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Supervisor candidates meet in debate

Budget, leadership, level of partisanship recurring themes during lively evening

Candidates in the Democratic primary for Bethlehem supervisor met in debate on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Candidates in the Democratic primary for Bethlehem supervisor met in debate on Thursday, Sept. 1. Rachel Brennan

— Clarkson returned to the subject of partisanship often, accusing Kotary of “a general pattern of obstruction” toward the agenda of now-Supervisor Sam Messina for political reasons, pointing to a failed proposal to broadcast town meetings on the Internet and to funding for the repair of Town Hall that wasn’t approved before the parapet wall collapsed.

These assertions were at the heart of several spirited exchanges throughout the evening.

“I think you kind of lost your mantle of non-partisanship, if you want to talk about that,” Clarkson said early on.

“What's important is to speak up and to be accounted for, to stand up when you have a difference of opinion, and that's what I have done,” Kotary retorted, also explaining the reasons for his decisions.

The opinion of the state of affairs in town government and affairs was probably the point the candidates diverged on the most. In fact, they largely agreed on the way forward on a number of issues, including on moving ahead shared services initiatives, revisiting the town's ethics law, focusing on commercial development and the need for a viable long-term plan to address the town's crumbling infrastructure.

Kotary brought up revisiting the town's comprehensive plan and brought up his plan to utilize Youtube and other free online tools to expand the town's cyber presence and get meetings on the Internet. He said the town's planning and zoning boards should be more business friendly.

John Clarkson

Clarkson's bid for supervisor is his first run at elected office. In the Town of Bethlehem, he's been involved in the town's 20/20 Advisory Committee for years, including being a co-chair on the group's subcommittee on modernization and economy, efficiency and effectiveness of town government.

He's now retired and still serving as an adviser on government efficiency at Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Group. He had a career in state government, including stints in the Division of the Budget and the comptroller's office. He was the executive director of the Commission on Local Government Efficiency.

“Management is a continuous job... you cannot lead a large group of people unless you have their trust,” Clarkson said at Thursday's debate. “I'm very proud of my reputation in state government, and people have approved of what I've done.”

Clarkson lives in Slingerlands with his wife and has two children.

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