Nick and Michelle can best forward Gil DeLucia’s vision

To the Editor:

My 12 years’ serving as your elected mayor have given me a clear understanding of what are the qualities in a trustee that are important to the village’s success and welfare.

Given the perspective and experience gained over three terms in office, I ask that you vote on March 19 to elect Nicholas Farrenkopf and Michelle Ganance as Altamont trustees. They both serve as trustees currently and I believe they deserve your vote to continue the work they so ably started.

Nick worked with me on the Altamont board for several years before I left office. He always demonstrated a keen determination to do the right thing, and to do it based on solid facts.

I had the honor to work with him and the Altamont community groups organized to prevent the closing of the Altamont Elementary School. Nick chaired one of the committees that addressed ways to use classroom space caused by fears of declining enrollment.

Despite his working a full-time job and serving as a trustee, he expended considerable time, skill, and expertise to devise recommendations for use of school space and to lobby for keeping the elementary school open. His commitment to help our community address this serious situation should not be forgotten in the throes of this year’s election rhetoric.

Those of you who have children in Altamont Elementary School or moved to this community for its schools could not have a more ardent supporter for children and families.

In making a decision on Election Day, you also should consider Nick’s work with the Altamont Fire Department as board liaison and proactive supporter. He has conducted himself admirably by addressing public-safety issues and lobbying extensively with Senator George Amedore to gain his key financial support for the Altamont Fire Department.

Through his extensive efforts, the village received an unprecedented award of $100,000 for a new fire apparatus. His follow-through on application requirements to secure the grant and his close attention to the fire department’s ongoing needs is an asset our community should not lose, especially for those of you who see public safety as important to our community.

As a new board trustee of just several months, Michelle Ganance has demonstrated a keen interest in learning the routines of how government works and especially how to make it work well. She recognized immediately that the comprehensive plan is due for a revaluation and clarification so the board can make better decisions based on it.

She possesses the intellect and attention to details that would ensure elements of the plan are clarified and strengthened. In the three months since she was appointed, she has systematically reviewed how our Altamont government operates; familiarized herself with what issues are important to the efficient operation of all the village’s departments; and studied the laws, regulations, and responsibilities that are imperative for a trustee to learn and practice to do a good job as a public servant.

Both Nick and Michelle will continue to support the board’s commitment to keep taxes low and lean. Projects related to LED [light-emitting diode] lights, energy efficiency, and alternative-fuel vehicles are already in the works, completed, or near completion.

As proactive board members, they have played a key role in assuring that our stormwater plan contains provisions to protect our groundwater and alleviate dangerous runoff in our many creeks and streams.

They have also recently approved contracts for a new village website and instant communication devices to provide just-in-time notification to residence with new, up-to-date technologies. As board members, they recently completed an extensive search for a new head for the village museum and archives and currently are recruiting for part-time village gardeners to continue the maintenance of our village gardens and streetscapes.

When I ran for office, one of my many supporters asked that, “Every Altamont resident take the time to become informed about the candidates and what they will bring to the office — to learn firsthand what each stands for — and not to base one’s choices based on hearsay, innuendo, or one-sided points of view.   It’s about making reasoned, informed choices.” (The Altamont Enterprise, Feb. 3, 2005, letter to editor; Kristen Casey).

I offer you the facts first-hand so you’ll know about what these two trustees do and have accomplished so that you are not swayed in your vote by one-sided points of view, incomplete facts, and rumors that are thrown about in election politics.

I think that not voting for the current trustees solely because of their vote on Stewart’s rezoning is a mistake. They did not take their position lightly. In my opinion, their decision took into account the views of many others who supported the rezone and expansion of Stewart’s.

They believed it was in the best interest of the overall community to rezone the adjacent property. They believed that the overall comprehensive plan as it currently exists supported their decision. They also believed that the planning and zoning boards will use their expertise and knowledge to achieve the goals of a better Stewart’s, which we all want.

In earlier letters to The Enterprise this month, writers to the editor have argued that beloved former resident Gil DeLucia, owner of the former pharmacy, represented what Altamont should be, embodying the essence of what should be treasured in making ballot choices.

Other writers  expressed fear that our village is on a fast track to turn into a suburban hell. By these writers’ logic, they contend directly and indirectly that our current trustees have lost sight of the values that Gil represented and that the approved Stewart expansion ignores the majority of residents and violates the basic tenets of the comprehensive plan.

I went back to earlier Enterprise issues and discovered an extensive letter from the Altamont Business Association, of which Gil was the president at the time (The Altamont Enterprise, June 17, 1955), and took great pause reading the words. He cautioned and took issue with residents who complained about Altamont’s tree-lined streets being destroyed with the rebuilding of Route 146 through the village, including Main Street and Maple Avenue.

It was quite a controversy at the time. It exposed raw emotions of citizens who were fearful of destroying the beauty and charm of the historic village pitted against others in the community who believed that the new, enlarged road would improve the streetscapes and likely prevent Altamont being bypassed by taking alternative routes — a loss to the businesses in the village.

Gil wrote, “... that certain members of the opposition have resided in Altamont for a number of years is a weak argument. Ideas as well as people become antiquated. Fortunately, there are those in favor of the new roads who have also lived in Altamont for years. These persons are progressive and forward looking, and are always for the improvement of Altamont. Those few who would impress us with the fact that they have resided here for years, without change, would do well to look about them. They are surrounded by change, by improvement, by youth and progressive thinking.”

I ask that you entrust your current administration to continue to do the right thing. I implore you not to make decisions that may hamper sensible development, and endanger our village being abandoned by our business community at large.

Finally, I urge that you not take too one-sided a perspective in your interpretation of our current comprehensive plan that will prevent a sensible expansion of our business community and dismiss out of hand two trustees who have so many qualities that may be overlooked in the current political environment.

I support Nick and Michelle precisely because I think they can best forward the vision that Gil DeLucia expressed over a half-century ago, and have the track record to get the job done. Take into account their demonstrated capabilities and commitment to the village before you vote.

I trust you will vote for Nicholas Farrenkopf and Michelle Ganance on March 19.

Jim Gaughan


Editor’s note: the letter-writer was the mayor of Altamont from 2005 to 2017 when he chose not to seek re-election.

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