Mixed-party Rensselaerville board taps Dolce, a Democrat, to fill vacancy

John Dolce

RENSSELAERVILLE —  Endorsement by three parties, no opponent, and a temporary appointment to the board makes John Dolce the proverbial shoo-in for a town board seat come Nov. 8.

Dolce was appointed by the board last Thursday to temporarily fill  the seat — until Dec. 31 —  of a member who had resigned. Previously, on Aug. 23, the town Democratic caucus had chosen him to be the party’s candidate in the general election.

The resignation of Councilman Robert Bolte, a long-time board member, who himself was filling in after a February  resignation, was accepted by the board at the same meeting. Town Supervisor Valerie Lounsbury then moved to appoint  Dolce to fill the vacated seat. The board unanimously approved his appointment without discussion.

Dolce will serve on the board until year’s end, and for three years thereafter if he is elected to  the vacated seat in November, as will almost certainly happen. According to the Albany County Board of Elections, no Republican candidate has filed as of Wednesday. Lounsbury, a Republican, confirmed for the The Enterprise that Dolce will run unopposed. The board of electionssaid Dolce is currently filed on the Conservative and Independence Party lines but paperwork has not yet been received from the town Democratic caucus. The filing deadline is Sept. 20.

As  of the last election,  enrolled Democrats outnumbered enrolled Republicans in  the  town two-to-one. County voter rolls at the time showed 605 Democrats, 275 Republicans, 59 Conservatives. 105 Independence Party members, five members of the Working Families Party, one Green Party member, and 260 nonaffiliated voters.

Bolte himself was appointed to the seat after Kevin McGrath, a Republican, elected last November, unexpectedly resigned. Bolte, despite health problems, agreed to serve temporarily until the end of this year, after which  the winner of this November’s election will be seated to complete McGarth’s unexpired term.

Bolte  completed his own four-year term at the end of 2015, decided not to seek re-election, but was soon back on the board to fill in for McGrath. A member of the Conservative Party, Bolte  has long been  involved in town affairs, in both volunteer and official roles.

The Dolce appointment means that the board has two Democrats, Dolce and Gerald Wood; one Conservative Party member, Marion Cooke; one Independence Party member, Margaret Sedlmeir, and one Republican, Lounsbury.

Dolce told The Enterprise that both Bolte and Sedlmeir had urged him to put his name forward for the seat.

Dolce, 56,  is the owner of Town Line Auto and several associated businesses on Route 32 in Westerlo.   A native of Queens, he was invited in 1992 by an uncle living here to take a look at the area.

“We fell in love with it,” he says. “Having been born and raised in New York City, you appreciate things that people here take for granted.”

In 1995, he moved his Queens-based automotive business and his family to the rural town. His parents, who immigrated from Sicily in 1955, now live in Preston Hollow. He and his wife, LouAnn, live on Hale Road in Rensselaerville. Two of their three children work at Town Line: their son, Joseph, as general manager and their daughter, Angelica, as comptroller.  Their older daughter works as a mortgage broker in Boston.

Dolce says that “even after 21 years living here, I am still considered a newcomer.” But that doesn’t worry him.

He says he knows hundreds of people in the area: customers, fellow volunteer firemen — he served with the Rensselaerville Volunteer Fire Company for eight years — and fellow members of the Greenville chapter of Rotary International  to which he belonged for six years.

He says that over the years he has watched other “outsiders “ on the town board  “not get much accomplished because they tried to force their ideas on the board.”

At the same time, he recalls that when he moved his business north he could not compete with established auto shops owned by people born and raised here,  “not unless we offered something different.”

His businesses — Town Line Auto, Town Line Motor Sport, and Town Line Self-Storage — employ 17 persons.

He says he is aware of the town’s factions and infighting, but when he was asked to consider running he saw “no big problem because the board is diversified.”

Asked if he had any political experience, he said, “Thankfully, no. I am not really into politics.”

It wasn’t until May that he committed to a quest for a town board seat,  first sitting down for discussions with all the parties, except the Republican.  Asked Friday if he expected a Republican  opponent to emerge, he said he didn’t know. “But if there is one and he or she could do better than me, then God bless them.”

As to what his own approach to serving on the board will be, he said, “I refuse to get angry, it doesn’t accomplish anything. When there’s lack of reason, that’s where anger comes from….I know better than to torture myself. I will state my point of view and hope it will be accepted. If not, I will try to explain.”

Of the continuing controversy over the Albany County Sheriff Department’s plan to erect an emergency-communications tower on Edwards Hill, he said, “We definitely need a tower, but we need it where everyone will be happy.”

Other business

In other business, the board:

—  Voted unanimously to rescind a resolution passed at the last board meeting authorizing a request for proposals from accounting firms. Lounsbury said she had since  met with the present accounting firm and Albany County advisors about “what to do to make things work better”;

— Renewed the Highway Department’s authority to bid for equipment via online auctions for another three months;

— Responded negatively to a request from a Greenville Boy Scout bus to use the town bus to convey the Scouts to Montauk Point on Long Island for a fishing expedition;

— Scheduled a public hearing for Proposed Local Law No. 3 of 2106 on Oct. 11 at 6:30. The law would authorize the appointment of alternate members to  the zoning board of appeals and  the planning board; and

— Authorized the town attorney to defend the town against a  suit brought in Albany County Supreme Court by Gerald Kirchner, owner of property on Route 351. Kirchner’s appeal to the town for reassessment was denied.      

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