Otto and Jordan return for council seat
BERNE — Dawn Jordan and Richard Otto, both appointed officials, have run to lead the town from the dais before, but they plan to face off for the first time in November.
Republicans picked Otto this summer, and Democrats backed Jordan — both without dissenting votes.
Otto, 66, is retired from work in communications for the New York City Fire Department for 25 years. He is a zoning board member, motivated to run, he says, to bring common sense to a complicated system that doesn’t always have the residents’ interests in mind.
“I plan to go out and start knocking on doors in the next week or two,” Otto said.
Jordan, 53, was appointed to the town council in January after Republican Bonnie Conklin resigned last November.
The 2014 election will determine who will serve the last year of Conklin’s four-year term.
On running to hold the seat, Jordan said she’s invested and interested in the town. She has attended meetings regularly and served on the planning board. She chaired a committee to research high-volume hydraulic fracturing for Berne, which completed its report in 2012.
A Berne-Knox-Westerlo graduate, Jordan taught music at Helderberg Christian School and has volunteered teaching Sunday school at the Westerlo Reformed Church. She worked as a pharmacist at the old Jefferson Heights Memorial Hospital in Catskill until her children were born.
“There’s a learning curve to anything and there’s a pretty big learning curve to being a town councilman,” Jordan said of her candidacy. “So now, obviously I’m already in that process.”
She has been the town board’s liaison to the youth committee and said she looks forward to working through new changes to the town’s zoning and planning, in its schedule of uses and its comprehensive plan. She would like for the zoning law to address farmstands and home-run businesses, allowing both.
“One thing that I can say for sure is that, obviously, if I win, I’m going to be sitting up there at the table every town board meeting,” Jordan said. “If I don’t, I’ll be sitting in the audience at every town board meeting.”
Otto, the father of an autistic daughter, held a seat on her school’s committee on special education, representing parents. He said he was instead interested in the students’ benefit above all else and he would bring the same frankness to the town board.
As she left the board, Bonnie Conklin expressed frustration over her work with the four other councilmembers, all Democrats. Otto stressed that his mission is to advocate for what residents have told him they want.
“I grew up in the Bronx, worked for the New York City Fire Department,” Otto said. “I don’t see a need to back down from bullies. If they want to yell at me and call me names, fine, I can take it.”
When Otto spoke out against the state’s passage of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act at a public hearing in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo auditorium, Conklin approached him to suggest he run for a town board seat.
Otto received 20.24 percent of the votes in 2013, the lowest in a four-way race for two seats. The two Democratic incumbents, Wayne Emory and Joseph Golden, were re-elected.
“I think they listen to the few people who do come to the meetings,” Otto said of the town board. “I think there should be a detailed newsletter that comes up with all these different projects beforehand and says, ‘We’re going to be talking about this.’” The town has a quarterly newsletter. Otto suggested creating a Facebook page where residents can express their concerns.
Along with his concerns over lacking cell-phone reception and cable availability in Berne, Otto said he would look out for the rights of those who own their property but are extensively questioned at the zoning board of appeals.
“All these things you’ve got to discuss, and this is for the betterment of the town, and the protection of the people,” Otto said, “but it’s an adversarial situation.”