Thurman Meet the Candidates Night moderator Lisa Payne of Diamond Point (center) apologizes to the crowd filling the town hall Tuesday Oct. 22 that their questions won't be answered because former supervisor John Haskell didn't show up for the event — he was apparently at home recovering from surgery. The League of Women Voters hosted the event, at the invitation of a Haskell supporter.
About 100 citizens turned out for a Meet the Candidates Night Tuesday evening, but an expected political showdown didn’t occur because the outspoken challenger for the top town government post didn’t show up — apparently because of an injury.
Former town supervisor John Haskell, who’s challenging current town supervisor Evelyn Wood to lead the town for the next several years, didn’t show up to the much-anticipated event, apparently because he was recovering from surgery after a mishap caused by a fairly serious injury.
Dozens of questions that had been collected from the crowd filling the town hall went unanswered.
Members of the League of Women Voters who were conducting the event apologized and said that since Haskell wasn’t present, it wouldn’t be fair to entertain the many questions that the public had submitted.
Candidates for other town offices who did turn out, however, read statements. Dan Smith, one of two unopposed candidate for town board, talked briefly about his own candidacy, as well as reading a statement that Haskell had provided earlier in the day.
“Come January, hopefully I will again be serving the people of Thurman,” Haskell’s prepared statement read. “My record stands on its own, if you choose to look at the facts and figures.”
Evelyn Wood spoke directly to the crowd, rather than reading a statement. She praised the crowd for their interest in the town’s governance, evidenced by the turnout at town board meetings this year.
“Thurman residents put the rest of the county to shame, considering your participation, which is just wonderful,” she said. Wood continued, speaking of the challenges the townspeople and town leaders have withstood in the past several years, including the historic flooding in 2012 that washed out nearly al the roads and many of the bridges in town.
“The floods, the tax caps, we’ve seen it all,” she said. Wood has received praise from county and state legislators for her round-the-clock work in leading a recovery from two flooding incidents in 2011.
She noted that she had followed a path of fiscal conservatism in leading the town, despite the various financial stresses, including costs of rebuilding the roadways. She announced that another $50,000 in assistance for infrastructure reconstruction was now arranged for.
“I would be honored to serve you in this next term,” she said.
Michael Eddy, also an unopposed town board candidate, told the crowd he was running for the position because he wanted to boost volunteerism and activities in town.
“I’ve seen this community go downhill in recent years,” he said. My politics are zero — I’m here to help this town.”
Smith noted he was a lifelong local resident, and he had served in the Thurman Volunteer Fire Co. and the ambulance squad for a total of 20 years, including positions as chief of the fire company for five years and president of the squad for two. Smith observed he had drafted budgets and negotiated various contracts.
“This kind of leadership experience could help the town out,” he said.
Thurman Town Highway Superintendent Patrick Wood also spoke to the crowd, although his challenger Howard Cook didn’t attend the event.
Patrick Wood said he’d served the town for 17 years, and it was his mission to continue improving road drainage and rebuilding the town roads — to be sturdier than ever, able to withstand major floods.
Debate moderator Lisa Payne of Diamond Point told the crowd that she and her associates would be trying to arrange another Meet the Candidates Night so the public’s questions to the supervisor candidates could be answered.
Supervisor Evelyn Wood said she’d be happy to meet with citizens and answer their questions, inviting them to drop by at the town hall, call her up or send her e-mails.
The supervisor race has garnered considerable attention this year. Haskell and Eddy announced their candidacies in early 2013 after the town board cut funding for the local ambulance squad — due to its shaky finances and lack of Advance Life Support certification — and eliminated curbside garbage collection, which the board said was necessary to avoid huge tax increases.
Haskell’s ability to assume office, if elected, has not yet been settled. Haskell was removed from his supervisor post after his 2008 conviction for Defrauding the Government, a felony.
Despite the eligibility uncertainty, Haskell out-polled Evelyn Wood in the September Republican Primary, winning the G.O.P. ballot line. Although she is a Republican, she’ll be listed on the November ballot as a candidate of the Conservative, Independence and Democratic parties, as she won the endorsement of all three.
After Monday’s session, friends of Haskell’s said he had fallen in his shop and his arm struck a sharp metal object which severed an artery and tendons in his arm — and he had undergone surgery that morning, and was recovering at home.