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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 9, 2011
The battle is joined
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Petitions became available Tuesday, and are due by July 15, but the Republican and Democratic parties in town already know which candidates they’ll be endorsing for the 2012 election.
The Republicans plan to run a candidate for every open position with the exception of town supervisor, according to party chairman Matthew Nelligan.
The GOP, after decades of dominance, lost ground to the Democrats in the 1990s; the town board currently has three Democrats and two Republicans, while other elected posts for clerk, receiver of taxes, and judge are held by Democrats.
“I’m surprised they won’t be running someone, since the supervisor is the chief financial officer of the town, and there is going to be a major focus on fiscal management over the next few years,” said David Bosworth, Guilderland’s Democratic Party chairman. He was ousted from the town board four years ago when councilmen Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich scored an upset victory; neither is seeking re-election.
“Nobody stepped forward to run that we thought had a really good chance of winning,” Nelligan said. Redlich had earlier accused Nelligan of making backroom deals to get GOP appointees on committees in exchange for not running a supervisor candidate, a charge which Nelligan vehemently denied.
Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion will run for his seventh two-year term; it will be the third time he has run unopposed.
“With two-year terms, it feels like you are always campaigning. It will be nice to have a breather,” said Runion this week.
The Democrats are also backing Town Clerk Rosemary Centi and Receiver of Taxes Jean Cataldo in uncontested runs.
The Republican Party will back Michele Coons and Peter Hubbard for town board.
The party will also endorse candidates Howard Koff, for town judge, and Steve Oliver, for highway superintendent. None have held elected office.
“My goal is to win elections and to build a viable party in town, and I think all of our candidates have great qualities to help us do that,” said Nelligan.
“It is no secret that we are outnumbered in terms of enrollment, outgunned in terms of money, and the Democrats control Town Hall,” Nelligan concluded. “We’ve got to put our resources in places we can best win, and where we have the best chance.”
Enrollment in Guilderland is divided roughly into thirds Democrats, Republicans, and those or are not enrolled or enrolled in a small party.
The Democratic Party will endorse incumbent John Bailey for town judge, Brian Forte and Allen Maikels for town board, and Charles Cahill for highway superintendent.
Michele Coons has lived in Guilderland for almost 40 years. She graduated from Guilderland schools, and from Schenectady County Community College. She worked as a store manager for CVS Pharmacy, and currently works as retail counsel for the state’s Merchant Services Department.
Coons has prior experience in working for the town. She was the town comptroller from 1998 to 1999 during Jerry Yerbury’s administration. She served for many years on Guilderland’s Pop Warner Board, and said she loved giving back to the youth community.
“I wanted to find another way to give back, I have been here so long and love this community,” Coons told The Enterprise this week. She said she wants her kids to be able to afford to live in Guilderland if they choose to, and she doesn’t want her mother, a senior citizen, to have to leave town because it is too expensive.
“We need responsible development, and we need to keep taxes down,” said Coons, who is excited to hit the campaign trail.
“I think that’s the most exciting part, getting out to meet new people. I want to really listen to the people, and I hope to learn a lot more about what the town needs,” Coons said.
Brian Forte is no stranger to the town. He has been part of the Guilderland Police Department for 28 years, stationed most recently at the high school, and has been a volunteer firefighter for 30 years.
“I have a lot of family heritage here; my great-grandfather was a town judge in Guilderland,” said Forte. He is planning to retire from the police department, and said he was looking for other options.
“I’ve lived and worked in the town for a long time, and I’ve been disgruntled with how the board has been acting. I have positive, fresh ideas to move the town forward,” Forte said. He said he wanted to do some good for the community, as he has always done, during his retirement.
“This just made sense. I’m excited, I’m ready, and I really think I can make a difference,” said Forte.
Peter Hubbard, was raised in Guilderland, attended Guilderland schools, and graduated from Hudson Valley Community College and the state’s University at Albany. He has been working in the financial industry for more than a decade, and also owns Sam Wilson’s ice cream, in Troy.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics, and I used to help the Republican Party with petitioning,” Hubbard said. His mother worked in the highway department for many years, with former highway superintendent Todd Gifford.
“Todd was kind of like a role model for me,” said Hubbard. He said he simply wants to be involved, and believes in a two-party system at all times.
“I’m ready and excited,” Hubbard concluded. “I want to hear what people want to say.”
Allen Maikels has lived in Guilderland for 24 years. He was raised in Albany, and graduated from Siena College in 1976. He earned his certified public accountant license in 1980.
Maikels worked as an auditor for the state before he went into private practice; he is a principal in the firm Gordon & Maikels, CPA’s LLP.
Maikels has been involved in various aspects of government in the past. He was elected to the Albany County Legislature in 1999, in District 30, representing Westmere. He has been a member of the Guilderland Democratic Committee for many years, and has served as treasurer of the committee since 2007. He is a committeeman in Election District 10, and currently serves on the zoning board of appeals.
He has also been active in the community in many other capacities, including a member of the board of Living Resources for 20 years and a member and treasurer of the Albany Airport Authority, He serves as the secretary and treasurer of the Albany County Business Development Corporation.
“I think we need people with private business experience. There is going to be a lot of pressure to do more with less, and I’m good at helping my clients do that,” concluded Maikels.
Howard Koff, a 30-year town resident with over 45 years of practice as a tax attorney, will make a run for town judge.
“I have a long history of public service, dating back to the JFK administration,” Koff said this week. He worked for the United States Department of Justice for four years, in the tax department, during the 1960s. He spent a number of years working as a tax counsel for large corporations, and was a partner in a large tax firm in Rochester. He has been with his own firm for the past 30 years, and has been waiting for the right time to run for public office.
“Running for office is time consuming, but I have scaled back my practice now, so I have time for both. The most important election in many years is coming up, both domestic and foreign, and I want to be a part of it,” said Koff. He said he had some ideas to address the congestion problems the town court has been experiencing.
His son, Michael Koff, works as a photographer for The Enterprise.
“People come to court for important issues, and there should be enough time to address them individually,” Koff said. He said he firmly believes in a two-party system; without a two-party system, everyone loses, he said.
“I’m going to run a positive, low-budget campaign. I’m really looking to serve; this country is built on public service, not professional politicians,” concluded Koff.
Democratic incumbent Judge John Bailey, elected in 2003, was the first Democrat to serve as town justice in over 200 years. He graduated from the University at Albany and Albany Law School, and is an attorney at Bailey, Kelleher, and Johnson, P.C. He could not be reached for comment this week.
Steve Oliver has been serving as deputy highway superintendent for the past six months, and will look to make that position permanent in the fall.
Oliver has worked in the highway department for 24 years; he started as a laborer, and worked his way up to operator, foreman, and finally the deputy position. The former highway superintendent, Gifford, retired at the end of December, and the town board could not agree on an appointment; they decided to have Oliver act as deputy until the next election.
“The longer I have been in the job, the more I realized I could stay with this job,” said Oliver. He said his role is to keep peace among the men in the department, maintain a responsible budget, and keep the roads safe.
“We felt like someone within the department should step up and fill Todd’s role, and I’m just one of the guys. We are proud of our department,” said Oliver.
Charles Cahill was one of the finalists during the town board’s interview process to appoint a new highway superintendent, before the board decided to make Oliver deputy. Cahill recently retired as chief of operations for the Albany County Sewer District, and is chief of the Westmere Fire Department. He could not be reached for comment.