Members of the public got their first and only complete look at the Democratic candidates for Town of Enfield offices this week as contenders fielded questions during a casual but informative forum.
In all, candidates for Town Clerk (Ellen Woods and Mary Cornell), Town Supervisor (incumbent Beth McGee and Amanda Kirchgessner), and Town Board (Paul Norman, Darren McGee, Stephanie Redmond and Bob Lynch running for two positions) were in attendance. Although Barry Rollins is running for Highway Supervisor as well, there are no other Democrats so far. The event was held and sponsored by the Town of Enfield Democratic Committee, and held at the Enfield Valley Grange on Tuesday, June 11. The Democratic primary will take place on June 25 at Living Waters Church, and while the forum was open to the public, only registered Democrats are eligible to vote in the primary.
Woods and Cornell started the event, answering questions ranging from what skills they would bring to the job to who they would bring on as deputy clerk and what changes they intend to make to the office that is currently led by Town Clerk Alice Linton. They didn't argue much with each other, if at all, opting instead to address directly the questions that were asked. Woods said that her degree in math would help her with the job's more financial-centric aspects, and that she considers herself trustworthy with money. Meanwhile, both candidates said they would engage in an open application process to select their deputy clerks, although it's expected that Linton will be around a bit to help with any transition issues. Both said they would be surveying residents to determine if changes to office hours need to be made; Woods and Cornell said just anecdotally, they thought people might enjoy having some weekend hours, particularly Saturday morning.
Moving on to the Town Supervisor portion of the proceedings, McGee and Kirchgessner both talked about their broader visions for the future of Enfield. McGee was drawing more on her experience as supervisor, while Kirchgessner spoke more idealistically. She said Enfield was due for a reinvigoration and has been forgotten for too long.
"I will always be a hands-on supervisor, focusing on building and strengthening our community," McGee said, before detailing her plans to bring more services to Enfield and complete the emergency management plan. "There's still a lot of work to do in Enfield."
Kirchgessner struck a similar tone, though obviously without the supervisor resume to fall back on. She said she realizes that people may think of her as a more regional figure, because she spent much of the fall traveling around during an unsuccessful campaign for State Senate that was marred by domestic violence allegations.
"Here in Enfield, we've become the sacrifice zone of Tompkins County, we're paying crushing taxes to a county that doesn't give us really any economic development incentive," Kirchgessner said.
Additionally, both candidates took a few energy questions. McGee said she would doesn't necessarily oppose wind energy (though she did start a moratorium targeting it), but called the Black Oak Wind Farm project a "debacle" and said she would want a wind energy development to have suitable setbacks from property lines, not just residences, if one was to happen. She noted that the town's new Wind Law is currently being reviewed and could be voted on soon. Kirchgessner also said she wouldn't necessarily be against wind energy development, although she added that she would like to see Enfield own its own energy production means.
Additionally on the topic of energy, both candidates said they would support solar energy development. McGee said she'd prefer that to wind energy because the infrastructure is less intrusive, but that she'd want to make sure it "doesn't run rough-shot" over Enfield. Kirchgessner encouraged solar development, saying that the town should maximize the usage of its copious amount of open land.
Next, the Town Board candidates took center stage. McGee, Redmond, Lynch and Norman all laid out their intentions as a Town Board member in relatively general terms: Lynch said he thought the Town Board needed to determine the differences between wants and needs in terms of spending; McGee touted his military service and experience living in poverty in Enfield; Norman emphasized building relationships with other municipalities and improving cell phone coverage, plus protecting a sense of community in Enfield; Redmond said she thought improving communication and internet access are two of the main issues facing town residents.
Several topics were covered, but some of the highlights were the candidates laying out their first-year priorities. Lynch said he was very concerned about the firefighters' contract with the Town of Enfield and would want to negotiate that out and have it done before the town budget is solidified. Norman said he would try to reinforce a commitment to community organizations and try to ensure the Town was spending its money wisely. Redmond said she wanted to expand TCAT's presence in Enfield, as well as reiterating her commitment to increasing internet access, and McGee said he would be focusing on finalizing the comprehensive plan for the Town of Enfield, and making sure the Town was prepared to handle future oversight of wind and solar energy infrastructure proposals.
Interestingly, the forum concluded with a question about vaccinations, which have returned to the statewide lime-light after a few outbreaks of preventable diseases around New York this year; plus, Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed a law to repeal the religious exemption from vaccinations, making them mandatory unless someone has a medical reason they cannot receive vaccinations. McGee said he didn't have enough information to comment, Redmond said it's a state issue, Lynch and Norman both said they would advise following the advice of one's personal doctor.