Crosier and Keal in Conservative primary

William Keal

Kevin Crosier

HILLTOWNS — Republican William Keal will oppose Democratic incumbent Kevin Crosier as Berne’s supervisor in the Sept. 10 primary for the Conservative line. Crosier’s petition for the Working Families Party line was invalidated because it wasn’t authenticated and the certificate of acceptance wasn’t filed on time, according to the Albany County Board of Elections.

In other Hilltown primaries, incumbent Republican Donna Kropp will face an opportunity to ballot, where voters can write in candidates’ names, for the Independence and Conservative lines as a Rensselaerville assessor. Pamela Fenoff, a member of the Independence Party, will challenge long-time supervisor Michael Hammond, a Democrat, for the Independence line in Knox. 

New York State allows candidates to run on party lines besides those of which they are members.

Keal, 53, ran to be Berne’s supervisor last year, when Crosier won his 10th year in the position with 63 percent of the vote. That election determined the one-year vacancy left by George Gebe. Crosier, a Democrat, had won two terms on the Republican line before getting the Democrats’ endorsement in 2012. He did not seek re-election in 2009 but, when a vacancy opened, said he missed the post and ran again.

This November, the supervisor for a new, four-year term will be chosen.

“They both had different ideas on how to save money and how to run the town efficiently, so we felt both were entitled to have a name on the ballot,” said Richard Stack, Conservative Party chairman for Albany County.

Crosier, 55, had the Conservative line on the ballot in 2012, as he has in elections past. He has endorsement for the Independence and Democrat lines, but failed to obtain the Working Families Party, which he had, along with Republican and Conservative lines, in his 2005 bid for supervisor.

“I don’t need the line,” Crosier told The Enterprise.

Keal challenged Crosier’s petition for the WFP line, but, Matthew Clyne, Democratic commissioner of the Albany County Board of Elections, said Crosier’s certificate of acceptance was void for having been filed four days late.

“There was no stamp on it and there was no way to determine in what capacity the person was authenticating the signatures,” said Clyne of Crosier’s designating petition.

Stack said candidates are told they can’t have both the Conservative Party and Working Families Party lines, and that he would have supported Keal “100 percent” if Crosier had succeeded.

“It makes a little bit of difference to me. I’m a little bit disappointed,” Stack said of Crosier’s seeking the Working Families Party.

Crosier said his Conservative appeal lies mainly in keeping taxes low and building a large budget surplus during his time as supervisor. Crosier is retired from a career as an Albany firefighter and was raised in Berne. He first unseated long-time supervisor Alan Zuk, a Democrat, running on the Republican line in 2002.

“The reason you have your name on some of these smaller lines is so people have the choice to pull the lever,” Crosier said. “Some people may like you, but they may not like the party you’re on.”

Sixty-seven people are enrolled as Conservatives, or 3 percent of enrolled voters, in Berne. Last November, 118 Democrats voted for Crosier on the Conservative line.

Democrats make up 48 percent, or 946, of registered voters in Berne, and Republicans are 16 percent, or 320. Five Berne residents are enrolled with the Working Families Party; seven with the Green Party; and 119, or 6 percent, with the Independence Party. Twenty-five percent of registered voters, or 504, are non-affiliated. 

Keal works as a real estate agent for CM Fox Real Estate and moved to Berne around six years ago so his daughter could stay in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District.

The town bought the former St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church on Helderberg Trail in 2011 to be the new home of the Berne Library. Keal said he wants it divided, so the former parsonage on the parcel can be sold as a house and pay property taxes.

Crosier told The Enterprise on Friday that the town plans to do so.

“The only reason we haven’t is because it doesn’t have an adequate septic system,” Crosier said of the house behind the future library. “We felt we would get more money for the home if we tied it into a municipal sewer system.”

Keal asked if it was “coincidental” that the culmination of the decades-long sewer project  this year occurred along with complaints about the timeline by an opposing candidate during the 2012 election.

“It had nothing to do with it,” Crosier told The Enterprise of Keal’s influence on the sewer project timeline. He invited Keal to review the project after the 2012 election, claiming Keal spread incorrect information during the election.

“I went to the meetings,” Keal said Tuesday. “I didn’t feel there was any necessity to go on a personal basis for me to review the project.”

The town’s conservation and planning boards are now reviewing a report compiled in 2012 by a special town committee to study hydraulic fracturing. For Berne, Crosier is opposed to the process, which uses large volumes of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, to break apart underground shale formations containing natural gas. Keal said he would consider hydraulic fracturing on a case-by-case basis, but not if it would endanger natural resources.

“We’d have to cross that bridge when it gets there,” said Keal of the issue. “I’m not opposed to fracking as a general rule.”

The town board this year was confronted by a large group of people speaking about the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act that stirred statewide debate about the gun-control and was the subject of large protests at the capital. The Berne board passed a resolution condemning the quick January passage of the law by the state legislature and urged lawmakers to hold public hearings for more public comment.

Some citizens during the town meetings said the Berne resolution didn’t go far enough, to demand that the SAFE Act be repealed, as Republican board member Bonnie Conklin had proposed. Conklin voted against the final resolution.

“It was watered down by the Democrats to basically say, ‘We’re not so sure about this thing and the way it was processed,’” said Keal.

Crosier said, at the meetings, that the town doesn’t represent residents in state government. He told The Enterprise on Friday that he knows almost everyone in Berne and many of the people who spoke on the SAFE Act were from other towns.

Weber goes with Dems

Two Rensselaerville assessor positions with four-year terms are up for election this November, with incumbents Michael Weber, now an Independence Party member, and Donna Kropp, a Republican, in the running.

At first, the local Conservatives endorsed Weber, who was enrolled as a Republican.

He changed his enrollment in May after the interview. The party pulled its support and backed Kropp, one of the town’s assessors for the past two terms. Regardless, Weber’s endorsement was voided due to being filed late.

“I didn’t realize it was such a short period of time to sign that paper and send it back,” said Weber. “The board of elections sends you a paper after you have the endorsement of the party and you have to sign that paper and send it back.” As a result, he said, endorsements from both Conservative and Independence parties were dropped.

Weber was endorsed by the Democrats, along with Jeffry Pine, for town assessor. Weber said he changed his enrollment because he opposed stances Robert Bolte took on Pine’s past work as a Rensselaerville assessor, which came under scrutiny in a board of ethics case this year. Weber wouldn’t speak specifically about his disagreement with Bolte.

“Something happened in this town with one of the other assessors, and I was in opposition with the position that Bob Bolte took, and he’s practically running — he runs the Conservative Party and, by default, in a way, he runs the Republican Party, because the Republicans just do what the Conservatives do,” said Weber.

Bolte did not return phone calls.

In the 2009 election, the two positions, among four candidates, went to Weber, with 466 votes, and Kropp, with 545. Weber ran on Republican, Independence, and Conservative lines in that election, and Kropp ran on Republican and Conservative lines.

Among registered voters in Rensselaerville, nearly half, or 682, are enrolled as Democrats; 281, or 20 percent, as Republicans; and 58, or 4 percent, as Conservatives. Six percent of registered voters, or 97, are enrolled with the Independence Party. There is one Rensselaerville resident enrolled in the Green Party. Nineteen percent of Rensselaerville registered voters are not-affiliated.

Kropp, 61, has worked as a senior computer programmer analyst at Hudson Valley Community College for 12 years. Weber, 76, is an associate broker for RE/MAX Park Place.

“Politics don’t really play anything in the assessor’s position,” said Kropp. “There are guidelines we use to determine a person's assessment. We don't look at a person’s enrollment.”

Richard Tollner holds the third assessor position in the town, having won with Republican, Independence, and Conservative lines in 2011.

More Hilltowns News

Solar panels proliferating locally reflect a larger effort to reduce their financial costs and government subsidies. Rural municipalities are surveying their options in earnest.

After Birth is not a memoir, but the author's second novel got its impetus from her own experience as a new mother moving to a new town. It is set to be published in February.

Loneliness and depression are realities for some elderly people, and caregivers can be strained for others. A church hall in Berne is planned as a place where people who need help can go for social interaction and care.