For the first time in many years, candidates will be vying for several open Town Board seats. After Republicans sent no candidates forward for the past election, two new Republicans have stepped forward for this election season.
Three positions on the board are up for election. Two local businessmen are being backed by the Republican party. Craig Shufelt, owner of Shufelt Group, LLC, a marketing and media firm in Voorheesville, and Chistopher Frueh, owner of Peter K. Freuh excavation company in Feura Bush.
“The perfect outcome for me, is a more balanced board and more proactive board.” said Shufelt. “The democrats have a monopoly in this town, and monopolies aren’t good for anyone.”
The two Republicans are challenging incumbent Democrat-backed candidates Patricia Snyder, a professional financier and Bill Henessey, an engineer. Newly appointed Democrat councilperson Adam Greenburg, a farmer with experience on the Zoning Board, is also running for the first time.
Board members serve four-year terms and the 2014 annual salary for board members was $8,093.44.
“It’s very tough to run against incumbents who are doing a very good job,” said Deputy Town Supervisor Douglas LaGrange. “We’ve all been working actively and invested a lot of time with the right people. Why plug one out now?”
LaGrange is set to fill the town supervisor seat, once current town supervisor Thomas Dolin retires at the end of his term this year. He leaves after serving for eight years. LaGrange is running unopposed. The town supervisor’s salary is $57,830.55.
The board will then appoint a fifth councilperson to fill the seat left by LaGrange.
As positions such as this are usually filled along party lines, one new councilperson will most likely be a Democrat.
Recent polls show that 37 percent of New Scotland residents are registered Democrats and 25 percent are registered Republicans.
Greenburg, a Democrat, was appointed to his position by the Democrat lead Town Board two weeks ago. He filled the vacancy left by Daniel Mackay when he resigned several months ago for personal reasons. He had previously served on the Zoning Board for 11 years.
The Democrats are banking on this kind of experience to win votes.
“Greenburg has excellent experience serving on the Zoning Board, Pat Snyder brings excellent fiscal aspect and Bill Henessey is an engineer so he gives checks and balances to our hired engineers,” said LaGrange.
“Because of our experience and time spent on the board, we have a deep understanding of what needs are, what the issues are,” said Pat Snyder, a professional financier with master’s degree in business administration. She and Henessey are both seeking a second term on the board.
As a local small business owner and consulting engineer, Henessey said he would continue to use his background to provide “technical experience in town so that we are able meet time constraints and budget of times planning and zoning policies and improve the planning zoning in town.
The Democrat candidates said party affiliations shouldn’t matter in this election. LaGrange, was more concern over what he’s viewed as a lack of attendance in previous board meetings from the Republican candidates.
“It’s great that they have an interest, but I wish that they had been at town board meetings so that they knew what’s going on in town. A lot of people like to make claims when don’t know the specifics,” said LaGrange. “The Republican committee — not the Republicans in town, to be clear, because I, as well as my boardmate, receive a lot of Republican votes — has always been pro big-box.
“I’m not suggesting that (Shufelt and Freuh) are pro big-box, but we, the board, are a known commodity when it comes to this issue,” he said.
In fact, when asked whether they had been pro big-box, Freuh said, “I was not opposed to it. That developer was willing to do a lot… but he had so much opposition from beginning. I understand the concerns of the community, but I also work with a lot of developers (in my business), so I know where they’re coming from as well.”
Shufelt, on the other hand, did not go so far as to endorse large developments, but he does economic growth of New Scotland as one of his platforms.
“The biggest development in whole town is two or three stores,” said Shufelt. “The town is moving at a snail’s pace. There have been a lot of studies and plans, but nothing beyond that in ten years,” he said in reference to the large master zoning plan the board began after the fallout of the big box proposal.
“I own Shufelt group and four other properties in town. As a small business owner, I want to encourage other small business owners to come to the town”
They said the board has not been anti-development, as some are quick to say, only that they strive for what they call “planned development.”
Henessey said he is even trying to resurrect a development committee for New Scotland. He is in the process of recruiting committee members.
“Development should reflect the community the infrastructure, like roadways,” said Snyder. “It’s a balance. Everyone’s needs need to be taken into considered.”
“In the the past cycle the big-box was defeated and the town defined what they didn’t want what the zoning committee is trying to do is decide what we do want so developers coming in know what we do want,” explained Greenburg.
As a member of the zoning board when these plans began, Greenburg said he would continue in the direction the board has taken.
Alongside economic growth, the next biggest issue in the election will be taxes. While democrats cited their success at keeping taxes under the cap, and even modest when compared to other towns as one of the board’s accomplishments in the last term, both republicans said they would try to reduce taxes.
“With increases in taxes seniors have to run thin each year,” said Shufelt. “There has to be a way to plateau taxes.
“I run a business so we pay attention to budgets and costs. I try to cut back in other areas in business when surprises happen, and we’re not doing that in government right now,” said Freuh.
The Democratic Town Board sees this as unrealistic.
“Obviously no one likes (taxes) and they can never be low enough,” said Greenburg. “But I would love to know what they would cut to get those taxes reduced. It’s very easy to say that they want taxes cut, but how do you do that? Are you going to cut senior services, stop fixing roads, not repair damages from storms?”
Besides keeping taxes low and updating town zoning, the board’s other accomplishments include new ethics laws, the Right to Farm law, which protects farmers from nuisance law suits, the creation of the rail trail through municipality partnership and the continuation of New Scotland’s large re-zoning project.
While most candidates declined to comment on their opponents in the election, the overwhelming theme amongst candidates was that all are ready for a race.
“I have passion about what I do and I’m energized about what I do. For me, party affiliation doesn’t matter, but I hope that whoever is elected has the same passions that I do,” said Snyder.
“They’re going to get one hell of a candidate,” said Shufelt, of his chances in the race.
“I trust voters to make the choice that they think is right,” said Greenburg.