Denton Publications Publisher Dan Alexander, standing, moderates the Meet the Candidates Forum at the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School with Essex County clerk, Elizabethtown supervisor and Elizabethtown town council candidates. Pictured, from left, are supervisor candidates Margaret Bartley and Noel Merrihew III; town council candidates Michael Doyle, Evelyn Hatch, Ben Morris (obstructed) and James Phillips; and county clerk candidates Joe Provoncha and Brent Vosburg.
Eight candidates for three offices met in the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School auditorium for the second meet the candidates night in Elizabethtown, this time held by the Elizabethtown Republican Committee Oct. 25.
Those in attendance to address the nearly 40 members of the audience included Essex County Clerk candidates Joe Provoncha (incumbent) and Brent Vosburg; Elizabethtown Supervisor candidates Noel Merrihew III (incumbent) and Margaret Bartley; and Elizabethtown town council candidates Michael Doyle, Evelyn Hatch, Ben Morris and James Phillips. The event was moderated by Denton Publications’ Dan Alexander.
Each candidate was given a chance to introduce themselves and their platform, a period to answer questions from the audience, and a final statement. Each post was given their own block of time, with the most comment and audience participation happening during the portion of the evening dealing with the position of town supervisor.
“Town and county government are becoming more complex each day,” Merrihew said. “But the challenge is one that I enjoy. I come to you with a track record that speaks for itself and a commitment to make Elizabethtown a little better each day.”
Merrihew, a previous chair of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, also said that his experience as an assessor has helped him relate to people who have questions about assessment and tax codes. Merrihew also brought up his concerns over the state-mandated 2 percent tax levy cap.
“In theory, it can be a good idea,” Merrihew said. “But under the table, the state passed a 20 percent increase in spending that is going to force us to make some tough choices.”
Bartley said that she was running for the position held by Merrihew because it was time for change in the town.
“I want to bring a change of leadership,” Bartley said. “I think that we need a change of leadership and a change of communication.”
Bartley said that she and Merrihew were the only two people in Elizabethtown who had been to every town board meeting since 2007, and that she wanted to see something done to make the town officials more accessible to the community.
“I want to keep the town hall open Monday through Friday,” Bartley said. “No one will have to go to the back door to get into their town hall.”
Bartley also said that she felt the town government could be more proactive.
“We can’t wait for things to happen,” Bartley said. “We have to plan, or we will have no control over what happens to our town.”
With looming budget issues on the county, both Merrihew and Bartley said that it is a difficult line to walk between what may be right for the town versus what is right for the county.
“You have to be able to do what is best for the county at times even when it may not be in the best interests of the town,” Merrihew said.
“There are times where, much like with a child and parent, you have to look at the bigger picture,” Bartley said.
In the race for county clerk, Provoncha also said that he hoped his track record would be one that the residents of Elizabethtown and the county would look upon favorably.
“I hope that I have served you well and I hope that you will have confidence in me,” Provoncha said. “I have been able to save the county money, and my goal in the short term is to get the DMV road testing site back into Elizabethtown. It is the center of the county and the government seat, and that is where the site should be.”
Vosburg said that he felt it was time for a change in the clerk’s office, and that his experience having previously worked under Provoncha as well as private work would be beneficial.
“I have learned a lot about budgets, expenses and the ins-and-outs of business in general,” Vosburg said. “I feel that I know the ins-and-outs of the office having worked there for Joe and I think that I can add to that. I honestly feel that I can do a better job.”
Each of the town council candidates also got the chance to express what they hoped to accomplish if elected to the position.
“I would encourage more of a cooperative feel between the town organizations because all of their goals are for the betterment of the town,” Hatch said. “I have a pretty good idea of the issues that the town faces, and I want to be a part of the comprehensive plan in order to ensure and sustain our future.”
“I want to try and make the fire department, highway department and town board work better together,” said Phillips. “I have a knowledge of the equipment and how to operate it in each department, and I know about the pricing and purchasing of this type of equipment.”
“I want to play and active role in the future of our town,” Morris said. “I will make decisions to the best of my ability after considering what is best for the community as a whole.”
“I have always had an interest in the town and its future, and now I feel that I have the time and ability to devote to the town,” Doyle said. “With several major projects coming up, I want to see what we can do with these projects to make them successful and then to attract people to the town and retain our young people.”
Voting in Elizabethtown will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the town hall.