The Eastern Putnam County League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum last night at the Hudson Valley Cerebral Palsy Association.
The event, which featured candidates from the towns of Southeast and Patterson, allowed community members to meet public officials face-to-face in a debate-style forum.
Eileen Reilly, president of the Eastern Putnam County League of Women Voters, prided her organization on the hosting event.
“We are a nonpartisan organization that focuses on nonpartisan, political responsibility,” Reilly said. “Our event tonight lets candidates face their community.”
Former North County News editor and blogger Bruce Apar moderated the forum. Apar asked potential candidates questions that residents wrote down on index cards prior to the debate. Attendees could also ask candidates direct questions via microphone.
Two potential public positions did not take the floor for Monday’s debate. Republican county executive hopeful MaryEllen Odell and Patterson town supervisor challenger Capasso chose not to participate.
Patterson Highway Supervisor candidates were among the first to take to the microphone. Current highway supervisor Russell Goff said his ability to lead is what will set him apart during the primary and election season.
“This job is about leadership,” Goff said. “Not about party lines.”
The Southeast Town Clerk debate between Maria DiSalvo and Michele Stancati focused on the sense of working for the community and ensuring some kind of fiscal stability in the future. DiSalvo addressed her plans to keep the clerk’s office on Saturday.
“I’m a workaholic,” DiSalvo said. “It’s a common business practice–we can rotate hours between workers.”
Stancati said extending hours on Thursday evening would save the taxpayers money and keep the offices closed on Saturday.
Five candidates for the Southeast Town Board capped off the night’s debates. Lynne Eckhart, Roger Gross, Robert Bock, Ed Alvarez and Cathie Sloat faced off on consolidating services and attracting businesses to Southeast.
“We share the financial burden of being next to Carmel,” Eckhart said. “I would focus on adjusting the sales tax to cut our losses.”
The potential board members also addressed the turmoil that plagues the current town board. According to Gross, the senior member of the Southeast Town Board, said the past four years has been an embarrassment to Putnam County and hopes to change the culture of the board in the future.
“I’m the only incumbent at this table right now,” Gross said. “It’s been a rough-and-tumble four years, and I hope to change that.”
The night ended unexpectedly when Southeast Town Supervisor Michael Rights failed to participate during his turn at the forum. Rights, who had been present at the beginning of the night, left part-way through the debate.
“I’m not sure what happened, but we need two participants for the debate,” Reilly said. “It’s very unprofessional.”