JAY — The town of Jay hosted a candidate forum last Friday, when nine candidates addressed local voters. Three candidates are running for town Supervisor, five people are running to fill two town council seats and two candidates are running for town clerk. Tax collector candidate Lori Ducharme and highway superintendent candidate Kevin Lincoln are running unopposed.
Supervisor candidates Matthew Stanley and Garth Rogers kicked off the forum. Incumbent Tom McDonald, who is running as a write-in candidate, was not present.
Rogers, running as an independent endorsed by the Republican party, said he’s been a property owner in Jay for around two decades, and he moved to Jay with his family as full time residents about four years ago. Since then, he said he’s gotten involved in volunteering and town government in Jay. He said he was motivated to run for supervisor after seeing the need for change and new direction in terms of “pushing the community forward.”
Stanley, running on the Democratic line, is a fourth generation resident of Jay. After graduating from college at the University of South Florida with a degree in computer engineering and working in Massachusetts, he returned to Jay where he’s been working as a part-time general manager at Santa’s Workshop. He said that if elected, he plans to make the supervisor position his full-time job.
Stanley was the first candidate to introduce the popular topic of improving transparency at the forum, which Rogers echoed. Stanley said he would address this issue by upgrading Zoom capabilities for board meetings, giving weekly Supervisor updates on Facebook and Jay Community News, recording town meetings, and creating a YouTube channel for the town. Rogers said he would review town committees and appoint new members from town residents, establish evening hours in the supervisor’s office to create more accessibility to the office, and re-establish regular public work sessions to encourage more local involvement in government decisions.
Both candidates repeatedly stated the need for more community involvement in local politics.
To boost the town’s finances, Rogers said he wanted to review the town’s budget, look at expenditures and achieve a lower tax for Jay residents without reducing local services. He said he also wants to increase wages for the Department of Public Works employees, ambulance employees and town employees in general. He wants to aggressively seek grant funding from local politicians to garner those additional resources for the town, which Stanley agreed with. Stanley also said he believes Jay should increase funding for the highway department by adding more “manpower,” or jobs, at the DPW to help cut down on overtime hours during the winter.
To increase local business networking and tourism, Stanley said he would create more awareness of the AuSable Valley Business Association and utilize the Whiteface Region Visitors Bureau. He wants to make information readily available for people interested in starting and operating local businesses and improve broadband so that people can better perform business at home. At the same time, he said he wants to ensure that current businesses in the town have succession plans to keep them thriving.
Rogers said he wanted to create a marketing committee to inform where small businesses could thrive and to encourage new businesses. He also said those businesses will need more resources and that the town should have a closer working relationship with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.
To improve youth services in town, Rogers said the town should continue work with the Jay and Black Brook Youth Commission, and he wants to figure out what resources he could provide to improve the program through regular meetings and discussions. To work with seniors in the town, he said communication would be most important and could be done through the formation of a committee.
As a youth commission coach, Stanley said he wanted to encourage more growth in the commission by inviting more parent involvement. He said that he wanted to use the community center for youth and senior services, and he introduced the possibility of bringing a “teen center” to town. He also supports the idea of mingling teen and senior involvement through a technology training system, where the youth would teach seniors how to use technology. After dealing with microphone feedback throughout his speech, Stanley said the town needs more technology resources, a sentiment echoed by Rogers.
Five people are running to fill two town council seats — Democrat Olivia Dwyer, Republican Wayne Frederick, Republican/independent Steve Forbes, independent Jody Hart and incumbent Democrat/independent Knut Sauer.
Dwyer moved to Upper Jay in 2017, and she earned a degree from Cornell University in Natural Resources Management. She was a journalist for 10 years, reporting on small towns in North America. She’s also served as a foster care caseworker for Essex County, and she works with the Adirondack North Country Association.
Hart has been a resident of Jay for 15 years, and she’s worked with the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake. She’s volunteered with the ambulance squad and fire department in Jay, and she was a Jay representative with the NY Rising Housing Recovery Program after Hurricane Irene. She said the town council needs some fresh faces, and she believes that she is a fair and unbiased candidate.
Forbes has lived in the area for 39 years. He has run his own business in Wilmington for 23 years, and he’s worked with the Forever Wild water company in Jay since the mid-1990s. He said his plan as councilor would be to communicate openly between the councilors, town supervisor and the DPW. Forbes said he speaks his mind and follows through with his promises, and as councilor he said he would always stand by his word.
Frederick has lived in Jay for 36 years, ever since he left the military. He said he doesn’t want to be a “politician” by any means, but while attending town board meetings for years, he saw a need for more transparency and community involvement in meetings. Frederick is the maintenance director for a large children’s camp, and he said the broad scope of his responsibilities there, including communicating with the county and state, has prepared him to do “whatever it takes” to be a dedicated councilor.
In addition to being a town council member for the last two years, Sauer has served as vice president of the AuSable Acres Property Owners Association, acted as a founding member of the AuSable River Valley Business Association, and volunteered with the Rotary Club, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, the North Country SPCA and the New York Ski Educational Foundation. He said he’s brought a hands-on approach and sense of transparency to the board, and in serving another term he said he would continue focusing on moving the town of Jay forward.
When asked about their biggest priorities, most candidates noted the need to obtain more town funds for town employees. Sauer said his main priority is economic development and long-term strategic planning, though he said the town budget still needs more work. Forbes said the most important priority is employee retention, specifically in the DPW. He said salaries should be analyzed and the town has to communicate with those employees. Frederick said the town needs to get its budget in line, and the town should use the community center more to generate community interest in the town. Dwyer said communication and strategic planning are important for the town, and she suggested disseminating a community survey to understand and serve community needs. Hart said her biggest priority is evaluating salaries for town employees and “doing better for them” so they don’t have to go two towns away for a better salary.
Candidates also addressed issues regarding board conduct and bias. Forbes highlighted past communication issues between councilors, supervisors and the public, and he said that party lines shouldn’t dictate behavior. Frederick said he’s witnessed a “toxic” environment in board meetings, and he said he believes personal feelings shouldn’t be involved in politics. Dwyer said that as a foster care caseworker, she’s used to speaking with people on “the worst day of their life,” and that work has taught her how to find common ground with others. Hart said communication between board members is important, especially when someone feels there is an issue, and that the board should work for the community rather than “personal agendas.” Sauer said the current board provides a strong foundation, but to improve that strength he recommended more accessibility and transparency between the board and the community.
Each candidate agreed that the town needs a strategic plan.
Republicans Carol Greenley-Hackel and Tom Matuszewski, or “Tommy Mats,” are running for town clerk.
Matuszewski said he has visited the Jay area for 55 years, and he settled in Jay with his wife more than five years ago. He owned and operated his own trucking company by the age of 21, and he was a U.S. Postal Service tractor trailer driver for 31 years. He’s since retired from that position, but he said he isn’t ready to stop working. He’s volunteered with the town already, providing Halloween decorations and helping with Christmas lighting, and he’s a member of the AuSable Valley River Association.
Incumbent Greenley-Hackel moved to the Adirondacks from New York City in 1979, when she said she was won over by the beauty and atmosphere of the area. She’s lived in Jay for 16 years, where she’s served as clerk to the Supervisor and deputy town clerk and worked with the food pantry.
Greenley-Hackel said her first priority as clerk would be to appoint a strong deputy town clerk, which she said would help her to manage clerk work and improve town efforts around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Matuszewki repeated the call for transparency as a priority, and he said he’d also prioritize organization and timeliness of clerk duties.
To improve clerk administration and services, Matuszewski said he’d be willing to work at night sometimes to accommodate town needs, but Greenley-Hackel said the unpredictability of deaths and other events related to clerk duties require more flexibility. She said that throughout COVID-19, she invited people into her home who needed something they couldn’t get over the phone or via the internet.
To properly maintain town records, Greenley-Hackel said she’s been working with state law to get town records in compliance with those policies, and she’s been moving town records to the former town clerk’s office to keep them private and organized. Matuszewski said he’s dealt with record-keeping issues and audits as a representative of the American Postal Workers Union, and he’s a “stickler” for organization.
Where to vote
Early voting is open from Oct. 23 to Oct. 31. Early voters can cast their ballots at either the Lake Placid Beach House at 31 Parkside Drive or at the North Hudson town offices on U.S. Route 9.
On Nov. 2, election day, Jay voters can cast ballots at the Jay town office at 11 School Lane in AuSable Forks.