Berne residents should determine the future direction of our town

To the Editor:

For nearly 20 years, my husband and I lived in the town of Guilderland. Most of that time, we loved living there, enjoying the short drive to work and the close proximity to all those conveniences that suburban living provides.

It wasn’t until a few years prior to our departure that we became increasingly frustrated with the town board’s unwillingness to listen to the concerns of its residents. They seemed to favor the business sector and unfettered expansion of the tax base over the ramifications of those actions on the town’s environmental characteristics and the concerns of the residents they were elected to serve.

So, shortly after my husband and I decided to retire from the New York State Police, we also decided to relocate to a more rural area where nature and the environment are highly valued, and soon found ourselves moving to East Berne.

While there were challenges in moving so far from the conveniences to which we had become so accustomed, we loved living in the country, where we were able to see wildlife and own property on which we could hike and kayak. We have seen deer, bears, bobcats, coyotes, beavers, opossum, to name a few, and a huge variety of birds, including bald eagles flying over our backyard.

All was great until a little over three years ago when the 2016 election brought about a significant change in the political environment in our country. Unfortunately, after the local elections the following year, we experienced what would eventually become a significant change in our town government as well.

Over the past four years I have watched as our government descended into something I barely recognized. The ugliness, the lies, the lack of empathy and the “us vs. them” mentality that has torn communities apart. I don’t believe this is who we are as a nation, or a town.  

I was fortunate to be raised by parents who believed public service was an essential requisite of being an American. I chose a career in public service where I felt I could have a positive impact.

For 26 years, I served the people of the state of New York as a trooper. At the time of my retirement, I was a lieutenant assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. When I retired, my plan was to continue volunteering where I could help others, as I had been doing at the City Mission of Schenectady, the Guilderland Backpack program, and the Regional Food Bank.

I certainly have never had political aspirations. However, I have watched our town government become practically dysfunctional. Our town supervisor and some members of our town board have decided that the voices of the people they represent are not important enough to be heard.

They have banned public comment from our town board meetings. They seem to have their own agenda, and don’t want the residents of Berne to interfere with what they intend to do. Otherwise they would be seeking input from its residents on a number of issues.

This is not the way government is supposed to work. That is why I have decided to return to public service and seek to be elected as the Berne town supervisor. I believe we need to have a return to civility.

The Town of Berne has so much to offer but currently it does not have the leadership necessary to improve the lives of its citizens. That is just unacceptable to me.

Remember, elected officials work for the citizens. The interests of the residents are supposed to be the top priority of their elected officials.

My plan would be to reinstate some of the committees that were dissolved by the current board, restore the public’s ability to speak and share their opinions in public meetings, provide information through mailings to those who may not have internet access and maintain an up-to-date and timely digital newsletter, which the current board has let lapse since 2018, as well as increase opportunities for residents to volunteer in a number of community and town related needs.

In addition, I will work to promote responsible economic development in an effort to expand resources and opportunities available to our residents while preserving the character of our beautiful town and its natural resources.

I believe that I can have a positive impact on our town. I have held a number of different positions within the New York State Police that have provided me with leadership experience and the level of discipline necessary to get things done, which is contrary to what I have witnessed by the current town government.

Nonetheless, I recognize that I can’t do it alone. Although I am not a native of Berne, I have come to care about the town, its character and its people, and I am committed to getting their input, working hard to get things back on track, and make its residents proud of their town government.

When all is said and done, it’s the collective needs of the people of Berne that really matter, and the residents should determine the future direction of our town. That will be my mission.

Margaret Christman

East Berne

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