With September finally here, a number of Bethlehem Democrats are being challenged in primaries this political season.
Primary Day is slightly different this year, and will take place on Thursday, Sept. 10, from noon to 9 p.m. Challengers will face-off for Town Board, Highway superintendent and some county legislature seats. There is also a primary race for county executive between Dan McCoy and Dan Egan.
Joyce Becker is hoping her many years working for the town’s Senior Services Department will be recognized by voters, and can be used to her advantage. The former department head retired this spring after nearly 30 years of service to the town.
Three candidates are vying for two positions. The Democratic Committee is officially backing incumbent Joann Dawson and newcomer David VanLuven.
“There’s no hard feelings,” said Becker, adding how she retired in good standing with Supervisor John Clarkson and the rest of the Town Board. “That’s important to me because it’s the truth.”
Becker decided to run to put her years of experience with the town to good use. After interviewing with the Democrats, she was endorsed by the county’s Independence party. Chairmen Paul Caputo said he was most impressed the passion those endorsed had for the community and that they had a good grasp on the issues.
“I decided to run because I wanted to be the voice of the people,” said Becker. “This is not all about the voice of Joyce, but about the community. I feel a lot of times the people aren’t heard. A lot of times they don’t come to meetings, but they still tell officials their concerns if they are willing to listen.”
One of her major priorities would be to update the town’s Information Technology services throughout the town. Becker said she’s seen how the department has struggled with its budget in the past, but it’s the one service that effects all other departments, and where attention should be given.
“Technology is our future,” she said. “The department is only three people and they do a wonderful job, but many times when they need upgrades they’re put on the back-burner, and I think we all know that catches up with us.”
Becker said her experience brings knowledge of the past. She explained many times projects are put before the town and presented as new, but actually are either stalled items or were not feasible for the time. She has the background to know why they did not come to fruition.
The former director of Senior Services also said she sees development as an issue. She plans to research all major developments as they come before the Town Board. She is also concerned about the Wemple Corners project, even though it has since been stalled.
“We need to focus on putting our town back to being Bethlehem,” she said, citing consolidation efforts. “We are a suburban community. This is not the City of Albany. It’s worked in some places like between Highway and part of D.P.W., but it can’t happen everywhere.”
Becker said she felt the town’s taxes were in line with many other suburban areas, and did not feel major consolidations were needed. “All we ever hear about are the services residents feel they aren’t getting, instead of all the wonderful services we do have compared to other communities.”
She also said she is strongly in support of community policing, with her husband a retired Bethlehem police officer. Becker said she feels the community likes seeing the police at town events. However, she would like to see how overtime is being used and make sure it is used appropriately. She would also like to see a new contract put in place, because it creates a negative atmosphere in town when the police force and administration can’t agree.
“I’m running to open up a dialog with the average resident,” said Becker.
Another Democrat with backing from the Independence Party is challenging current Highway Superintendent Brent Meredith.
Dan Morin, who has worked at the town’s Highway Department for 10 years, said he decided to run because he thought he could do better than current management.
“After putting in the years, I thought it was time to run,” Morin said. “Our management that we have here is not the greatest we have in the past.”
Morin said as a laborer, he knows the day-to-day operations and has done every job from leaf pick-up to paving.
“I want to make sure there is not a repeat fiasco from the leafs last year,” he said.
His ideal would be to make sure they are picked up by the first snowfall. Morin said there’s a lot of planning that goes into that aspect of the job and he would be professional to residents when they have questions. “It’s been an issue, he said. “From what I’ve heard, people have been trying to get ahold of management to respond back or get a hold of them and they can’t. Or it’s a week or day before they are called back. If they need me, they can get ahold of me.”
Morin said he thinks Highway management needs to be more efficient and cost effective. He said he knows the operation well, and what isn’t done that should be.
“There’s substantial room for improvement,” he said. “I’m in the position to better help the town and get it back to where it should be in years past. We had transition and people have been upset.”
Morin said it was a good decision to keep the position electable so voters have a choice. It’s also his understanding most of the department felt similarly, so if the person in the position wasn’t doing a good job, they could be voted out.
One of Morin’s biggest goals if he’s elected is to cross train employees on equipment. He said this is a major issue for a lot of employees because there are days staff can’t get things done because only one person knows how to run equipment. He would also like to start paving in May, instead of July. This would mean leafs to be done by leaf pick-up in November, instead of waiting for December.
“That’s why you run into some of these situations,” he said. “Paving and leafs get backed-up. That way it would make it more streamlined.”
Morin said he’s running a grassroots campaign, which is being funded mostly by himself. He’s doing a lot of the work himself and is not part of a bigger organization.
“I think people are starting to know who I am from walking around, though,” he said. “I think it’s nice to see the candidates walking around than sending a flyer in the mail.”
Town Councilman Bill Reinhardt is running for County Legislature in District 33 against incumbent Herb Reilly from Voorheesville.
Reilly, 79, was the former supervisor of New Scotland. He has been in the legislature since 2011, when he ran unopposed.
Reinhardt said he is running because he found a lot of the efficiency and sustainability initiatives he began at the town often work better if put into place at a larger scale. The county will soon need to take up issues like recycling of organic waste, which will be required in the next several years. Reinhardt is also active in the Solorized Albany campaign, which seeks to increase the use of solar energy throughout the county.
In the past, Reinhardt has also cited issues with redistricting and the Charter Review process.
“I feel with my background I can help other municipalities achieve greater and achieve more,” he said. “I don’t look at it as leaving the town, but we need better regional solutions and strategies.”
The county Democratic Committee officially endorsed Reilly. If Reinhardt were to win, an appointment would need to be made for his Town Board seat.