Political candidates all across the board appeared on Monday at Ashawagh Hall under the auspices of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee. They discussed their backgrounds and platforms, but dealt with a series of Springs-centric questions as well.
Most of the questions were aimed at the town supervisor candidates, Republican incumbent Bill Wilkinson and Democrat Zach Cohen, and the six town board candidates, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, Democrats; Steven Gaines and Richard Haeg, Republicans, and the Independence Party’s Bill Mott. Marilyn Behan was ill and unable to attend.
The candidates for superintendent of highways, Democratic incumbent Scott King and Republican challenger Stephen Lynch, also weighed in on a few issues, including one of the first questions of the night — asking them what was the highway superintendent’s appropriate role in town government.
Mr. Lynch said it was to keep the roads clean and safe, which, he said, was largely contingent on the successful management of employees, as well as a high level of accountability. Mr. King said the job was multi-faceted, requiring an understanding of everything from union contracts and highway laws to budgeting and purchasing procedures. He added that the job needed a “creative thinker” and a “problem-solver who knows how to maneuver around Town Hall.”
Mr. Gaines said a town board member should “listen to people and like people. This place fascinates me, so that won’t be hard to do.” Board members, he added, should bring their own opinions to the table and not march in lockstep with the rest of the board.
Understanding the community was Mr. Haeg’s main thrust. He said the town board had to “legislate today for things in the future,” while Ms. Overby focused on the kind of leadership that “pulls people up.” Her running mate, Mr. Van Scoyoc, echoed those sentiments, saying that town government should provide the greatest good for all citizens, with “integrity, patience, and open-mindedness.”
Mr. Mott had a similar answer, saying, “Once you’re elected, you’re no longer a Republican or Democrat. You work for the people.”
The responses from the supervisor candidates differed quite a bit. Mr. Wilkinson highlighted strong leadership, negotiation skills, and understanding disparate thought as the job’s most important elements. Mr. Cohen cited “knowledge, compassion, and action” as vital, focusing on caring for others.
The supervisor hopefuls were asked to describe how they would deal with violations of single-family-only zoning ordinances in Springs.
Mr. Cohen answered that obeying the laws was of the utmost importance. “I never want laws that we wink at,” he said. “I do think we have less code enforcement now than in the past. I think we need to look and see if we have adequate staffing.”
Mr. Wilkinson noted that Springs was the most densely populated hamlet in the town, with many small lots. While the administration could be more aggressive in enforcing the laws, he said, he also believed in allowing the town’s various “jurisdictions” to do their job. “We have a code enforcement department,” he said. “They can go out and work separately.”
Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Cohen were next asked how they would maintain a high quality of life for Springs residents. Mr. Wilkinson responded that he would try to reshape the budget and “see what serves as critical and what is less important. Security, safety, and seniors are priorities.” He said the town police chief, Ed Ecker, has told him police coverage was adequate for the area.