Contested Races: Competition for Lansing village mayor position

By Rob Montana

Tompkins Weekly


Lansing village elections will take place Tuesday, April 25, with voting from noon to 9 p.m. at the Lansing Village Office, located at 2405 N. Triphammer Road.
Incumbent Mayor Donald Hartill, listed on the Community ballot line, is facing a challenges from Lisa Bonniwell, listed on the Preservation ballot line.

Tompkins Weekly reached out to the candidates to ask them a few questions in advance of the election; here’s what they had to say.


Donald L. Hartill

Don Hartill

Don Hartill, 78, has been mayor of Lansing for 20 year and is professor emeritus in the Physics Department at Cornell; he maintains an active research program in superconducting RF cavities for particle accelerators.
Hartill said he’s running for re-election as mayor “to continue the progress that we have made in improving village infrastructure.”
“We maintain our roads, water system, and sewerage collection system to prevent much larger costs when they fail,” he said. “Deferred maintenance is a very expensive way to try to save money.”

Having first been elected to the Lansing village board in 1989 and becoming mayor in 1996, Hartill has experience looking at issues facing the village.
“Expanding the Village sewer service into the area of the Village that currently depends on septic systems for sewerage disposal,” he said about Lansing’s current high priority issues, and “continuing to maintain the Village roadways and water system at their current level while keeping the tax rate as low as possible.”

Hartill cited “excellent management skills for successfully completing large scientific projects” and “successfully managing the Village of Lansing for the past 20 plus years” as skills he has that would be an asset for a mayor.
“I am a very fair person who listens to all sides of the issue before recommending a path forward,” he said. “I am a fiscal conservative that works hard to maintain Village services at the lowest possible cost.”

Lisa R. Bonniwell

Lisa Bonniwell

Lisa Bonniwell, 48, is self employed. She has her real estate license and is a broker; Bonniwell also runs a family business, IJ Construction, with her mother that includes construction, development and real estate components.
She said her initial reason for running for mayor was personal; Bonniwell and her mother, as well as other village residents are upset about a zoning change for a parcel of land adjacent to a parcel IJ Construction has been developing for 30 years. The change would allow a potential apartment complex to fit into the guidelines allowed for the parcel; it previously would not have been zoned to allow such a development.
“In our opinion, they rezoned it illegally, it’s called spot zoning,” Bonniwell said. “It would totally change the dynamics of the neighborhood, in our opinion, and slow down development of homes.”

Ultimately though, she said, it was her concern about spending in the village that cemented her decision to run for mayor.
“The village, not only did they put in a new building, but overspent their budget,” Bonniwell said. “It was personal, but I started looking at things and felt the board was really not listening to people in the village that elected them.
“They are trying to get more revenue because they’re spending too much,” she added.

Bonniwell has not served in elected office before, but has been involved in the community as a volunteer and through the high school athletics programs.
Her opponent, Bonniwell said, is a “very smart man, a very nice man,” but noted that he’s been uncontested for too long.
“Competition is good,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s important to get more people involved because it gives people a choice.”

Spending and a need for greater cooperation are two issues Bonniwell sees as top ones for the village.
“I think they (the village board) are overspending and not listening to the people that live in the village,” she said. “And we really need to work more closely with the Town of Lansing. I think, like (Gov. Andrew) Cuomo said, some of these services are being done twice and I think we need to do more communicating with other municipalities in our area.”

Bonniwell cited her business credentials as an asset and added that she does “a great job listening to the people.”
“I think, right now, a lot of people that aren’t for us (the Preservation Party), they feel the reason I am running is personal and for financial gain,” she said. “It’s not personal, I want to make a difference for the people of Lansing.
“I will listen to them, I can’t stress that enough,” Bonniwell added. “I will be listening to the people and what they wold like done with our village. I don’t think that has been done in recent years and I think that it’s time for a change.”