#JimCarriero #BethlehemTownBoard #Profile #DiegoCagara #SpotlightNews
BETHLEHEM — Republican Town Board candidate Jim Carriero wants this town’s government to use more common sense to help address the community’s concerns, as he does not like how Bethlehem feels so divided due to political parties not finding a compromise to do so.
Born and raised in a small Italian-American community in Stamford, Connecticut, Carriero said he grew up poor and lived in a government-housing project until he was 10. He added that he has come to appreciate the government and people who personally helped him past those struggles during his early years.
Since graduating from Southern Connecticut State University with a degree in secondary education in 1976, he served on the school board in Grafton, Massachusetts, where he said he learned how to run the school system.
He was also drafted to serve as the treasurer of the Grafton Water District, taking the water system over from a private company he found “inefficient” to improve it for the local community.
He is also now a member of the board of directors for the St. Peter’s Hospital Foundation, Senior Hope Counseling, and the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany.
Carriero said that he learned a lot and gained valuable experience after he joined a bank management training program with National Commercial Bank which became KeyBank by 1978. He worked for KeyBank for nearly 34 years as it expanded throughout the state, and he moved to Bethlehem in 1991.
He began working closely with the community as part of his responsibilities with KeyBank to support non-profit organizations and schools. He recalled while on assignment with public schools in downtown Rochester, he interviewed high school students to prepare them for college and job interviews, and he was shocked by the poverty he encountered there.
“There was one day where this young man finished his interview with us and we had shown him what to do in an interview and told what kinds of questions are typically asked,” he said. “Well, the next student was then supposed to come in and we noticed there was a delay. While I was asking a teacher where that student was, he walked into the room and he had the same clothing as the previous kid.”
Realizing that the student did not own any of his own presentable clothes for the interview, it personally struck Carriero as he said he’d grown up poor himself. He also learned that numerous children in other schools in the area also lacked adequate clothing. KeyBank began collecting jeans to donate to the students in need.
“This wasn’t about reforming education, it was about just asking, ‘What do you need? How can we help?’” Carriero said. “We forget the fact that there are people who need help and we have an obligation to that.”
Such encounters fed into his innate desire to help the community more, a theme which has continued in his campaign for Town Board. “We’re always about finding solutions and using them to try to help people in need. We don’t encourage the negative naysayers on our teams who say that the world is bleak,” he said. “I would say that my mantra has been about taking problems from corporate or the community and as a team of people, we will come to conclusions, though sometimes those solutions weren’t the best but we executed them so well that we became better.”
He added that it was easy to work at KeyBank, explaining that he and fellow colleagues were all taught not to be political, adding that they were a mix of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Conservatives.
He said, “The view was that we serve the community. People’s political positions were not the primary driver; it was a great lesson in humanity. It was a phenomenal experience to work with people who were socially conscious.”
This informed his current outlook on the town election as he said he feels that it is unfortunate that Bethlehem feels divided because of people’s opposing views.
Living near Wemple Road for over two decades with his fiancee, Theresa, and with two adult children, Carriero said he questions the value of political parties in town.
“It’s time to bring us back to the table, and challenge us to stop using our political parties as our sounding board but to use common sense in how we manage government,” he said. “Stop arguing about things that have nothing to do with us here, and start finding common ground.”
Carriero said he has been walking door-to-door and meeting with neighbors to understand what their top concerns are. Issues brought up included rise in local traffic, aging infrastructure like the town’s water and sewer systems, developments, and the previously-proposed real estate transfer tax to fund open space conservation.
“We are really headed for trouble, I don’t know if we can keep up with all this at the rate we’re going,” he said.
Concerning aging infrastructure, he brought up how the town has had 75 water main breaks this year to date. Acknowledging that infrastructure naturally breaks down over time, he pondered, “But what does our town budget say? The budget plans for water main breaks but it doesn’t plan to say, ‘Let’s go replace the underground water system.’”
Bringing up his past experiences as treasurer of the Grafton Water District, he said he would want Bethlehem to have a better purification plan where the water system is looped to prevent water from lying dormant within, where it could have had chemical reactions with chlorine and more. He connected this to how the federal Environmental Protection Agency, found that Bethlehem’s water system was deficient earlier this year, after finding high levels of trihalomethanes (TTHM) and haloacetic acids (HAA5), which are dangerous by-products of drinking water chlorination.
Moving forward, Carriero said he envisions Bethlehem’s government to be much more engaging and cooperative in the near future and to work on finding compromises to keep the community together. “I’d want a more peaceful process of people trading each other’s ideas and treating each other the way we should,” he said.
While expressing that the current Town Board members and supervisor are “very good, honorable citizens,” he said that their decisions don’t necessarily take into account their long-term implications and that there are no business people involved in the decision-making process.
Referring back to his decades-long portfolio of experiences as a banker, board member, water district treasurer and more, Carriero said that it is important to not only consider short-term but also long-term effects of an action taken by the town when addressing an issue. “I’m very analytical and I’m going to question the long-term decisions we make,” he added. “My experience in running teams of people, meeting budgets, cutting expenses and building branches is extensive. But my more powerful capability is to lead people to make them and their values feel heard and [be] part of the solution.”