Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce Director Lisa Salamon (at the podium) introduces the 11 town of Johnsburg candidates running for office this fall during a Meet the Candidates forum Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek. From left are town council candidates Arnold Stevens, Bob Nessle and Kate Nightingale; supervisor candidates Curtis Richards and Ron Vanselow; town clerk candidates Sharalee Falzerano and Jo Ann Smith; town justice candidates Vincent Schiavone and James Haker; highway superintendent candidate Dan Hitchcock; and town justice candidate Howard Tucker Sr. About 30 residents showed up to hear the candidates explain why they should be elected and answer questions from the audience. The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Eleven candidates running for office in the town of Johnsburg gave brief speeches and answered questions from the audience Tuesday, Oct. 22 during a Meet the Candidates forum at the Tannery Pond Community Center.
The Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, with assistance from Tannery Pond staff, and Chamber Director Lisa Salamon was the moderator.
The format was simple. Candidates were allowed a maximum of 3 minutes for an introductory speech, explaining their qualifications, and then answered questions from audience members, who filled out question cards before taking their seats.
Not all candidates stayed under the 3-minute time limit. For the sake of fairness, we have transcribed the candidates’ first 3 minutes here. Any comments made after 3 minutes will not be printed.
For the sake of brevity, with space and time constraints at press time, we have only included the introductory speeches, not the questions from the audience.
The candidates are listed in order of appearance at the forum. Highway Superintendent Dan Hitchock is running unopposed; therefore, his comments were not included in this story.
Ron Vanselow is the current town supervisor running for re-election.
First of all, I’d like to welcome you here and thank Lisa for her efforts and the others involved in setting this up.
Most of you probably know me. I spent about two decades working in various volunteer services for the town, 13 years on the Planning Board, seven years on EMS and finally on the Town Board in 2008. And when Mr. Goodspeed opted not to run in 2011, I decided to run because I saw there was a real need to change direction in this town.
There were a few core issues. One was highway work, maintaining buildings and taking care of our parks and other grounds, also the highway aspect of our budget. So I worked to change some of the fiscal priorities in the budget. All in all, I think we’ve got a pretty good start. We’ve got a lot of work in the town buildings, lots of work in the town parks. We’re always wrestling with the cemeteries, but I think we’ve got a winning formula for this coming year.
One thing that I really wanted to do was to make the office of supervisor available to the public in this town. I started out by moving the office of supervisor right to the front of the town hall, so my handsome face is the first thing you see when you walk in the building. And if I don’t scare you off, I’m there to help you.
For years you’ve seen me in all kinds of events around town: festivals, concerts, all kinds of fun things to do like parades. And one reason I go to these things is because they are fun. Another reason I go to these things is because that’s where the people are. I’m often stopped and asked about various issues in the town, and I try to give people answers. I try to assist them as I can.
I think I’ve made a change in how the office of the supervisor is done for the people of this town.
Curtis Richards is running for supervisor.
I live up on Goodman Road in Johnsburg. I graduated from JCS in 1981. I’ve been a self-employed logger for the past 31 years.
For a couple of years, I was the highway superintendent, from 2006 to 2008. They were trying times. I’m sure Dan (Hitchcock) can relate to that position.
The reason I am running is I want to serve the people, and I feel that the town needs strong leadership in the years to follow ahead of us. They need someone to listen to and to field their ideas and to take responses from everybody.
I feel like I have a strong tie to this town because I’ve lived here my entire life. The first supervisor in the town of Johnsburg was John J. Richards. I’m a seventh generation Richards from him, so that makes me feel kind of warm and good about the town and the community. I remember going to school here and going to the youth program and using the swimming hole. Actually, I learned to swim there, so I know what that’s like to have that opportunity.
My qualifications are that I’ve owned my own business for 31 years, successful for the most part. Also, I was in the superintendant position for two or three years, so I know how politics works. I know how the system works. I know how it is dealing with people, working with people, and I enjoy it. At this time in my life, I’m not doing the logging so much, so I have the time to put forward to run the town and to help people.
My main goals are to put out a monthly newsletter of what’s going on in town. I know we used to do that. We haven’t recently. Just so the town people know where the money’s being spent every month and the kind of projects we’re working on. I have spoken to people who literally didn’t know we did some bike trails this summer over at the Ski Bowl, which turned out very well. But we need to get our message out there a little bit better.
At the same time, we’ve had businesses that may have been in that business that left just as the mountain bike trails got established. Now it’s kind of hard to rent a bike.
We need to open up communication skills and work better with different sections of the government and the community members.
I’d like to find a way to find a home for our parks department. They were kind of shoved aside a few years back into the town building. I’m sure it’s worked for them, but I think the parks department needs a place of their own that they can call home and they can work out of and better take care of the parks, maybe hire some extra people.
(This was the end of the 3-minute time limit. He spoke for another minute.)
Katharine “Katie” Nightingale
Katie Nightingale is a town councilor and is running for re-election.
My name is Katie Nightingale. If you haven’t seen my signs around town, they do say “Katharine,” but I respond to either one of those names.
I’ve lived in North River since 1992, and I recently moved up to Harvey Road. I’ve always enjoyed living here in this community.
My background careerwise is I’m a hydrogeologist. I work as needed in Clifton Park for a small environmental company which has done a lot of the groundwater work associated in North Creek. Over the years, I’ve worked for several different companies in the area. And I’ve also done a lot of volunteer work for different organizations, including the Whitewater Derby, the Library Board and a bunch of other different things. And because of that, I feel like I’ve really got to know a lot of different people in town and the community. And I try to really listen to what people are looking for, what they want to see happen in town.
Because of the business and community thing, I think I’ve been a pretty good asset to the Town Board. I was appointed in January 2012 when Mr. Vanselow became supervisor. I took his position. And then I ran last fall in a special election. And so this would be my own term right now, my first four-year term.
Some of the things I’ve been working on since I’ve been on the Town Board are Riverfront Park and the new streetscape program. I am a proponent of the Nessles’ work at Ski Bowl Park. What I’d like to see happen in the future is that those projects move forward at a good rate and that they are complete and not just dragging in the future.
Other things I’d really like to see is that when the community is concerned about issues in town, they can come to me. I feel like I’m available. And I also like to help educate people why things are done certain ways. So if you really feel you’ve been done wrong by the Town Board, if I can help you understand why something happened, I feel I can do that.
Bob Nessle is running for town council.
I live on South Johnsburg Road. About two and a half months from today, and 50 years ago, I came to North Creek to ski. Well, not to ski that day but to visit the opening of Gore Mountain Ski Center. It turned out to be rainy and messy and icy, and I didn’t put my skis on, but I did have a chance to talk to the Ski Patrol leader. And he needed to develop a Ski Patrol. And I said, “Well, I’ve got some experience in that.” He didn’t take me out and check up on my skiing, but I told him I had some credentials from ski patrolling in the Rocky Mountains. Anyway, the next day I was back up to Gore Mountain Ski Center as a professional, at that time anyway, a professional Ski Patrol, which meant I was going to get paid, so I had my first job in the town of Johnsburg.
Also when I came I brought a lot of baggage with me because I had come from Wyoming and I got very interested in politics out there. I was a student at the University of Wyoming and completed a degree in civil engineering. Actually, believe it or not, I was a registered Republican in Wyoming. And the reason was that in southern Wyoming, all across the UP (Union Pacific) Railroad, everybody was a Democrat. And I said, “Hey, come on. You gotta have a little competition here.” So I became a Republican.
But I got smart when I came to Johnsburg, and I went back to my roots as a Democrat. It’s been great living in Johnsburg. I’m not interested in leaving, although sometimes Kelly says, “We gotta go someplace else.” Our kids are on the West Coast and here and there. But Johnsburg is a great place to live. It’s got everything that I need anyway. It’s got a great river, a wonderful mountain. Skiing, lots of snow, usually anyway. And mountains to climb not too far away, places to canoe. I got very interested in canoeing. If Katie (Nightingale) can continue to keep the Hudson River Whitewater Derby alive, I have four more years and I will have paddled consecutively for 50 years in the Whitewater Derby.
(This was the end of the 3-minute time limit. He spoke for another 5 minutes.)
Arnold Stevens is a town councilor and is running for re-election.
So the question is, “Why am I carrying this great big book around?” Well, it happens to be a dictionary, and you know, you can find some interesting things if you look in a dictionary at times.
One of the things that I found interesting in a dictionary was as I was looking down through the words, I found the word “dysfunction.” And then it goes on down to “dysfunctional,” which is basically described as “not operating normally or properly” and interestingly enough, it comes from two Latin roots, the first being “dysfunc” meaning Albany, N.Y., and “tional”meaning Washington, D.C.
Now no one needs to be a genius, and no one needs to be a prophet in order to realize that both of these seats of government are a dysfunctional mess. The representatives we send to these two cities seem to be disconnected from those that they represent. They seem to be unresponsive to the needs and the desires of those that they represent. They seem to be unavailable. Just go ahead and try to contact any of your state or federal representatives.
So if we go from there and switch on over to the letter “E” we can find a word over here called “efficient.” Described as “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.” It comes from a Latin root once again — “e” meaning local and “fficient” meaning town government.
Unlike national or state government, where the representatives may be disconnected, unresponsive or unavailable, as a town council member, answerable to the local residents, to all of you people here tonight, you should be all three of these. You should be connected to the folks which you represent. You should be responsive to the needs and the desires of those people that you represent. And you should be available to listen to the concerns that the local folks have.
If I am elected to the position of town council member, I will continue to be connected, responsive and available to all the residents of our town.
(This was the end of the 3-minute time limit. He spoke for another 30 seconds.)
Sharalee Falzerano is running for town clerk.
I live in North River. I run a successful bed and breakfast that was renovated. It is a restored house from the 1870s. It’s running successfully, which I’m proud to say, which means not in the red. And it’s seasonal, so that’s a tough job. I have two children. My son lives in Maine, and he’s a school teacher. My daughter lives in Sacramento on the other side of the country, and she’s a librarian.
I have worked many jobs, like a lot of people here. You may have seen me in the library, checking out your books; working at the Depot Museum with the director; and working with lots of volunteers. I have worked at the post office ... And I run a historic walking tour business in town. It’s a no-brainer. It’s fun, it doesn’t cost me anything, and I have a true love for history in the area. I’m a volunteer at the Johnsburg Historical Society, since 2002. I volunteer for the Depot Museum.
For my qualifications — I’m running for town clerk — I worked for the county clerk for 13 years down in Westchester. I worked under the county clerk in the records and archives division, also information technology. My main job there was preserving and making available records that were generated by the clerk’s office. I was trained in records management and digitization, lots of scanning of records, similar to those we have in our town clerk’s office.
I’m running under the Bull Moose Party for various reasons, one being Theodore Roosevelt, Johnsburg. He has his connection to the train, so that was fun. And his importance in our national parks. He opened park land. Also I’m running under the Bull Moose Party because I seem to stray on both sides of Democrat and Conservative, and the Bull Moose Party seemed to have covered that for me. One of the number one things that Theodore Roosevelt was running for was for women’s issues — suffrage, women’s equal pay, health insurance, child labor — all things I love.
(This was the end of the 3-minute time limit. She spoke for another 15 seconds.)
Jo Ann Smith
Jo Ann Smith is running for town clerk.
Hi my name is Jo Ann Smith. Actually on my signs it says “Jo A Smith” because that is my proper name. I’ve been the deputy town clerk for four years. I worked with Bill (Rawson) from 2009 to present. I’m also the deputy registrar. That was starting in 2010 to present. I also work in the bookkeeping office with Sherry Williams. I’m also planning and zoning secretary. I’m also the town historian.
I’m running underneath Republican and Independent, underneath the Rose Party. And I am running for town clerk.
I was born here. I’ve always lived here on the Garnet Lake Road. My older son is 22. He works local. My other son is 15 and he goes to Johnsburg School. My husband has his own business at home.
I’ve been in that office. I’ve heard people say that they would like to see this and like to see that. I’d like to move forward and be able to do that for these people. One thing is doing the taxes. The biggest question is, “How come we can’t pay with our credit card?” I’d like to go to that next step and set it up so people can go online and pay with their credit card.
Bill’s been awesome. He is a great guy to work with, and I’m really going to miss him when he retires.
Vincent Schiavone is the town justice and is running for re-election.
I’ve been town justice for a year. I was appointed by the board last November and immediately went off to judicial school in Albany. I completed all my judicial requirements. I’ve also added an additional 12 other credits beyond that.
My background is law enforcement and the criminal justice system. I’ve been in for 38 years. I’m a longtime law enforcement officer. I retired in 2002 as executive officer in my department. I’ve obtained a master’s degree in criminal justice. I’m also obtaining a title of professor of criminal justice from a college in Westchester County, Mercy College. I’m also certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a nationwide criminal justice instructor. My entire life has been involved in the criminal justice system. That’s what I do. That’s what I enjoy doing. That’s what I believe in.
But town justice is a very unique position. It deals with people’s lives on an everyday basis. People who come before the court’s lives can be altered and changed by a simple decision that I would make. So without compassion and understanding and experience, it is very difficult to deal with multitudes of different types of problems. I deal with vehicle and traffic matters. I deal with crimes. I deal with zoning ordinances. I deal with civil claims, you know kinda ‘Judge Judy’ type stuff, and I find myself putting more and more time into the office.
I believe in the office. I believe in what it’s supposed to do. A judge can change a person’s life in about 1 minute. A person comes before the court charged with a crime, the decision becomes mine. That’s not a decision you make lightly. That’s a decision you think about. It’s time understanding who that individual is, not just he committed a crime, let’s punish him, but where did he come from, what’s he about, is he a family man.
There are many, many aspects of being a justice that are not understood. I have the training, I have the time, I have the ability. I retired in 2002, and we’ve lived here in Johnsburg. We’ve had a home here since 1991. We live on Washerhill Road. My wife is also a very experienced legal person. She’s managed law offices in Westchester County for most of her life. She’s my able assistant because in the town, I do not have a court clerk.
When I took over the court in November of 2012, there was a backlog of cases that hadn’t been resolved, and over the past year I’ve brought in over $29,000 in uncollected fines. I do that every month. The job is supposed to be 20 hours a week because it’s called a part-time job, but it’s not a part-time job. It’s a job you go to every day. Every day you go to you answer the mail.
(This was the end of the 3-minute time limit. He spoke for another 30 seconds.)
James Haker is running for town justice.
I’m James “Jake” Haker. You can see my signs around. Jake is a name I picked up when I was I don’t know, about 13, 14 years old in Boy Scouts.
I come from a law enforcement background. I have 29 and a half years in law enforcement. I started with the New York State Park Police, then went to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, then I served 29 years with the Town of Bethlehem Police Department just south of the city of Albany. My last seven years I was a sergeant in charge of the midnight shift, and I was also in charge of the Bethlehem Police sub-station.
I have an associate’s degree in criminal justice, and I also have an associate’s degree in electrical construction maintenance. I attended Russell Sage College for criminal justice. I graduated from the Zone 5 basic police officer school, and I’ve also attended a four-week course in police supervision and numerous other police courses.
Employment in this area, I’ve been with Whitewater Challengers as a raft guide for 28 years. I’ve also worked at Garner Hill Lodge as a shuttle bus driver, and I worked for the Upper Hudson River Railroad on various tasks there, and I work at Gore Mountain as a lift operator in the winter.
When I retired from the Bethlehem Police Department in 2007, I took a job with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as an assistant forest ranger, a job that I really enjoy doing. As for why I want to do this job, I feel that my law enforcement background, I’ve served the town, and I feel I’d like to be able to serve the town in that capacity.
Howard Tucker Sr.
Howard Tucker Sr. is running for town justice.
My name is Howard Tucker, but most people know me by Sonny, or the guy with the red hat.
I’ve talked to probably about 100 people in this town, all of them younger than you folks, and they all feel very discontented, but, as you can see, none of then showed up here.
I was asked to run for town justice because I feel that I can make a difference in people’s lives. I have very little qualifications for the job, other than I have a good sense of judgement, and I am a fair person. I’ve lived in the town of Johnsburg my whole life. I was born in Glens Falls hospital, and I was brought back to the house I live in right now.
I live just 200 feet down the road. I attended school in Warrensburg, because they changed the school zone lines and we ended up going to school in Warrensburg instead of Johnsburg. We missed it by half a mile.
In tenth grade I quite school. That was 1979, and joined the military because I needed a way out. I was bullied so badly in school that I wanted to leave. So I joined the U.S. Army and became an aviation mechanic, and in the three years that I was stationed with the 101st Airborne I did many correspondence courses because I had a craving for learning, because I was a country boy to the max. I mean I never left the town of Johnsburg, except to go to school.
So, my dream was to become an air marshal. That’s why I studied aviation when I went in the military. I prepared helicopters, so I took a lot of correspondence courses. If anyone here has been in the military, there’s no courses you can’t take, and they’re all free, which is great. So I studied law, air law, which actually has nothing to do with what we’re doing here today, but it does show you fairness.
That’s one of the main things I learned from it was to be fair to people. You don’t judge ’em. You don’t judge where they come from. You do not judge the conditions they are in because some day you might be in those same conditions. I met my wife when I was 12 years old. We got married in 1982. We’ve been married for 31 years, and she’s from the town of Warrensburg. We have three kids. One is an adult and lives in Warrensburg and now has our first grandchild, and I have two daughters in Johnsburg School. I got out of the service in 1985 and apprenticed to be a carpenter, which is an honorable profession.
(This was the end of the 3-minute time limit. He spoke for another 1 minute and 35 seconds.)
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(Reporter Shawn Ryan helped with this report.)