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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 5, 2009

Dems sweep clean in Berne
Gebe elected super with 64 percent of the vote

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

BERNE — The Democrats once again made a clean sweep in Berne.

Two newcomers to politics — George Gebe for the Democrats and Carl Baranishyn for the Republicans — faced off for supervisor as the incumbent Kevin Crosier decided not to seek re-election.

Gebe won in a landslide with 64 percent of the vote — 443 ballots — compared to Baranishyn’s 249 votes for 36 percent.

Gebe, 65, a retired educator, said his background in administration, business, and agriculture would suit him for the job. All of these tallies are unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections.

He felt joy at the election results, Gebe said yesterday.

“Now I’ve got to get to work,” he went on. “We have a lot of things not completed in the last administration,” he said.

Gebe named the sewer district for the hamlet, required by the state because the Foxenkill is polluted from septic drainage, as a project that is “set up at this point” and needs to be followed through.

Another project Gebe mentioned is the plan to move the library from the crowded town hall to the senior center. “We need to sit down with all the parties involved and come up with a plan,” he said. “We need to see how much money is involved and see if we can fit everyone’s needs.” Gebe mentioned that the senior center is a block building and not energy efficient. “Do we knock down the senior citizen building or do an upgrade?” he asked.

Asked what hours he plans to keep at town hall, since he is being paid for a part-time post, Gebe pointed out that he now volunteers many hours for the ambulance squad and said, “The bottom line is, I’ll do the work I need to get the job done.”

He concluded, “I’m feeling my way. I certainly don’t have all the answers.”

Baranishyn, 68, a retired businessman, said yesterday that he was not surprised with the outcome of the election.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to win because of the Democratic status of the town,” he said, referring to the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly three to one in Berne. “I’m very happy getting roughly 35 percent of the vote,” he said.

Baranishyn said it is unlikely he will run again. “It took a lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of money,” he said. “I did a lot of campaigning. A lot of people sounded dissatisfied…until they walked into the voting booth.”

Baranishyn concluded, “Am I going to continue to raise hell with the town board? You bet your sweet bippy.”

Colin Abele, 26, a Democrat, launched a write-in campaign for supervisor, campaigning door-to-door. He garnered, by his count, 42 votes; he estimated that 100 to 150 people had attempted to write in his name.

Abele’s write-in campaign led to awareness that the voting machine in Town Hall, serving District 2, was malfunctioning. Abele went to vote at about 7 a.m., he said.  “I lifted the slide and there I was,” he said of seeing his name written in. “Someone had voted before me, but the machine hadn’t rolled.”

As the day went on, others noted the problem; the machine couldn’t be fixed, so, at about 3 p.m., poll workers gave voters paper ballots to fill out instead. This led to a delay in tallying results after the polls closed as 189 ballots had to be counted by hand.

As Abele watched the counting process in Town Hall, one of just a handful of onlookers, he said that, far from being discouraged, he was “energized,” and planned to stay involved in politics. “It’s in my blood,” he said.

Dems return to board

 The closest race was for town board. In a four-way race for two seats, the Democratic incumbents bested their Republican challengers.

Joseph Golden was the top vote-getter with 512 votes, or about 31 percent. He was followed by Wayne Emory with 437 or 27 percent. Not far behind was Rudy Stempel with 349 votes, or 21 percent followed by Kenneth Crawford with 342 votes, nearly 21 percent.

Golden, 67, a retired economics and government teacher, won a third four-year term. He said during his campaign that he was running to finish some of the projects he had started, such as reviewing the comprehensive land-use plan, and completing the sewer project for the hamlet and the move of the library to the senior center.

Golden is now the board’s longest-serving member and, he pointed out, he will be the only board member who graduated from Berne-Knox-Westerlo, which used to be the norm for the board.

Golden said yesterday that he is pleased he won and looks forward to working with Gebe; the two had worked together before as teachers at Schoharie High School, he said.

Asked if he had goals in mind, having won the voters’ mandate, Golden replied, “In a small town, you never really have a mandate.” The citizens, he said, “are willing to call you out on anything that happens.”

He went on to say of the other candidates, “It’s good that the people participate.”

Golden feels passionately that small-town governments must be preserved, despite a push from the state’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, to consolidate for cost savings and efficiency.

“I think consolidation would be the death of small towns,” said Golden. “This is the last level of face-to-face government.”

Emory, 52, an artist for the State Lottery, won a second four-year term. Emory said during his campaign that he hopes to continue learning and this motivates him to continue his involvement in town business.

Rudy Stempel, 80, a former Berne supervisor, owns and runs a lumber mill. He said he was running because the town needs a two-party system. “Some people have gotten too big for their britches,” he said during his campaign, “and they need to have their wings clipped a little bit.”

Crawford, a farmer, said he decided to run when he saw the lack of interest in politics among the younger people of Berne.

Weaver new highway super

The only other contested race was for highway superintendent and again, as for supervisor, two newcomers faced off with the incumbent not seeking re-election.

Democrat Kenneth Weaver, a longtime Berne highway worker, garnered 484 votes, for 58 percent.

Weaver, 58, said during his campaign that he had worked for the town’s highway department for 33 years. “I’ve been there through three bosses,” he said. “I know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve run every piece of equipment in the shop.”

Republican Randy Rapp — a 50-year-old union carpenter — garnered 344 votes, or 42 percent.

Running unopposed

The assessor, the tax collector, two judges, and the town clerk — all Democrats — ran unopposed.

Albert Raymond, 52, a town judge in Berne since January, got 627 votes. A retired radiologist and postal worker, Raymond said of being a judge, “It’s remarkable, and it’s an honor to serve the community”

Kenneth Bunzey, 56, a town justice for 17 years, got 583 votes. Bunzey works in Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s special education department. He said during the campaign that he believes his honest and judicial temperament make him a good judge.

Town Clerk Patricia Favreau received 654 votes. She has been Berne’s clerk since 1980 and is also the town’s deputy tax collector and marriage officer.

“It’s a job where you can never be bored,” she said.

Robert Motschmann, one of three part-time assessors for Berne, was elected for a fourth four-year term with 589 votes.

Gerald O’Malley, 68, Berne’s tax collector for 19 years, is a retired Key Bank computer analyst; he chairs Berne’s Democratic Committee. With 674 votes, O’Malley was the election’s highest vote-getter.

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