THURMAN - For weeks, The Thurman supervisor's seat has stood empty at the Warren County Municipal Center, and Thurman's townspeople have wondered who might be willing to step forward and be the chief officer of their town.
However, two local residents offered this week to lead the town, after the recent departure of former Town Supervisor John Haskell and the unwillingness of acting Supervisor Leon Galusha to permanently assume his post.
Local contractor Lawrence "Red" Pitkin as well as community activist and former Athol Postmaster Joan Harris both announced this week their interest in leading the town.
The town board, which has the power to appoint a Supervisor until next November, is presenting the candidates to the public in a town meeting at 6 p.m. Friday Dec. 5. Board members have pledged to listen to local citizens' input in choosing the town government's new leader.
As of Monday, Thurman Town Clerk Cynthia Hyde had received letters of interest exclusively from Pitkin and Harris, although hearsay is circulating that others are also interested in the post.
Pitkin said a healing process needs to occur after the contentious divisions occurring in the wake of Haskell's conviction for defrauding the government, an investigation and trial that included testimony from board members, with some exonerating and others implicating him.
"We have to work to end this battle between life-long residents and newcomers," Pitkin said Wednesday. "We are a town divided- and I have a history of being able to listen to people and bridging gaps between different groups."
Harris also said that the town needs to turn away from divisiveness and needs to work together toward common goals.
"Strife, dissent and animosity don't reflect the true personality of the townspeople of Thurman," she said Monday.
With years of experience in accounting and office management, Harris has pledged to straighten out the finances of town government to the benefit of taxpayers.
"I intend to establish accountability in town government," she said.
Pitkin is the owner of Warm & Welcome Log Homes and served as the Thurman representative to the Warrensburg Central School Board for five years, including a one-year stint as board vice-president. Also, Pitkin has also served on the Thurman Assessment Review Board.
Harris worked for the U.S. Postal service for 20 years, and served as Athol Postmaster for about 15 of those years.
Harris attented Dekalb College in Atlanta Ga., followed by studies at Adirndack Community College with a major in accounting.
Also, for years she performed accounting and office management duties for a variety of car dealerships in the area.
Pitkin said that if he were chosen, he wouldn't impose an agenda on the public, but he'd listen to the public. "If I was selected by the board I would not view the first year as a mandate from the residents," Pitkin said. "You do not have a mandate until you have been elected by the people - the first year would be spent trying to heal a factionalized community."
A graduate of California State University at Stanislaus with a Bachelors degree in business, Pitkin served in the U.S. Air Force for seven years. He moved to Thurman after marrying his wife Debbie, a Thurman native, some 25 years ago.
"The supervisor should work with the board, not be set against them," Pitkin said. "If this town is to begin the healing process we need to first start listening to each other-there are a lot of smart people out there."
Harris has worked for the town in a variety of capacities, including launching a successful youth program that created a good number of jobs in town, and she's lead various volunteer organizations and organized a variety of events, including Old Home Days. Presently, she serves as President of the John Thurman Historical Society, which organizes the annual Fiddler's Jamboree.
Pitkin describes himself as a fiscal conservative who rarely gets angry, is committed to open government and is willing to compromise in order to move forward. The purpose of a governmental body is to serve the constituency, not to seek one's personal gain, he said.
"The job of anyone in a managerial or supervisor role is to create situations where good people do good work," he said.
Harris served on the town Youth Commission for 20 years, and was the chair of the town's Bicentennial Committee.
In her work, she's written a number of grants, successfully bringing in state funds for job development, she said.
"People know that when I say I'm going to do something and I'm in charge, it's going to turn out a success," she said.
Recently, she's been volunteering her time by delivering food to the homebound through Meals on Wheels. From 1960 through 1970, she worked for the Warrensburg Central School District.
She said her background has given her direct experience in labor negotiations, running meetings, and supervising others.
"I am known to be honest, fair and capable of motivating others," she said in her letter to the town board.
Adirondack Journal editor Thom Randall contributed to this report.