Town of Montgomery races down to the wire

By Laura Fitzgerald
Posted 10/30/19

The race in the Town of Montgomery goes down to the wire as Election Day draws near. Incumbent Supervisor Rod ney Winchell is seeking re-election. He will appear on the Conservative line. He is being …

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Town of Montgomery races down to the wire

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The race in the Town of Montgomery goes down to the wire as Election Day draws near. Incumbent Supervisor Rod ney Winchell is seeking re-election. He will appear on the Conservative line. He is being challenged by Maybrook Mayor Dennis Leahy who will appear on the Democrat and Sam Party lines and former Walden Mayor Brian Maher who appears on the Republican, Liberterian and Independence lines.

There are two seats available on the Montgomery Town Board. Town Councilman Dan Dempsey is retiring at the end of the year, while incumbent Mark Hoyt is seeking re-election. He will appear on the Republican and Independence Party lines. Former Town Supervisor Susan L. Cockburn and Kristen Brown are running on the Democratic line (Brown is also running on the Sam Party line). Former Councilman Ronald M. Feller appears on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines. Joseph D. Keenan appears on the Conservative and "Thumbs Up" party lines, while Dwight Warrington will appear on the ballot on the Libertarian line.

The race for town justice is a rematch from two years ago, with Incumbent Fred Gorss running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines. His challenger, Linda J. Mitchell is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Green Party lines.

Brian Maher

If elected, Maher will update the comprehensive plan, improve town infrastructure, create a town-wide youth employment program and be a resource to organizations in the town.

Maher said there is little he can do to stop large projects, such as Project Sailfish or Medline. However, he will listen to residents’ concerns about these large projects and ensure those projects follow the law and planning board procedures.

“Being a representative is not just about bringing in as much business as possible. It is about finding the right businesses for the right locations,” Maher said. “It’s a balance between bringing businesses in, creating jobs, keeping taxes stable and maintaining a certain quality of life that the residents here have grown to love and appreciate.”

“Creating jobs and expanding our businesses are extremely important, but we also can protect our local environment at the same time,” Maher said. “We can do both.”

Maher said residents’ concerns highlight the need for updates to the town’s zoning code and comprehensive plan, which he would make one of his top priorities. The zoning regulations of the comprehensive plan date back to 1988.

Maher said he will also identify top infrastructure priorities in the town and secure revenue through grant funding and revenue-generating investments.

Another top priority would be to create a Montgomery Youth Employment program, which teaches youth job, resume and financial skills.

He will support various community organizations—such as the Town of Montgomery Senior Independence Project—in the town through outreach and allocation of resources.

Maher was mayor of Walden from 2009 to 2015, where he co-founded the Hudson Valley Honor Flight, re-established the Walden comprehensive plan, addressed infrastructure needs, established the Walden Youth Employment plan, and more.

Maher has also been the communications director for Senator Bill Larkin, the executive director of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, Inc., a reservist for the United States Navy, and a member of the Orange County Grant Development Block Grant Committee.

Dennis Leahy

If elected, Leahy will address failing infrastructure and promote smart growth and economic development.

Leahy said he will address the infrastructure of town buildings. A recent report from Anderson Design Group stated the town highway department garage is deteriorated and poses a serious safety risk to workers. Building 112, which is connected to the town hall, has been unused and vacant for years.

Leahy said he will address water and sewer infrastructure in the town for future growth and promote smart growth and economic development to benefit the town and three villages.

He requested a traffic study for Medline, and he is concerned about proposed projects’ impacts on the environment. He will make sure residents concerns about the town’s largest proposed projects—including Medline, Project Sailfish and BHT—will be addressed by the planning board.

“I have no problem with smart growth, I just want to make sure that something is not just slapped up that’s going to be later on regretted because it wasn’t thought through right,” Leahy said.

He also promises to provide leadership and structure in town government.

Leahy ran for town supervisor in 2015 and lost to former supervisor Mike Hayes.

“The town was in desperate need for a unifying force in 2015 and clearly the need still exists today,” Leahy said.

He will also enhance town parks.

Leahy has served as Maybrook’s mayor for the past 11 years, where he has spearheaded village infrastructure, obtained a new senior center, government center, sewer treatment plant and sidewalks. About 90 percent of the village sewer lines have been relined.

Leahy has also upgraded the village’s parks, structured the police department to meet civil service standards and promoted economic development through conversations with the Galaxy project.

Leahy served as deputy mayor from 2006 to 2008 and as a board of trustees member from 2002 to 2006.

“Rather than waving from the sidelines, I have taken an active role in the village’s infrastructure and economic development from the ground up while keeping taxes reasonable for the residents,” Leahy said. “I feel my 17 years of experience as an elected official will be an asset on a town level.”

Rodney Winchell

If re-elected, Winchell will promote business, update the comprehensive plan and spend taxpayer money wisely.

“I will continue to move the town forward if I am re-elected,” Winchell said.

A business owner himself, Winchell said he will promote small business.

“I’m pro-business,” Winchell said.

Winchell said he realizes that large businesses, such as Medline or Project Sailfish, will come into the town, or risk litigation against the town if they meet resistance.

He will continue to improve infrastructure in the village, including water and sewer infrastructure. Currently, the town has aging water and sewer infrastructure, and although this problem is not unique to Montgomery, Winchell said quality water and sewer infrastructure will attract businesses into the town. Businesses want to purchase property with water and sewer hookups already set up.

Winchell said he is currently updating the comprehensive plan and will seek taxpayer input.

“I want the public to be involved in the plan,” Winchell said. “Business people, people of all walks life, the average joe citizen, get everybody involved and say, ‘What do you want the town to look like?’ There are going to be different views, which is wonderful.”

Winchell said he will spend taxpayer money wisely.

“I’m the custodian on your investments as a taxpayer,” Winchell said. “You are taxed by force; you’re not voluntarily giving your tax money up. So, I’m here to look where your money is going and how it’s going.”

Winchell has served as town supervisor since December 2017. In his first year in office, the Winchell administration placed security in the town hall, cleared out building 112 and removed the defunct HVAC system, replaced the town’s aging vehicle fleet with new leased vehicles, and more.

The Winchell administration also conducted an operational review of the town’s financial policies and procedures with the help of accountants from RBT CPAs, LLC. After finding $9 million in cash spread out over several funds, the administration passed a budget with six new departments, a town accountant and no change in taxes.

“I want to see results,” Winchell said.

Winchell owns Romar Contracting, Inc. He is also an Air Force veteran.

Town Board

Mark Hoyt

If re-elected, incumbent Hoyt (R) will focus on improving the town’s infrastructure and park system.

Hoyt said a major issue he will contribute to is maintenance of town buildings. The town needs to plan for the maintenance of its buildings, which have fallen into disrepair. A recent report from Anderson Design Group stated the town highway department garage is deteriorated and poses a serious safety risk to workers. Building 112, which is connected to the town hall, has been unused and vacant for years.

The board recently approved bids for a roof replacement on both town buildings and will plan to complete structural and façade repairs on the buildings simultaneously.

Hoyt said the town needs to prepare 15- or 20-year plans on how to maintain the buildings.

Another priority that Hoyt would focus on is the creation of a town parks department. Currently, the town has no parks and recreation department. Maintenance of the town’s parks fall to the highway department, while the town clerk’s office handles scheduling.

Hoyt served on the planning board from 1997 to 1999, according to the town clerk’s office. Hoyt also served on the town board from 2000 to 2007 and from 2012 to the present.

“I have the experience to understand the protocols and how things are done, or should be done,” Hoyt said.

He has worked under four supervisors: Al Valk, Susan Cockburn, Mike Hayes and Rodney Winchell. Hoyt said this has taught him how to work under different management styles and how to approach his job from different angles.

Hoyt started his own farming business in 1986 and has served on the USDA Orange County Farm Service Agency. He has lived in the Town of Montgomery for 57 years.

Hoyt is running on the Independence party line.

Joe Keenan

If elected, Joseph Keenan will promote smart development, open and honest government, fiscal responsibility, and will help update the master plan.

Keenan said the town should promote sustainable economic development that will create jobs but will also protect the town’s land and watersheds.

“We must consider smart business growth while being considerate to our neighbors and the environment,” Keenan said. “We need to safeguard that progress does not negatively impact our precious watershed areas and aquifers, ensuring our community has access to safe drinking water.”

Keenan said the town master plan needs to be reviewed and updated with community input.

He would also promote open and honest government and fiscal responsibility.

Keenan is currently chairman of the board of the fire commissioners of the Coldenham Fire District, but he has also served as president, lieutenant and captain.

He has had a 32-year military career with the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, where he held leadership positions such as the Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant for the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart.

He has also worked as a claims representative for the Social Security Administration, dealing with disability and retirement claims.

He served as chairman of the original Town of Montgomery Board of Ethics and currently serves on the resurrected ethics board.

Keenan said his experiences have taught him how to be a leader and how to work with people to implement and improve programs. It has also taught him some of the ins and out of government, such as how to make budgets or how to work on multiple government levels.

“I have prepared budgets, analyzed data, made suggestions and implemented programs to improve existing processes and launched new ones across the spectrum of my professions,” Keenan said.

Keenan is running on the Conservative party line.

Dwight Warrington

If elected, Warrington will maintain town assets, spend taxpayer money wisely, and promote accountability and transparency on the town board.

Warrington will focus on the maintenance of town buildings, which have fallen into disrepair, and plan for the future of those assets.

He will also help update the zoning code and master plan so the town can manage its development and preserve its farming heritage for the future.

“We have to manage the development of the town, but we also have to preserve some of the rural characteristics of the town,” Warrington said.

He would also ensure taxpayer money is spent wisely through responsible, accountable and transparent spending. He would hold the town board to a standard of efficiency and accountability.

“I’d like to see the town function efficiently in all of the areas that the town is responsible for taking care of and that the residents rely on the town to do,” Warrington said.

Warrington has been a town resident for more than 45 years. With 35 years of experience in building and construction, Warrington owns Camp Commercial Services, Inc. He said his construction experience will be an asset when making plans for the maintenance of town buildings.

“If you’re looking for someone that will find solutions and work on a common-sense level with a business background, I’m the person that can help make a difference,” Warrington said.

Warrington said his business experience has also taught him problem-solving skills, which can translate to the problems the town board must solve.

“When you’re in business you solve problems,” Warrington said. “You don’t just kick the problem down the road and hope it goes away or ignore it. You deal with it head on, so it doesn’t become a bigger problem.”

Susan Cockburn

If elected, Cockburn (D) said she would pursue grants to fund projects in the town, update the town’s master plan and zoning, and promote smart economic development.

She said she would work to update the town’s zoning and master plan with community input to promote smart economic development.

Cockburn said she would like to see a moratorium on the large building projects, such as Project Sailfish or Medline, because those projects are not of benefit to the town. She said she is concerned about the environmental impact and the low salaries of the jobs these warehouses bring.

“You can’t have projects coming in that weren’t even concepts in the 1980s,” Cockburn said. “So, get your plan ready, and then let’s what’s see what we get. And the town should be proactively seeking to bring the right kind of business in.”

Cockburn said she will fund as many projects and programs through grants, such as parks programs or infrastructure improvements.

“I’d like to get as much as we possibly can because everything that we get through funding, grants and matching grants is money that’s not from the taxpayers,” Cockburn said.

Cockburn was the town supervisor from 2004 to 2008, an experience she said would be an invaluable help on the town board and to the supervisor. She is currently on the Town of Montgomery Historic Preservation Commission.

She also has a background in environmental engineering, international government and U.S. government. She has served on the New York City Historic Commission and New York City Public Development Corporation.

“All of these translate into serving the public and serving the community on town board by my capability and fluency in speaking with people on state, national, county levels,” Cockburn said. “I know how to get things done.”

Cockburn is running on the Working Families party line.

Ronald Feller

If elected, Feller will build a parks and recreation program and promote fiscal responsibility.

As the former Parks and Recreation Director from 2015 to 2017, Feller said he would build a parks program again for the maintenance of town parks and creation of recreation programs.

Feller scheduled area teams, maintained sports fields, maintained the rail trail and helped built the pavilion at Benedict Farm Park during his time as director.

Feller said he would also like to create summer and youth recreation programs.

Another priority for Feller would be to control spending and keep taxes low in the face of growing development in the town.

“We have to have controlled spending for our taxpayers but we also have to realize that it’s an area of growth and it’s going to continue to be an area of growth, so we have to maintain that and do it in an efficient way,” Feller said.

As a retired 45-year resident, Feller said he would spend time at town hall and listen to employees’ and taxpayers’ concerns.

“I’d be there on a daily basis, showing my face, finding out the concerns of the people who work there,” Feller said.

Feller also served on the town board from 2008 to 2011 and served as deputy supervisor from 2011 to 2012.

Feller is a charter member of the Knights of Columbus, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Maybrook chapter, a current coach and past board member of the Montgomery Little League, and a distribution board member of the Community Foundation of Orange.

“My life has been centered around community service and the welfare of the Town of Montgomery,” Feller said. “I feel more can be done and I will work with all to help ensure that goal.”

Feller is running on the Conservative, and Independence party lines.

Kristen Brown

If elected, Brown will focus on smart growth, updates in the zoning code, town infrastructure, parks and recreation and volunteer organization participation.

Brown said her first priority is to promote smart growth with projects that will not have adverse environmental impacts, such as BHT-Montgomery and Project Sailfish. To do so, Brown said the town needs to update its zoning code and master plan.

“I feel like the town is not exactly clear in its direction of where we are and where we want to go,” Brown said.

Brown said she will promote fiscal responsibility through smart spending.

Another priority is the highway garage, which has been deemed structurally unsafe in an engineering report by Anderson Design Group.

“The fact that we have allowed the town garage to get a state where we’re concerned about men’s ability to work there in an unsafe working environment is very concerning,” Brown said.

Brown said the parks are valuable resources in the town and could be used for youth programs, which she would like to create more of.

Brown operates the fifth-generation Historic Brown Family Farm on Browns Road with her husband and two children. The farm sells directly from their property.

Brown worked for Orange County Soil and Water, working directly with municipalities to obtain state grants. She serves on the board of directors with the New York Farm Bureau and is chair of the Young Farmers and Ranchers, working with New York State budgets.

Brown said her experience has given her valuable people skills.

“My best quality for the town board is I work well with people,” Brown said. “I like to listen to their issues, and I work very diligently in seeking out solutions and ensuring they are the best possible outcomes for the town residents.”

Brown is running on the Working Families party line.

Lynda Mitchell

If elected, Mitchell will bring to the position her experience as a court liaison, prosecutor and attorney.

Mitchell was a prosecutor for 24 years in Orange County and a probation officer as a court liaison and as a court-appearing attorney for foreclosure law. She has practiced in many counties throughout New York state.

She also has experience with drug court and alternative sentences.

Mitchell said she is very familiar with court proceedings, rules of evidence, criminal law, civil law, and all aspects of court proceedings.

“I have a very long experience of appearing in court almost every day of my 30-year career and I’d like to put that to use for the people that live in my town,” Mitchell said.

A life-long town resident, Mitchell is a graduate of Valley Central High School, SUNY New Paltz and Pace University.

“I’m very familiar with the values in the community and I would seek to run a court room that is fair to everyone and take under careful consideration the facts and the law and apply it so that the law is even-handedly dispensed,” Mitchell said.

Frederick Gorss

If re-elected, incumbent Fred Gorss would bring his experience as town justice to the position.

Gorss has been the Town of Montgomery justice since January of 1996 and has 45 years of experience as a practicing attorney. He has felony and misdemeanor trial experience and experience in all types of cases, including landlord and tenant cases, civil and criminal cases, vehicle and traffic and more.

In his 24 years on the court, Gorss has led in obtaining state grants for a court recording system, metal detector, shredder, computers, printers, copiers and more; improved the efficiency of the court procedure; and worked with a school mock trial tournament as a judge.

If re-elected, Gorss said he would obtain additional court grants; continue to assess new procedures, technology and other resources; continue to work with youth; and maintain the constitutional balance of the rights of the individual and the rule of law and order in the community.

“I’ve really dedicated my life to the law,” Gorss said.

Gorss attended Valley Central High School, Utica College of Syracuse University and Suffolk University Law School.

Gorss is running on the Conservative and Independence party lines.

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