Candidates for Johnsburg town government were given a chance to make their case for election at the Ski Bowl Lodge Sept. 12.
Convening in the Ski Bowl Lodge Sept. 12, the candidates for Johnsburg town government made their case for a turn at the helm.
The event was organized by the Gore Regional Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President Dave Bulmer said it was a chance to get to know the candidates a little better.
“We may know them as friends and neighbors, but we may not know where they stand on the issues,” said Bulmer.
The chamber may run a similar panel again a week or so before election, said Bulmer.
Bob Nessle, running for town board, spoke first. The town's decision to take over the Kellogg-Waddell property was a poor one, he asserted. Now that they have it, though, they need to work to improve it and make it useful to townspeople and visitors.
“I'm dedicating my candidacy to whatever I can do to change the ambience down there to a riverfront walk, a riverfront park,” said Nessle.
Nessle also made it clear that he was unhappy with the town's decision to close the beach, which he volunteered time and effort to establish.
Frank Morehouse, a current board member who's running again, said the Kellogg-Waddell property was a great piece of property, buildings or no buildings.
He chimed in on the beach, and said that the town needs swimming, but it also needs roads and bridges. Some hamlets, he reminded the audience, don't even have sidewalks.
In a broader sense, Morehouse said, “I believe strongly that we need to develop within our community,” and places we don't want to develop we need to preserve.
Part of that development should be a property reassessment throughout the town, said Morehouse. The project might take four or five years, but is needed, he said.
Morehouse did some research and found he has four generations of grandfathers buried in town, but he doesn't feel that makes him special when it comes to community involvement.
“I think that whoever chooses to live in this town is a native,” said Morehouse.
Pete Oleshski, also running for board, said that as a young man growing up in Johnsburg, he'd often hear others say that they couldn't wait to get out of high school and leave the town.
“I guess I was different,” he said. “I couldn't imagine living anywhere else or raising my family anywhere else.”
Olesheski said he recently started attending a lot of board meetings.
“I wasn't really impressed by what I saw,” he said.
Olesheski said there's a disconnect between the citizens of Johnsburg and their town government. People are frustrated at the condition of the roads, apprehensive about development around Gore and discouraged by the overwhelming focus on tourism in the local economy, he said.
Olesheski promised that he'll take the time to really listen, and if people are still unwilling to go to town meetings, then he'll go into the community and make himself available on their terms.
Gene Arsenault is another current board member running for re-election.
“I see us approaching a crossroads of great change,” said Arsenault.
The progress at FrontStreet development, the people brought to town by the train and a surge in business revitalization all pose great promise for Johnsburg, he said.
“We have to decide how we're going to manage that change. We can't stop it, so we need to decide how to use it to our advantage,” said Arsenault.
He stressed that open government is integral. It's not about speaking, he said. It's about listening to people when they come to you with concerns.
When contemplating a decision, the focus should be “what does the town think about this, not what do I think about this,” said Arsenault.
Roger Mosher is running for town board, and said he understands that some people are put off by his demeanor.
“People have said that I come across as abrasive and harsh,” said Mosher, “But I'm passionate about the issues affecting the town.”
Mosher used his speaking opportunity to present job-creating ideas, which he said no other candidates were presenting.
Riparius would be a good location for an industrial park, he said, with the train complementing commerce in and out of the hamlet.
He also had ideas for tourism. Sullivan's island should be turned into a park that train visitors can walk to for picnics and townspeople can enjoy, too.
Local historians could be tapped to build a historic tour of the town, with stops in all the hamlets and at points of historic interest. The rich history of the town makes this a no-brainer, said Mosher.
Chuck Martin, seeking the town supervisor position, opened up his address by letting the audience know he's not a government man.
“I am not a politician,” said Martin.
He's resided in the town for 35 years, and he feels that things have gone downhill since he first moved here.
An especially telling sign of the deterioration of the town is how overgrown the town's cemeteries were this summer.
“They should be ashamed of themselves for the condition of the cemeteries,” said Martin. “If the town board and supervisors don't have respect for the dead in this town, how can they respect the living?”
Martin wasn't only concerned for those resting in their graves. The inability of the town to keep young people is worrying, he said. The town needs to attract more industry to employ youth.
“Tourism isn't going to give them jobs,” he said.
Tim Record, running for supervisor, said he had an epiphany while making the rounds to talk to town officials.
He was walking up the steps to the school to talk with Mike Markwica when he realized there was a parallel with his election hopes.
“Running for supervisor is kind of like going back to school,” he said.
There's a steep learning curve when learning about all the issues affecting the town, he said.
Record discovered North Creek when he was 19, driving from Inlet to Lake George. He was driving down North River hill when he thought, “this is really beautiful.”
Record agreed that public areas need more landscaping attention. The sides of the roads around town are overgrown, a problem he doesn't find in other locales like Inlet.
The gateway to the community looks like an abandoned lot, said Record. The town just bought a new lawnmower, why not go over there and mow it down?
There are other small maintenance issues that make the town's buildings less appealing. Record said the front door to the Wevertown community hall doesn't work properly, and it's become a big joke that that's the way it always was.
Ron Vanselow, a town board member who's running for the supervisor's position, said that he's been in Johnsburg for 34 years, and was Johnsburg's first paramedic.
“It's been an honor to serve the people of this community,” said Vanselow.
He used his turn speaking to criticize Olesheski's comments that the town government and citizens are disconnected.
Vanselow said he does whatever he can to be available, attending fundraisers and barbecues, stopping to talk to people around town.
“People talk to me, and I try my best to act on their requests for help,” he said.
Vanselow's first move if elected would be to return the supervisor's office to the front of the building where it's more accessible, he said.
He also chimed in on the need for property assessments. For last few budget cycles we've tried to keep taxes even, said Vanselow, but it comes with a price. We're putting off important infrastructure improvements and the longer those improvements are put off, the more they'll eventually cost, he said.
To encourage business in town, Vanselow wants to establish an economic council to provide an official venue for expediting grant applications.
On the county level, as a member of the board of supervisors, he will also try to join the public works committee to ensure that Johnsburg is getting its fair share
“We're faced with unprecedented challenges and fantastic opportunities,” said Vanselow.
He asserted that he's prepared for those challenges.
“I don't have to go back to school,” he said. “I'm ready to hit the ground running.”
Edited 9/15/11 at 11:27 a.m. to correct names.