Village of Saugerties residents will elect the mayor and Village Board members on Tuesday, March 21. The poll will be open at the Snyder Hose Firehouse at 43 Partition Street from noon to 9 p.m.
Bill Murphy is running unopposed for mayor on the New Vision Party ticket. Four candidates are running for three open Board seats. Incumbents Jeannine Mayer and Brian Martin are running on the New Vision Party ticket. Andrew Zink is also running on the New Vision ticket, while Marjorie Block is running on the Independent Taxpayer Party ticket.
Saugerties mayor Bill Murphy’s two main goals in the next two years are improvement and upgrade of village services — which is an ongoing process — and to bring together the organizations that promote the Village to the public.
Sharing services with nearby communities helps keep costs down, he said. “People don’t realize the day-to-day conversations that go on between, in Saugerties, the town, the school district and the village. Sharing services, we’re always doing that, as well as working with other communities: Port Ewen, the Town of Ulster, Woodstock. Taxpayers don’t realize how we share services to save money across the board.” Other recent areas of cooperation are a CSX railroad safety plan and opposition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation proposal to move responsibility for monitoring Ashokan Reservoir releases to the counties.
Murphy said that he is particularly pleased with the program of harvesting weeds on the Esopus Creek: a cooperative effort among the village, which owns the weed harvester, the town and John Mullen, who is developing housing near the shoreline. There has been some discussion of buying a second harvester, which would save time and fuel by avoiding a trip from the village beach to areas of the town and back. “Over the past few years we’ve made great strides in improving our water, our wastewater, our gas services to continue to provide our residents with the best quality of life possible,” Murphy said.
Another goal that the incumbent mayor has been working on is “to bring our two biggest business organizations, the Chamber of Commerce and Destination Saugerties, together. We’re working with them, as well as Saugerties Tourism, to increase our footprint on social media and continue to attract people from other areas to come to Saugerties and stop to eat, to visit — to increase our tourism.” While Saugerties attracts tourists, “It doesn’t seem to hit every business equally. Some businesses don’t benefit from tourism, and we would like to see how we can help them benefit more.”
The aim is to get organizations, as well as the village and town governments, “to work together as a cohesive group, rather than working individually.” The groups have met, and some plans have emerged — in particular, a website that would carry information from all the groups, “and possibly hire a webmaster who would help us keep our websites all updated. We constantly want to improve things, and keep things going in a positive direction.”
In general, Murphy said, “I think we have a great community where a lot of great things happen, and I’m very fortunate to have people here who constantly want to help improve things in Saugerties.”
Murphy was first elected to the Village Board in 2003, and was reelected through 2009. In April of 2010, mayor Robert Yerick retired and the board voted for Murphy as his replacement. Murphy has since been reelected six times. He is unopposed this year.
Murphy is a graduate of Saugerties High School and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Finance from the College of Saint Rose. He is employed at IBM.
Bill Murphy and his wife Dana have two daughters. Dana teaches at Riccardi Elementary School. Both Bill and Dana are active in local sports. Bill has been a member of the Saugerties Athletic Association youth basketball league, and has coached youth basketball and adult softball, as well as soccer. He was elected to the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
He is also a member of the Better Community Housing Board.
The Village of Saugerties is changing, and Marjorie Block says she is well-qualified to deal with the coming changes. Her experience with many of the volunteer organizations that have worked to improve and maintain Saugerties is a major qualification for a village trustee.
Block sees the present board as doing a good job, and “I wouldn’t be running if there weren’t an opening.” (Trustee Jeff Helmuth will not run for a new term when this one ends.) The board did an excellent job during the COVID epidemic, according to Block: “I saw [mayor] Bill Murphy himself handing out meals to people. But there’s that opening, and I think that with what I do, especially in places like the Historical Society, you have to know how to mesh old and new.” Block is the president of the Society’s Board of Directors and also the Village of Saugerties historian. “I think this gives you a unique perspective. Change happens, and change is not a bad thing, but you want to retain the character of the village. I think I can bring that perspective to the table.”
Tourism is an area where Block is already active, serving as chair of the Saugerties Tourism Committee. However, she would like to work with the parks in the village, and would particularly like to play a role in directly dealing with the public. “It’s not a bad thing to step out of our usual role.”
As an example of taking on a new, unfamiliar role, Block cites her experience in the importing and restoration of the Dutch Barn, located just behind the Kiersted House and a popular venue for community events, shows and displays. “I had no experience. Thankfully, Howard Post [Planning Board chair and contractor/builder] stepped in. But I had to learn to think outside the box, and how to oversee a building like that.” The barn was disassembled at its former site and reconstructed behind the Kiersted House, the home of the Saugerties Historical Society.
“I believe I could bring that experience to the board. Another example would be when I had to secure funding for the roof of the barn. I was at one time a grantwriter for the town, and I secured a $40,000 federal grant for the roof of the barn. We could not get [historical preservation] grants for the barn because it was taken apart and moved, so it no longer was eligible for historic grants. I was able to convince the federal government that we acted more as a community facility than we did as a historic site.”
Block grew up in the Village of Saugerties. Her father had the village corner store. “I know all the buildings; I know all the people. I was here in the good times, and I was here in the bad times, when all the businesses were closed. We never want to go back to that. I think that, too, brings a perspective.”
Block emphasized the variety of work she has done in the community. “People think of me just as the Historical Society, but I’ve worked with every not-for-profit organization in Saugerties at one time or another. Those are relationships that are important in a community.”
Asked about her husband, Harry Block, Marjorie Block said that he works for Ulster County Community Action, “so, I had a relationship with them, and I helped initiate the free food giveaway.” After she talked to town officials about food pantry limits during the pandemic, the weekly food distribution from April to October was started. Village trustee Donald Hackett, also a member of the Community Foundation, is often on hand to distribute food.
Information about programs to help senior citizens is not always reaching them, and this is one thing Block wants to see improved.
While Block does not attend Village Board meetings regularly, she said, “I read the minutes and I follow them [meetings] in the newspapers. But if you have good people in charge, you have to trust them.”
Block is the village historian, chair of the Community Foundation, which is rebuilding the Small World playground, Saugerties Tourism director, a member of the Saugerties Chamber of Commerce, the Ulster County 250 Commission and the Ulster County Community Advisory Committee and works with Ulster County veterans. “I’ve spent not a year or two years, but decades working for Saugerties. I was born here;, my family goes back to 1680 in Saugerties.” (That was her mother’s side of the family; her father’s family dates from the 1930s.
Jeannine Mayer has been on the Village Board since 2013; if elected it will be her fifth term.
Mayer retired five years ago from M&T Bank, where she was employed for 38 years. She was an officer of the bank with various licenses. “Basically, I had to communicate and service customers,” she said. After retirement, she worked part-time as a teaching assistant in the Saugerties School District until COVID. She is currently employed part-time with the Town Highway Department. She has an ASS degree in Business Administration from Ulster County Community College.
“During the first years that I held the office of trustee, I was assigned the overseeing of the Building & Grounds Department,” she said. “I worked on, and we passed, an update of our Property Management Law and enrolled the village in the Mega program, which secures electric prices for municipalities.
Mayer has been appointed deputy mayor for some time. “Basically everything I do on the board deals with communication and quality-of-life issues for our village,” she said. She serves as liaison on the joint town and village committees of the Comprehensive Plan, TV23, Saugerties Chamber of Commerce and Arts Commission. “I also manage the committee for the Village Revolving Loan fund, so, I am involved with almost any and all events the village supports and/or participates in, including the Mum Festival, New Year’s Eve ball drop, the new Snow Moon Festival and, with the Chamber, events such as Holiday in the Village and the numerous Street Art events.”
During COVID she helped get out information on the various grants and programs New York State offered to businesses and restaurants and she assisted in the “Prom-enade” in the village for high school seniors, since they could not have a prom.
“As a member of the Chamber of Commerce board, I try to connect with new businesses and help to keep existing business in our village, connecting people with opportunities,” she said. “Our Revolving Loan Committee has approved five loans for a total of $250,000 in the last two years, helping village businesses grow. The Art Commission members believe art is an integral part of our society, so I help promote art for our residents and for tourists alike, since tourism is a big part of our local economy. We promote artists and artistic events and also look for opportunities for artists and business to support each other. Mayer said that she has connected the Art Commission with the Village’s Mum Festival and Tree Commission. She has also been involved in connecting businesses with funding from other organizations that she is involved in — for example, Kiwanis Club of Saugerties and the HVGF.
“Sometimes it is hard to separate my activities for the village versus other organizations, but to me it’s all tied together,” she said. “It’s all for Saugerties. It’s where we live.”
If elected again, Mayer said she plans on continuing to try to balance helping business with future growth while keeping the quaintness or flavor of our small town. “I think we need to keep an eye on the housing issue, which is countywide, and maybe work with some zoning changes to accomplish improvement.”
Brian Martin is a lifelong resident of Saugerties and a graduate of Saugerties High School. He is the father of three children: Emily, Amalia and Brian, Jr.
Martin began working for the Village of Saugerties in 1986 as a dispatcher for the Village Saugerties Police Department, through 1998; then he transferred to the Village Highway Department, where he worked until his retirement.
“My public service has included active membership in the Saugerties Fire Department since 1987,” he said. “I have held the positions of firefighter, lieutenant, captain and chief of the department. I held the position of chief twice: once from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2005 to 2007. I remain an active member of the Department, responding to calls. I currently hold the position of president of the Town Association of Emergency Services, and I sit on the Board of the Ulster County Firemen’s Association.”
Martin was first elected a village trustee in 2011 and was reelected to five additional terms. He has overseen the Village Water Department, and is currently the liaison to the Buildings and Grounds Department. He was appointed to the position of fire commissioner by Mayor Murphy in 2018 and he continues to serve in that position.
“I look forward to continuing my service to the residents of the Village of Saugerties, and if I am reelected to the work I have done so far: upgrading the aging infrastructure, improving the buildings and grounds while offsetting the costs through grants, keeping the taxes as low as possible. Thank you all for your support.”
Andrew Zink is an employee of the Ulster County government’s Insurance Department, focusing on contract approvals. He is a member of the Saugerties Village Planning Board, Saugerties Blue Kats, Saugerties Library Board, Saugerties TV23 Committee and Saugerties Kiwanis Club.
Zink is married to Nina Schmidbaur, the owner of the former Dragon Inn building. They have a daughter, Talia. Zink has a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from Marist College, with a minor in Hudson Valley Regional Studies. Andrew and his wife frequently attend Village Board meetings, ask questions and raise issues.
His priorities include staff retention at the Sewage Treatment Plant, promoting efficiency of village services, continuing the village tax payment plans started by mayor Bill Murphy and promoting Saugerties businesses and artists.
He has been living in the Village of Saugerties for about two-and-a-half years, but he is a lifelong resident of Ulster County.
“As a member of five boards, committees and clubs, with years of professional government experience, I will be a hardworking voice for our village,” he said. “I’m honored to be a New Vision Party candidate alongside the incumbent trustees and our village mayor, and I’m excited to build upon the good work they have done for our Village as a new member of this team. I’m running because I want to see government work for village residents as best it can. This village is a very special place.”