By HEATHER NELLIS
Two of Amsterdam's sitting supervisors are competing for the new job of Montgomery County District 7 legislator.
Republican 4th Ward Supervisor Barbara Wheeler faces Democratic 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeffrey Stark.
District 7 includes all of the 4th Ward, and just a piece of the 2nd Ward.
Wheeler, 40, has served two consecutive two-year terms as supervisor. As a full-time student, and volunteer for hospice and the Amsterdam Family YMCA, she has also served as the supervisors' liaison to Cornell Cooperative Extension. She's the only woman seeking election to the county's new form of government.
"Being a supervisor is the only job I've ever loved," she said of her decision to run. "I've fallen in love with the people I serve."
Stark, 58, is finishing his first term. He's the leader of the Albany International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the grand knight of Amsterdam's Knights of Columbus, and serves on the Capital District Regional Economic Development Council.
"Amsterdam and Montgomery County are places that I love. I take being a supervisor seriously; It's not just a job that I took because it provides extra money. I'm here to provide a service, and I have a proven track record," Stark said.
Both candidates identified taxes as one of the biggest issues facing the county, and said officials need to find alternative sources of revenue to reduce the taxpayers' burden.
They also agreed economic development is one way to increase the tax base.
When asked what kind of policies she could effectuate to increase economic development, Wheeler said if elected, she'd like to start writing resolutions.
"I was told recently I should start writing resolutions, and I would like to start doing that," she said. "I've worked closely with [Economic Development and Planning Department Director] Ken Rose. I don't believe in micromanaging, but I believe in communication."
Stark said the county should capitalize on the nanotechnology boon. As president of the Greater Capital District Building & Construction Trades Council, "I'm acutely aware of the development going on," he said, adding he negotiated contracts for construction of such facilities in Malta and Albany.
"I think we need to be aware of what's going on in our surrounding areas," Stark said. "There's a triangle of that development in Malta, Albany and Marcy, and we're in that corridor. We need to capitalize on businesses that supply the nanofab industry."
Wheeler said the impending dissolution of the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority could represent some opportunities.
"I've said I would never support a landfill in the 4th Ward, but we could establish some form of a landfill in a municipality in the west," Wheeler said. "It could be a money maker."
Stark said one of his priorities is getting a firm handle on the county's finances to ensure the taxpayers aren't subsidizing costs eligible for state and federal reimbursement. That issue came to light in a recent audit that determined the county's health insurance costs weren't properly tracked, causing the county to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"We need to look at the treasurer's office itself. Counties around us are adding [certified public accountants] to their offices. We need to figure out a way to pay for that in making sure we're accounting for every dime," Stark said.
Both candidates said the county should develop a master plan to chart a progressive path.
Wheeler said she helped develop Fulton-Montgomery Community College's master plan rolled out this summer.
"It was a long process," Wheeler said. "It was 2010 when we first started. I would love to do something like that for the county, because organization is the key to success."
Stark, the city's Democratic Committee chairman, said development of a master plan is one of the goals his party pledged in an announcement last month. It can be read by logging on to www.mcpledge.com.
It's a two-pronged pledge: five promises for the way they'll govern, and five resolutions they'll roll out in their first 100 days in office. The governing promises range from bipartisanship to ending cronyism; the resolutions relate to ethics reform and strategic planning.
The appointment of a master plan commission is included in the latter.
"Those are my goals," Stark said. "If I don't accomplish them, I fully expect the voters to hold me accountable in the next election."