By Rob Montana
There are races for three posts in the Town of Groton – highway superintendent and two town council seats – but Town Supervisor Donald Scheffler and Clerk April Scheffler have no challenges on the ballot; the Republicans are unopposed in their re-election bids in the upcoming general election.
Incumbent Highway Superintendent Richard Case Jr. is running for re-election and is on the Republican ballot line; he is being challenged by Patrick O’Neill on the Let’s Be Fair ballot line.
On the town board incumbents Richard Gamel, on the Republican ballot line, and Kelly Smith, on the Democratic line, are running for re-election. Also vying for the two seats are Republican Crystal Young and Democrat Faith Tyler.
To get a better sense of the candidates, we asked them all about issues facing the town and what they offer as prospective councilpersons.
Gamel is completing his fourth term on the Groton town board and has worked as a technology teacher for the past 28 years, connecting with students, parents and the community in various roles. He has been on a number of town committees, and currently serves on the Commercial Energy Facilities Committee.
Tompkins Weekly: Why are you running for Groton town board?
Richard Gamel: My ancestors have lived in Groton since receiving a grant from the Revolutionary War and I have lived here my entire life as well. I have a vested interest in Groton and its future.
TW: What is the top issue currently facing the Town of Groton?
RG: I don’t think any single issue is more important than another, but I know keeping taxes as low as possible is a huge concern for many of our residents.
TW: What makes you the best candidate for town board?
RG: I think having lived here my whole life, and planning to retire here, gives me the passion to make this town the best it can be for every one of our community members.
Smith is finishing her first term on the town board; she also is the chairperson of the Groton Joint Recreation Committee and represents the town on the Tompkins County Council of Governments. In the past, she volunteered for the Randolph County SPCA.
KS: I was originally elected to the board in 2013; the potential for fracking was my main concern at the time. As an incumbent, I’m running because I realize the importance of a diverse board, one with oversight and that responds to community concerns and questions. The time for a female board member was long overdue since the last woman board member retired in 2000.
KS: Groton doesn’t have a grocery store so access to healthy food is a huge problem. It’s been difficult for local businesses to succeed; the addition of a grocery store or market would encourage residents to shop locally, rather than in Cortland or Ithaca, boosting sales for Groton’s other businesses. It will take creative ideas to ensure that Groton’s future is viable and sustainable.
KS: As a Groton resident for 45 years, I know the community and the changes and challenges we face. I have four years of experience on the board and have created an engagement with community members who felt excluded from town issues. It helps that I’m approachable, compassionate, and honest. I hope that Faith Tyler will join me on the town board since she has the tenacity and enthusiasm to get things done. Together, we could build a town board that is proactive, sensible and innovative.
Young has been a volunteer in the Groton community for many years, including serving as chairperson of the Groton Community Council – which is responsible for distributing United Way funds in the community – for more than 10 years, town representative on the Joint (town/village/school) Recreation Committee, member of the board of the Groton PTO, and volunteering with the Tompkins County Cops, Kids & Toys program “that assists many families in Groton,” said Young. “All of these have allowed me to obtain a broad perspective of our community and its needs.”
Crystal Young: I have lived in Groton most of my adult life. I met my husband of nearly 30 years while working at the iconic Groton Hotel back in 1987 and we have raised our five boys here. We have been blessed with acquiring many friendships throughout this time and truly know the value of a small town. I have also seen first-hand the challenges that face our community and have a genuine desire to contribute in any way I can to make this a better place for generations to come.
CY: Although I have obviously not been involved directly with the discussions surrounding issues the town has dealt with recently, I know one of the issues the town faced was with the New York state mandatory shared services. I understand that, because the Town of Groton has already been sharing services with other municipalities, it becomes increasingly difficult to come up with new ideas (per the Governor’s request) to do this without the potential of losing local jobs. However, I believe that as of August this issue has been resolved.
CY: Besides many of the reasons already stated above, I believe in listening and taking action to solve problems, working directly with individuals and community groups. If elected, my commitment would be to dedicate myself to the Town of Groton to build upon the quality of life we have enjoyed in the past, investigate better opportunities for our youth, and maintain services at an affordable rate.
Tyler is currently the chairperson of TCAction’s Policy Council, “which means I conduct the monthly meetings of parent representatives from all of the schools and home based programs in the county.” She also recently joined the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, and has actively pushed for and succeeded in obtaining needed upgrades to the park and infrastructure since moving to Groton six years ago.
Faith Tyler: I became involved with the Groton Dems when FRACKing was an issue. There was public outcry calling for a ban against this hazardous process of gas extraction but the town board would not pass the ban.
This denial was felt heavily since our town has already had to deal with the after effects of Smith-Corona dumping pollutants into our ground and water then left people here without jobs.
In response we ran two candidates for the town board who are proponents of environmental protections. Kelly Smith succeeded by narrowly winning a seat on the board and has done a fantastic job representing us. She is still a minority though. If I were to join the board, we would be even more effective in creating a transparent government for all residents.
FT: In our bi-partisan online survey, we found 91 percent of people polled are concerned about a sustainable future in Groton and another 85 percent are concerned about challenges facing farmers.
With the threat of another recession, a migrant work force in question, and climate change, these issues go hand in hand. Can Groton survive the next 200 years without a change in leadership?
Kelly and I are forward thinkers and we already have the start of a plan to create a farmer’s market that can provide an outlet for local goods and give residents better access to fresh food.
FT: Well I’m not the best, Kelly Smith is. She has the experience and wisdom that I don’t have, yet. Luckily for me though, there are two seats open and it would be my honor to serve the people of Groton.
If elected, I promise to be an honest, rational woman who truly cares about making Groton a place we are all proud to call our hometown.
The last day to postmark an absentee application for the 2017 general election is October 31, and the last day to postmark an absentee ballot for the general election is November 6.
Voting will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, November 7; District 1 voters will vote at the West Groton Church at 854 Cobb St. in West Groton, voters in districts 2 and 3 will go the the polls at the Town Clerk’s Office at 101 Conger Blvd. in Groton, and District 4 voters will cast their ballots at the McLean Fire Station at 2 Stevens Road in McLean.
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