The Ulster County Legislature District 4 race is a tale of two challengers. Democrat Brian Cahill and Republican Andi Turco-Levin each hope to fill a seat left vacant by the passing of James Maloney in July. Maloney, who was also the assessor in the Town of Ulster, has had his term completed by his wife, Brenda Maloney.
Cahill, a longtime development engineer with IBM, announced his intent to challenge for the seat in May. Cahill previously served on the legislature from 2006-2009, including two years as the Democratic majority leader. During his time as a county legislator, Cahill served on the Ethics Board, the Interagency on Domestic Violence, the Economic Development Board and the Commission on Periodic Compensation Review. He ran unsuccessful campaigns for the legislature in 2001 and 2009.
“I have lived my entire adult life in the district,” said Cahill. “I chose to move here as a 19-year-old and have stayed here since. I bought my home here, raised my family here and I plan on living out my retirement here. I have served the people of this district in the legislature before and know the issues and opportunities we face as a community. I have lived them everyday.”
Cahill said his prior legislative experience during a time of change makes him ideally suited for the job.
“When I last served, the county government was undergoing a massive change, not dissimilar to what our county will be facing with all new leadership starting in 2020,” Cahill said. “During that transition, my fellow legislators chose me to be the leader to help guide us through those changes. I am ready to take on those challenges again. This time, I bring 35-plus years of leadership experience working in the private sector as well as my previous government experience with me. Working with the executive, the town governments and the legislature in a cooperative spirit, the residents of the towns of Kingston and Ulster will have a hard working, knowledgeable partner with a strong, experienced voice in the county government.”
Cahill cited a need to keep property taxes in check, ensure fair sales tax distribution for the district, and invigorating the economic development process as crucial components of his platform.
“Executive [Pat] Ryan has taken aggressive steps by creating an Office of Economic Development that will have defined, measurable and actionable goals,” Cahill said. “I want to be a partner in the legislature in that effort. We need more jobs that will allow a person to live a decent life without having to work 60-70 hours a week or have a second or third job to make the bills at the end of the month. We can do better.”
Cahill also said the opioid crisis is an important issue in Ulster County.
“We are failing our children by not educating them early enough and furnishing them with the tools needed to avoid addiction,” he said. “We are not providing the services needed to help when someone falls into the black hole of addiction. We are losing a generation of what should be productive citizens and we have to take bold, decisive steps to stem this epidemic now.”
Cahill added that he would like to ensure the Town of Ulster has a standalone legislator following the 2020 census, and that he would like to ensure the Ulster County Fire and Rescue Center is completed without any issues.
Turco-Levin, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty, also has political experience, serving as alderwoman of the City of Kingston’s First Ward and Republican minority leader in 2009-2010. She has also served on the city’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Turco-Levin ran for mayor in Kingston in 2011.
“I work very hard and don’t play politics,” she said. “I have a lot of experience both as an elected official and also as a businessperson. I have been a successful Realtor for nearly 19 years here in the Hudson Valley, which offers me a front-row seat to watch the economy of our county. My overall experience from the time spent on the Common Council as well as the time spent volunteering over the years has broadened my knowledge of many issues that we face including housing, health, the economy, and modes of transportation. Many of these issues trickle down to the Legislature, and for that I welcome the opportunity to serve. I also have learned that listening is far more powerful than talking, and I always will take time to listen to the concerns of those who I serve, be it my real estate clients or constituents: They come first.”
Turco-Levin’s focus touched on some of the same areas as Cahill, including the economy, noting that school taxes are “off the charts.”
“We educate our kids, then after they finish college they rarely stay here,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of well-paying, stable jobs here to keep them here.”
Seniors are also feeling the economic pinch, said Turco-Levin.
“Our seniors are being priced out of their homes,” she said. “Taxes are going up and they have very few options that are affordable for them. We need to cultivate progressive thinking developers who truly want to fulfill the needs for the residents who live here.”
The opioid epidemic is also on Turco-Levin’s mind as she seeks voter approval.
“I am terrified when I hear the number of overdoses that take place in our county, and when I see that we rank pretty high up in the state, we have to find solutions that range from providing law enforcement with the tools they need to education and rehabilitation for those already battling addiction,” she said.
Turco-Levin added that two properties located in District 4 have a countywide impact: TechCity and the Hudson Valley Mall.
“I would say the biggest challenge here is how to deal with the old IBM site,” she said. “The other is the mall and figuring out good ways to reutilize the space where sales tax revenue and jobs stay stable. Some of this will fall on the town officials, but should the county have to make decisions about the IBM property, my real estate experience will certainly help.”