anyone’s house and asked if they were a Democrat or a Republican,” he said.
After graduating from Saugerties High School in 2012, Ivino earned bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and political science. Along with affordability, Ivino has advocated a term limit policy, bringing competition for cable TV service to the community and attracting more businesses into town — he said that he “can bring an entrepreneurial edge with fiscal management and economic development” to the board. Ivino said that he will work for taxpayers by streamlining the budgets that he oversees, looking to eliminate duplicated and unnecessary items.
“We need to start with a very, very in-depth look at our budget. The thing is, OK, we’re losing money here. Let’s identify why we’re losing money. Let’s tighten up those margins and make money on it. Something that’s making good money, we need to look at how we can make more. At the end of the day, government is business and it needs to be run like a business for the benefit of everybody,” Ivino said. “I hope to be part of the first administration to cap or lower taxes while giving you that same quality of life or better.”
Ivino also indicated that he was in favor of the institution of a police commission, rather than a police department overseen by the town board, at the League of Women Voters public forum on Oct. 18.
“Conversations with our current chief [indicate] that he would be willing to try a police commission. We have a growing police force… [it can be hard] for our board to control a large police department,” Ivino said. We have a very good group of guys, and the oversight of these guys is a very needed sector. … It will allow the town board members focus on other issues while a police commission can handle [the police department.]”
Challenger Nicole Roskos, 46, has been an area resident for the past 17 years with a doctorate in environmental studies, a knack for painting landscapes and co-ownership of the cheekily-named “Two Hoes Gardening” company. She said that she was driven to local government to start a movement for an environmentally healthier Saugerties after canvassing for now-congressman Antonio Delgado in the last election cycle.
Roskos cites her talent for igniting movements — she spent a significant chunk of her life in pursuit of higher education, graduating from both New York University and Drew University as she earned degrees in anthropology and religious studies. Through her studies, she was able to combine her passion for nature and the divine into a doctoral degree in what has come to be known as “ecological theology.” As Roskos herself describes it, “It’s basically looking at the relationship between people’s idea of the divine and their relationship to nature, whether that’s a harmonious relationship or not. The study deals with nature, and how we have been put here on this planet to care for the earth.” Since she signed up with Greenpeace in high school — “I was very concerned about the save the whales, save the dolphins campaign” — she has led a reforestation campaign at Drew University and during a brief stint of living in Lake Oswego, Oregon and acting as the city’s forestry coordinator through AmeriCorps she headed a “century tree” project where she educated the community about their oldest trees and let them nominate 12 trees that they believed to be a hundred years or older, wrapping them in silk dressing to draw attention to them.
“I have a lot of experiences organizing movements, and I want to ask you not just to vote for me, but to create a movement to create a beautiful, healthy Saugerties, one of financial security and environmental [stability],” she said in her closing statements at the forum.
With Councilman Mike MacIsaac finishing his term this year, Roskos hopes to take up the helm as the town’s liaison to the Climate Smart Committee. Invigorated by green milestones reached by the town this year, like the installation of EV charging stations, a greenhouse gas inventory taken of all of the town’s municipal buildings, the in-progress installation of several solar farms throughout the town and the town’s establishment of a climate action plan that sets goals for the town to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over time, she hopes to continue the drive toward sustainability.
I found out about the climate smart committee and all of the amazing work they’ve been doing — I was so impressed. I realized that for us to do the fast changes that we have to do, if our town is converting to renewable energy, people will follow,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to work on climate change, I feel very passionate about it. … If I’m elected, we’ll make sure we move past the bronze and into the silver and ultimately into the gold. There’s so much to do in so little time, and I’m feeling passionate about it.”
She expressed an interest in conducting a tree inventory. “Tree-planting campaigns are going on around the world right now, the governments are putting on tree campaigns — why not our local municipalities?” she asked. “Plus it’s a really heartwarming thing. We could plant fruit trees, apples, peaches. Then we have an urban forest.”
Along with Ivino and Leeanne Thornton, Roskos expressed concern over the community’s opioid crisis.
Roskos will appear on the Democratic, Green and Working Families party lines.
Last weekend, although she had pneumonia, Leeanne Thornton manned a charity event to raise money to refurbish the Small World playground. When she initially ran for town board she had intended to teach her social studies students about the workings of the local political machine. No one was as surprised as she was, she said, on election night when she won.
Now, the 71-year-old Thornton is deputy town supervisor and liaison to 10 committees, including the town’s comprehensive planning committee, the Saugerties Transportation Advisory Committee the Boys and Girls Club (whose events she tirelessly promotes at town board meetings), the newfound Saugerties Arts Commission, TV 23 and the Lifespring adult learning program. She is also president of the Esopus Creek Conservancy.
“The most rewarding part of being on the town board is the opportunity to work with so many people who don’t have a political agenda at all, who are committed to make Saugerties the best community it can be,” she said. “I’d like to get even more people involved in the community and feeling that no one has a bad idea, and that everyone can share and that there’s a respect for what they like to do. If we can make it happen, we make it happen.”
Thornton said that she is particularly proud of her role in the progress made on the Bristol Beach project — discussed for 14 years, rudimentary trails are being cut through the thick wooded area of the abandoned brickyard site. She also expressed pride in the town’s Lifespring program, which she began overseeing under previous town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel, her many successful contract negotiations with local unions and the town’s new comprehensive plan, which she said will be on paper by December of this year.
“We’re close, it’s not like we had to reinvent the wheel. We’re taking the plan from six years ago and tweaking it. Back then, solar farms, Airbnb, music venues were just a concept,” she said. “The plan has to keep up with the times — that’s why you revisit it every five years. [Now we need] to set the public hearing for the zoning changes that the comprehensive planning committee has worked on to expand the types of businesses that can be on Kings Highway.”
Thornton will appear on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families party lines.
All three candidates said that they would work to achieve their goals, regardless of whether incumbent Fred Costello Jr. or Councilman Paul Andreassen wins the race for town supervisor.
“I’m friends with Fred, I’m friends with Paul,” said Ivino, who has campaigned alongside Andreassen and raised about $8,000 towards the animal shelter at an event that the two cosponsored. “In general, the dynamics kind of fell together with like-minded goals.”
“I wish he had finished his term, and I felt like [Andreassen] betrayed the Democrats,” said Roskos, who has advocated for Costello in the letters to the editor section over mileage reimbursement and the management of repairs to the Kiwanis Ice Arena. “He turned against our supervisor and it felt kind of like a betrayal. I would still love to do the climate change work, I’ll make sure that gets done, and I think he’s down with that. It’s unfortunate, and I guess this happens in elections. Hopefully, once the election is over, hopefully we can all be friends.”
“When you get elected and you decide you need to run for public office, you don’t know who you’re going to be working with. Your goal is what’s best for the community,” said Thornton. “We don’t always agree on things, but I think everyone has respect for one another. You listen to both sides and go from there and come to consensus … I’d like to know what [Andreassen’s] vision is for the future of Saugerties,” she said. “His voting record has been probably 99 percent yes on resolutions over the past two years, or he has abstained [from voting]. I haven’t seen any plans or proposals that state specifically why and what he would do as supervisor.”
Each candidate expressed concern about construction and demolition debris being trucked in from out of town. The town has been embroiled in a legal battle with Joe Karolys for the better part of a year after he responded to town’s stop work orders on his three dumpsites in town by filing an Article 78 proceeding challenging the orders in state Supreme Court, which has led to the town being blocked in their attempt to close the dumps while state Supreme Court Justice Richard Mott mulls the matter.
“We definitely need to strengthen our environmental law policy here in Saugerties,” said Ivino. “Something to follow suit of the county’s new enforcement of C&D or toxic material across the board, being allowed to come into our county. Realistically, our state, I don’t want it dumped anywhere else but it needs to be handled at the proper facility.”
Roskos pledged to do whatever she could to stop the dumping, remarking that one of the dumpsites was in her neighborhood. Thornton has attended nearly every court hearing involving the matter, and addressed the county legislature on the matter.