Knox voters have a clear choice


KNOX — Supporters of Knox Supervisor Vasilios Lefkadtis and candidates running with him see him as a charismatic leader who has moved the town forward. 

Opponents believe he has caused unneeded divisiveness in town and disparaged people, many of them long-time contributors to Knox, with whom he disagrees.

Earl Barcomb, a Democrat running for his second four-year term on the Knox Town Board, says of the current election, “I think it’s going to come down to tone — how we want our town government to act: conflict and controversy, or just quietly getting things done.”

Lefkaditis, however, said that the key issue in this election is “getting results.” Asked about the lack of harmony in town and at meetings, he said, “The last two years have been significantly more civil than the first two years.”

Lefkaditis, who is enrolled as a Democrat, first ran for supervisor four years ago solely on the Conservative line. The Democrats at their caucus had backed long-time supervisor, Michael Hammond, and the GOP at that point wouldn’t back a candidate not enrolled in the party.

Dissatisfaction with Hammond’s decades-long tenure had been growing when Lefkaditis arrived on the political scene. In 2013, Pam Fenoff, an Independence Party member, ran a close race against Hammond, stressing the need for change and growth. She had the Republican and Conservative lines, too, and came within 78 votes of Hammond. Fenoff then moved to North Dakota because of her husband’s job.

In 2015, Lefkaditis campaigned on being “pro-business, pro-growth, for low taxes and transparency.” He also said the government needs “new blood,” and, if things aren’t done differently, the town will “continue to see empty houses, empty buildings, and people leaving Knox.”

During his first term, Lefkaditis was at the helm of a Democrat-controlled board.

In 2017, however, the Republican-backed candidates swept every post. Many of them, including Lefkaditis, were not GOP members but they ran under its banner.

Lefkaditis had tried again for support at the Democratic caucus and, while he made headway over his first try, the backing went to Democrat Amy Pokorny, who had been a town board member instrumental in securing a $130,000 Climate Smart Communities grant for the town.

This year, the Democrats moved from a caucus to a primary to choose their candidates, among them Russell Pokorny, Amy’s husband, for supervisor.

Russell Pokorny, who with his wife had run the general store in Knox, has recently retired as the town’s long-time assessor. Lefkaditis works as a hedge fund manager.

Both supervisor candidates were offered to have a video made of the Enterprise’s issues-based interviews. Lefkaditis declined because he preferred a debate with Pokorny. Pokorny agreed to the video and it is posted at along with videos of interviews with the other candidates in contested races for town supervisor and for county legislative races.

The Republican-backed candidates in Knox’s November race have all secured the Conservative, and Independence party lines as well. They launched a write-in campaign for the Democratic line, too, but fell short.

The Democrats are running on their own line. Russell Pokorny and Joan Adriance, for town clerk, have also secured the Working Families Party line. And incumbent Democratic councilmen Barcomb and Dennis Barber also have the Unify Knox line. So does Dana Sherman, running for town justice, as his only line.

Unify Knox was founded in 2016 by Erick Kuck, a former Knox councilman who said he wanted to offer voters a third-party option in the upcoming election. Kuck eventually withdrew from the race after he planned on moving to Holland. The Unify Knox Party is actually an independent body rather than a political party. An independent body refers to any group of voters who nominate a candidate to run for office.

The other Republican-backed candidates are Dennis Cyr and June Springer, each making their first run for town board; incumbent town clerk, Traci Schanz; Bonnie Donati for town justice; and Elizabeth Walk, unchallenged for tax collector.

Similarly, Gary Salisbury’s name appears on the ballot for the Republican, Conservative, and Independence party lines for Knox highway superintendent. But Salisbury is not running.

He resigned from his job as highway superintendent on Aug. 27, his 55th birthday, citing “nasty politics.” At the same time he resigned as the Knox Republican Party chairman and as the town’s deputy superintendent.

At its September meeting, the town board accepted Salisbury’s resignation, and increased Deputy Superintendent Matthew Schanz’s salary to match what Salisbury’s had been since Schanz is running the department. 

Although no other name, besides Salisbury’s, appears on the ballot, Schanz told The Enterprise he won’t launch a write-in campaign. “Historically, there’s not a good outcome,” he said of write-in campaigns.

Rather, Schanz said, with Salisbury on the November ballot, “If enough people vote for him, he can decline after the election, then they can appoint me on January 1st.”

“It’s a very unusual circumstance,” said Rachel Bledi, Albany County’s Republican election commissioner. “It’s not an ideal situation for voters.”

A Republican resurgence has swept the Hilltowns in recent years. While Democratic enrollment far outweighs Republican enrollment, Hilltowns that went for Barack Obama in 2009 and 2013 went for Donald Trump in 2017.

Out of 1,921 registered voters, Knox has 708 Democrats. The town has more unaffiliated voters (534) than enrolled Republicans (463). The rest belong to small parties with Independence Party members (133) leading the way, followed by Conservatives (71).The other small parties have fewer than a half-dozen members in Knox.


Candidates were asked about their relevant background, their goals, and their parties as well as for their views on these issues:

Employment practices: On Jan. 1, three transfer-station workers were replaced; the two Democrats on the board voted against the motion and the three Republican-backed board members voted in favor of the new hires. Two of the fired workers had Civil Service protection, since they had worked for Knox more than five years, meaning their firings were illegal, and they have since been rehired. The workers said they had no notice of their firings and also that they had received no formal job evaluations during the course of their employment.

What process should be put in place so that the law is followed and workers are secure in their jobs? Should the town have a formal system of evaluating its workers? Why or why not?

Business: Knox currently has many in-home businesses scattered throughout the town. It has just one business district, in the hamlet, with a single building that houses two businesses. Attempts to create a business district at the intersection of routes 156 and 157 and later a multi-use residential district at the same site were unsuccessful.

Would it be good for Knox to have more businesses in town? If so, what can the town do to encourage that? Would more business districts encourage businesses? If so, where should they be located? Should there be legislation to let home businesses follow simple steps to become legal? What else could or should be done to encourage businesses in town?

Agriculture: Knox, like much of rural New York, was once dominated by farms but many of those farms have closed. Residents value the rural landscape and farms are good for the tax base, not requiring the sorts of services homes require. A bill proposed by Gary Kleppel, who chairs the town’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, is in the works that would allow Knox residents to raise swine  — several have said they want to — in the same places in town that they raise other livestock. 

Is it important to encourage agriculture in Knox? Why or why not? What role should the town board have in sustaining and encouraging farming in town?

Environment: Knox secured a $130,000 Climate Smart Communities grant for being ahead of the pack in implementing green initiatives several years ago. The town board okayed a nonbinding agreement with Community Choice Aggregation, which allows local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, using residents’ collective buying power to drive down costs while allowing the municipalities to choose the source of the electricity generation. The state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

How is or should Knox’s Climate Smart Communities grant be spent? What else should the town be doing to meet state goals on helping to stem climate change?

Property revaluation: Knox’s last townwide property revaluation was in 1997, which can cause newcomers to pay an unfair share of taxes. Curently, Knox assessments are at 56 percent of full-market value.

Are the town’s property assessments fairly set, or does the town need a revaluation?;

Garbage: Tipping fees charged by the Albany Landfill on Rapp Road to the town continue to rise. The landfill is also expected to close within the decade. At the same time, as China is no longer purchasing the world’s refuse, recycling fees have become erratic; some commodities that the town used to get paid for, it now has to pay to dispose of.

What is the solution to these issues?



Vasilios Lefkaditis

KNOX — Vasilios Lefkaditis says he’s running for a third two-year term as Knox supervisor because “there’s still work to be done.”

He went on, “We have built a community over the last four years … We’ve brought families out and people together.”

Lefkaditis points to improvements in the park and ballfield, financial savings, and more diverse board memberships as accomplishments.

The new park playground, he said, cost roughly $160,000, and $125,000 of that was paid by state grants. The next phase, he says, is to build a community center so seniors can walk indoors and children can play on indoor courts in the winter. Republican Senator George Amedore and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara have “committed to funding it,” Lefkaditis said.

Eileen Miller, of Amedore’s office, told The Enterprise, while there is no set figure for funding, “The senator and the supervisor have had several conversations [about funding a community center] … and the senator will do everything he can to secure funding from various grant programs.”

Similarly, Nicole Parisi, of Santabarbara’s office, said, “We had funded the playground and Vas submitted a multi-phase proposal for the community center … We don’t have a funding stream but Assemblyman Santabarbara is still interested in working with the town to further the plan.”

Money has already been budgeted, Lefkaditis said, to pave walking paths in the town park so it can be used by people using wheelchairs or bikes or with strollers.

Lefkaditis, who is a hedge fund manager, said, “I’m in finance. I’m good at it. That’s what I do.”

The key issue in this election, Lefkaditis said, “is getting results.” Asked about the lack of harmony in town and at meetings, he said, “The last two years have been significantly more civil than the first two years.”

The ending cash balance left by the previous administration, Lefkaditis said, was $980,000, as of Dec. 31, 2015. Currently, the town has a cash balance of $1.7 million, he said.

“We’ve kept taxes [increases] at zero,” said Lefkaditis. “We — mostly me — have negotiated insurance policies, debt service, vendor contracts … It’s the trifecta. We’ve increased services, made repairs, and increased cash balances.”

Lefkaditis came under criticism for being late in submitting annual financial reports to the state. In April, he voted with the rest of the board to censure himself for lying about the late reports [“Supervisor votes with Knox board to censure himself for lying,” The Altamont Enterprise, April 13, 2019].

However, he told The Enterprise this week that he hadn’t lied. He said the reports were “late on purpose” so that a violation with a bond anticipation note wouldn’t be part of the town’s record.

Lefkaditis said that the times he had said in board meetings that the audits had been filed, when they hadn’t been, was because he thought the bookkeeper had uploaded them.

“The opposition has made a mean-spirited allegation regarding me lying,” Lefkaditis said. “I am brutally honest … It’s not in my DNA to lie.”

The resolution that Lefkaditis, along with the other board members, voted for said, in part that Lefkaditis did not file the Annual Update Document (AUD) with the state comptroller for 2016 and 2017 as required by state law and that he “indicated multiple times between April and December 2018 Board Meetings that the AUD’s were up to date, when in fact he knew that they were not completed and had not been submitted” and further “Supervisor Lefkaditis was not truthful or forthright with the Town Board and residents of Knox with respect to the filing of the 2016 and 2017 AUD.”

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise this week, “I didn’t apologize for lying. I apologized for miscommunicating … I apologized for not having my facts straight.”

He concluded, “The censure reminded me to not shoot from the hip.”

Positions on the town’s volunteer board have been “opened up through advertising,” Lefkaditis said. “Now we have a healthy cross-section … we have debates on the planning board and zoning board.”

He also said, “A significant amount of family and friends, 13 or 14,” used to be appointed, Lefkaditis said. “Now there are only two … It’s a giant step forward for fairness.”

On employment practices, Lefkaditis said, “The town never had procedures. There was nothing but a generic handbook.”

He went on, “We’re striving to create standard operating procedures for all employees.”

On business, Lefkaditis said, “One of the greatest things I hear from residents is they want commerce. The Knox store and the groomer’s employ five people, mostly kids getting their first shot at work.”

“The first business district was withdrawn unanimously,” said Lefkaditis of the proposal for routes 156 and 157.

“We listened to the community. We didn’t want more aggressive uses. The MRD,” he said of the multi-use residential district proposal, “was an attempt at a happy medium. An MRD restricts uses that are permitted now,” he said, citing hospitals and universities. “Those threats disappear,” he said with an MRD.

Lefkaditis went on, “One of the biggest impediments to small business is improper zoning … You need appropriate zoning throughout the town, spelled out in the comprehensive plan.”

On home businesses, Lefkaditis said, “In 2016, I offered an amnesty program for businesses operating a long time outside of the zoning ordinance,” which he said would have leveled the playing field.

“I did not have the board’s support,” said Lefkaditis.

Lefkaditis said agriculture as “absolutely important.”

“It’s one of the main reasons people move here,” he said.

Lefkaditis said he is not a farmer and would leave that to the experts. He spoke glowingly of the Agricultural Advisory Committee. “Kenny Saddlemire and Gary Kleppel are doing an excellent job,” he said. “The town board should support them.”

On the environment, Lefkaditis said, “There are limitations related to green projects. The key to success is to make sure you get the best bang for your buck.”

A payoff in 50 years isn’t wise, he said, as technology changes rapidly. “You need payback sooner rather than later,” he said.

Lefkaditis hasn’t yet read the audit recently released by the New York Power Authority, which is required by the Climate Smart Communities grant.

Lefkaditis said, though, that he disagreed with proposals made earlier to insulate or upgrade the town’s highway garage. The garage is a steel-framed building, about 40 by 90 feet, built in 1963.

“It’s 60 years old,” said Lefkaditis. He wants to replace the garage once the town hall debt is paid off, he said.

He plans to “follow the model of the playground” for a new highway garage, too, getting grants. “If we don’t get it,” he said of the member-item grants secured by state representatives, “someone else will.”

On property revaluation, Lefkaditis said, “I have not heard complaints.” 

He also said there is a “mechanism in place,” referring to the state-set Grievance Day, during which property owners can appeal their values to a Board of Assessment Review.

On handling garbage, Lefkaditis said, “The town of Knox is way ahead of the curve.”

He credited the three new transfer-station workers — Jeremy Springer, Lee Harnett, and Glenn Walsh — with “identifying a deficiency and presenting a plan to the town board.”

Formerly, Knox like other towns was paying nothing to unload its single-stream recyclables. In May, it cost $15 per ton to dispose of them, by June it was over $73 per ton, and by August it was over $88.

The new plan is to divide the single stream into components, some of which can be sold. Last month, the town got $570 for the sale of some of those components, like metal, which Lefkaditis pointed out would amount to $7,000 a year.

“That’s a win-win,” he said. “We’re saving money and benefiting the environment.”

Lefkadits also said that residents want to start a recycling committee, which he fully supports.




Russell Pokorny

KNOX — Russell Pokorny believes that Knox needs to be liberated from the supervisor’s leadership of the last four years.

“What’s a stake is integrity and respect and honesty and transparency,” he said.

Pokorny, 71, and his wife, Amy Pokorny, owned and ran the general store in Knox for five years, and Russell Pokorny was Knox’s sole assessor for 14 years. Amy Pokorny stepped down from the town board to run unsuccessfully against Vasilios Lefkaditis two years ago.

“Vas wants people who agree with him or say nothing … so we’re not left with the best people,” said Porkorny, adding, “Town board meetings are a disaster.”

In his 14 years as Knox’s assessor, Pokorny said, “I think I developed a good relationship with a lot of people.”

Pokorny is a Democrat who is running on that line as well as the Working Families Party line.

He went on about Lefkaditis’s leadership, “Now, it’s very hard to get information. Annual reports are all filed late. Now we’re having an audit … I don’t think we know where we are financially.”

Pokorny noted a claim by Lefkaditis supporters [“Continue the rebirth of Knox that began in 2015,” letter to the Enterprise editor, Oct. 10, 2019] that he had saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars “just isn’t possible.”

Pokorny also noted the longtime supervisor whom Lefkaditis ousted four years ago, Michael Hammond, had, under his administration, built up a large fund balance, or rainy-day account, which might be drawn down currently to keep taxes low.

Russell and Amy Pokorny were ahead of the trend with green energy. They were part of a group that first tried to support community wind energy until that turned out not to be feasible and then worked with others on community solar. They power their house with solar energy and drive an electric car.

Pokorny called the firing of the transfer-station workers “one of the biggest issues.” He likened “going to the dump” in Knox to a “social experience” and said the workers there were like friends.

“All of these guys were pleasant and helpful and a lot grieved their absence,” said Pokorny.

The workers helped with informal recycling, he said, to meet people’s needs with items others had discarded.

“The loss of these three guys was a shock to the community … To my knowledge, there was no problem with those three guys,” he said.

Pokorny said the town should have a formal process of evaluating employees’ work, stating there should be “a series of warnings” and workers should be able to have a hearing and “face their accusers.”

Pokorny concluded, “They should not  be surprised they are let go … It should be fair.”

On encouraging business, Pokorny said, “First of all, an awful lot of people move to Knox because they like the peace and quiet” and appreciate the dark skies at night.

Many of these residents, he said, are willing “to drive off the hill” and he estimated that 85 percent drive off the hill for work. But, still, he said, it’s nice to satisfy needs closer to home.

He reflected on the popularity of the gas station and store that Margaret “Si” Stevens ran for 33 years in the hamlet, which is no longer in business. She had taken it over when her father, Daniel Webster “Web” Stevens, died in 1970.

Modern rules would no longer allow for such an establishment, he said. “The oil companies don’t want to do it,” Pokorny said.

He noted that he and his wife owned and ran the Knox store from 1997 to 2002, with such innovations as music performances, chess tournaments, and magic shows.

“After five years, we were just about able to break even,” he said.

Pokorny recalled one customer with a soda in hand saying, “I can buy this cheaper at Walmart.”

Pokorny responded that, as a small-store owner, he couldn’t buy in bulk like Walmart does and had to pay more for the soda and therefore had to sell it for more.

Pokorny said that there are some noteworthy businesses in town like Gudrun Bellerjeau’s Esquisitum in a barn near her home on Pleasant Valley Road. He said her shop is “stocked with interesting things” yet Knox residents drive to a mall to shop for gifts instead.

He also mentioned Armstrong’s Furniture. “We either buy from Armstrong or wait for it to turn up at the transfer station,” said Pokorny.

Agriculture, Pokorny said, is a very important industry in Knox. He noted, “Agriculture is the reason we have the open spaces … Hayfields are quiet.”

His across-the-street neighbor, Pokorny said, just had a big sow give birth to 10 little piglets. “I don’t see any problem with it,” he said of raising swine in town. “That’s part of living in a farming community.”

He said the same neighbor also sells, from his home and through a website, fresh eggs and pasture-grazed beef, poultry, and pork.

Pokorny called this “a real convenience” and “ an opportunity for local shopping.”

The town’s zoning laws permit farming, he said, and concluded, “Neighbors have to be tolerant. I’m not sure you can legislate that.”

The $130,000 Climate Smart Grant that Knox received was largely due to the initiative of Amy Pokorny, who was on the town board at the time.

“It’s been kind of slow-walked since then,” Russell Pokorny said of using the grant money.

He named two possible uses for the money: insulating the town garage or installing solar panels, perhaps on the garage roof or elsewhere in town.

“It would be an example and a learning experience for residents of the town,” he said.

During the time he was Knox’s assessor, Pokorny said, he noted that 70 or 80 houses had solar panels.

Pokorny called moving forward with Community Choice Aggregations “kind of a no-brainer,” as it would decrease household costs and could use green sources for energy.

He also said, “We had a grant for a vehicle-charging station. People said, ‘Who’d ever use it?’ … It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg,” he said, stating that the town should set a good example.

On town-wide property revaluation, Pokorny noted it has been more than 20 years and said, “We’re due for a reval.”

However, he cautioned, “A reval is not to be taken lightly … It’s a traumatic thing for the community.”

Pokorny noted that today Knox is at 56 percent of full-market value. Typically, with revaluation, he noted, about a third of the properties increase in value, about a third decrease in value, and about a third remain the same.

The third of property owners that see an increase, Pokorny noted, would “not be happy about it.”

During his 14 years as assessor, Pokorny said, “I tried to fix the discrepancies but it’s very hard … You really can’t raise someone’s revaluation … It almost has to wait for a reval.”

He noted that the new assessor started on Oct. 1 and “has to get his feet on the ground” before the town board could move to undertake revaluation.

“Everywhere in the world, garbage is an issue,” said Pokorny.

He went on, “One solution is to look at more and more recycling opportunities.”

Currently, he said, newspaper, glass, and tin are all thrown together in Knox. Pokorny suggested doing more separation, stating, “I’m pretty sure you can be paid for metal.”

Pokorny concluded, “It’s important to people in Knox to have transparent government that is fair to them.”

Residents, he said, should be able to easily get meeting minutes from the town’s website and should get “straight answers” at town board meetings.

“We should be honest and we should be straightforward,” he concluded.




Earl Barcomb

KNOX — Earl Barcomb, a Democrat running for his second four-year term on the Knox Town Board, says of the current election, “I think it’s going to come down to tone — how we want our town government to act: conflict and controversy, or just quietly getting things done.”

Neither side in this election, he said, “has an interest in raising taxes or doing anything crazy financially,” said Barcomb, noting, “Knox has had low taxes for years.”

Land use, he said, is a key issue. “I’m interested in keeping Knox rural,” Barcomb said.  “I’m pushing for home-based business that fits with our rural community,” and also developing the business district already in the hamlet.

A major difference between his views and those of Supervisor Vasilios Lekaditis, Barcomb said, is long-term planning. “Vas has said we don’t need a comprehensive plan,” said Barcomb. Albany County has indicated otherwise since Knox created its comprehensive plan in 1995, he said.

“We need public input,” Barcomb said on developing a vision for the town’s future, “not just a vocal minority.”

Barcomb, 49, grew up on the property where he now lives and farms, raising hay and grass-fed beef cattle. He also works as a guidance counselor for the Schenectady City Schools.

On employment practices, Barcomb said, “We need to make sure we’re taking politics out of day-to day work for employees.” He said of the transfer-station firings, “It seems to me this was a political move on the majority side.”

Barcomb went on, “We need to be consistent and have policies in place. Employees shouldn’t be worrying about whether they’re on the right political side.”

On business in Knox, Barcomb said, “There is a long list of businesses in Knox all right. A lot  of people live in Knox instead of Colonie or Guilderland because they want rural.”

Barcomb said that he twice voted against the proposal for the multi-use recreational district “because the people living there didn’t want it … There was not any pressing need to make a change,” he said.

Business, he said, can’t be considered in isolation. “First, we need to put together a broad committee to work on updating our comprehensive plan and listening for what residents have to say. We need to get a clear vision.”

Ultimately, Barcomb said, the town needs to find a way to balance property owners’ rights with what the community wants.

Barcomb introduced the concept of  an Agricultural Advisory Committee in Knox. He praised the work of both Gary Kleppel, who chairs the committee, and Councilman Ken Saddlemire, a dairy farmer who serves on the committee.

“We have a balance of full-time farmers and new innovative farmers,” he said of the committee members, noting that it was “not seen as a hobby-farm committee.”

“I hope they would play a major role in the comprehensive plan update,” said Barcomb.

The town board, Barcomb said, is “very supportive of agriculture,” which he noted “contributes to the economy and is the best way to keep land open.”

Barcomb went on, “Agriculture is shifting. There are only two dairy farms left in town since the Petersons and the Kepplers closed … Josh [Rockwood] bought Sandy Gordon’s farm and is raising a lot of beef. And Gary [Kleppel] is doing interesting things with sheep. We’ll probably never add more dairy farms in the old model,” he said.

“Farming depends on the infrastructure,” said Barcomb, which is lacking in Knox. He gave some examples: “There’s no big grain mill in town,” he said. “If someone has broken machinery, we have to drive a bit to get it fixed.”

He concluded that, while Hilltown soil is not good for growing vegetables, it is good for hay and for pastures.

On the environment, Barcomb said, “Amy did a good job getting that grant going.” He was referring to Amy Pokorny, who had spearheaded green initiatives when she served on the town board, allowing Knox to win the $130,000 grant. A Democrat, she left the board to run unsuccessfully against Lefkaditis in 2015. Her husband is challenging Lefkaditis in November.

“We have to make a tough choice on the highway garage,” said Barcomb, noting its age. The garage is a steel-framed building, about 40 by 90 feet, built in 1963.

“I believe the old steel frame could be saved. We just completed an audit of town buildings,” said Barcomb, adding, “We’re almost finished paying for the town hall.”

“We’re on a good path,” he said, noting light-emitting diodes that replaced the old street lights. Energy-efficient LEDs are good for the environment and save taxpayers money, Barcomb said.

Barcomb said it’s good the town board has taken the first steps on Community Choice Aggregation and concluded, “As we go forward, we need our eyes wide open.”

On property revaluation, Barcomb said, “I’m looking forward to meeting again with our new assessor and really taking his advice … It’s never fun to do property evaluation. There are winners and losers and it causes a lot of controversy.”

He concluded, “When it’s necessary, we’ll have to do it.”

On disposing of waste, Barcomb said, “We need to be flexible. The rules and economics are constantly changing at the local level.

“There needs to be state and federal subsidizing to get these industries [using recyclables] going,” Barcomb said, noting that can’t happen on the local level.

Barcomb also said, “I’m hoping we can avoid having residents pay by the pound. … We need to be constantly educating the public on sorting so they can understand how important it is.”

He gave an example of corrugated cardboard, which can be separated out. “We’re getting paid or it,” said Barcomb.




Dennis Cyr

KNOX — “This is my first political run,” said Republican Dennis Cyr who is seeking a seat on the Knox Town Board.

“I have been asked by many, many people in the community to run,” he said. “I have the desire to.”

Cyr, 53, the father of 13-year-old Emma and 12-year-old Matthew, got active in community sports when his kids did. He’s volunteered with Little League and softball, booster clubs and Boy Scouts, and other youth programs.

“I make physical donations and financial donations when I an,” said Cyr.

A Navy veteran, he’s also volunteered with the Knox Hometown Heroes program, placing banners to honor veterans in town. And he’s active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, serving as commander, and also with the American Legion.

“I’ve lived in different towns and different countries, and I have business experience,” said Cyr.

He grew up in Connecticut and, while in the Navy, was stationed in Hawaii for two years and in Japan for two years.

More than a decade ago, Cyr started his own business, Mountainview Prosthetics, in a building on his Knox property. Six years ago, he bought the former home of the Altamont Fire Department on Maple Avenue, and last year began working in the new shop, which he owns and runs.

Cyr has been a Republican since he was in his 20s, he said, explaining, “I’m a constitutional conservative.”

He also said, “To me, there’s good people on one side and the other.” He said of R for Republican and D for Democrat, “It’s just a letter to me … I’m not changing because I’m in New York and everybody puts D for work … I look at the individual, not the letter, not the party line.”

On Knox replacing its three transfer-station workers on New Year’s Day, Cyr said, “That’s their private issue … If you put out the dirty laundry, you could get sued.”

Going forward, Cyr said, “All town employees should have evaluations … I had 22 technicians working for me. I did evaluations or them and they did self-evaluations, so you had a discussion.”

He went on to say that the town should have job descriptions for all its workers “You need to sit down with them if an issue comes up and correct them.” Similarly, he said, outstanding employees should be recognized.

The town needs guidelines and safety training for its workers “just like private business,” said Cyr. “It benefits the employer and the employee.”

Cyr said he favors bringing more small businesses to Knox — “not big-box business” — to offer conveniences for residents and to “boost the town.”

“I’m still for the MRD,” he said of the multi-use recreational district proposed for the intersection of routes 156 and 157. “Business has been there for 50-plus years,” he said. “The intersection is a prime location to reach Thacher Park and the two lakes.”

Cyr noted that he, himself, worked at his own business from his Knox property for years. “I know the daily struggle to come down to Altamont to throw gas in your vehicles,” he said. He cited the struggles of a “mom with several kids having to load them up to get a couple of things.”

Knox, Cyr said, needs more features that will attract families with kids to town. “Kids are the lifeline of our town,” he said. He noted the declining enrollment at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo schools. “That’s not good,” he said. “And our fire department is aging out. We need to find ways to build community.”

Cyr stressed that, while he doesn’t want to ruin the rural character of Knox, “a little gas station with a couple of pumps” would make a big difference, he said. When he’s out campaigning, he said, that’s what he hears most people asking for.

While the rules for home businesses have been modified so that the businesses don’t have to operate in the footprint of the home and so that they can have more employees, “It’s a double-edged sword,” said Cyr. “Who enforces it?” he asked.

“I’m not here to regulate,” he concluded.

On agriculture, Cyr said, “I feel for the farmers. They have all this land … they have to be creative.”

He went on, “We should try to help them, come up with a plan.”

He said the town’s agricultural committee could do that.

“I’m not a farmer,” said Cyr. “My family are farmers.”

Cyr also said, “I have no problem with people raising pigs.” He noted there was already state and federal oversight for farming practices.

“People are afraid of the run-off and waste,” Cyr said, adding he’d done some research and found, “there’s ways to collect and transfer it.”

He concluded, “It’s about everybody getting along … Sometimes you can’t make everybody happy.”

On how Knox should spent its $130,000 state grant, Cyr said, he hasn’t seen the audit done by the New York Power Authority. “You want to invest it the right way,” he said of the grant.

Cyr went on, “I know the opposing side wants to put solar panels on the [highway department] garage.” Since the garage is over 60 years old and leaking, Cyr said, “that’s not a smart way to spend the money.”

He concluded, “I’d have to look at the recommendations and sit down with the board.” He’d also take into account comments from the residents who attend town meetings. “People in the audience have great suggestions,” he said.

Cyr doesn’t think Knox needs townwide property revaluation. “There’s a process for them to fight,” he said referring to the state-set annual Grievance Day, where the town has its Board of Assessment Review hear complaints about property values.

Cyr’s business is located in Guilderland, which just went through town-wide revaluation. “Going through that with the assessment of my building, I can feel the pain,” he said. “When you feel it’s unjust, you fight it.”

He went on, “You use the process that’s in place … That’s your right. We have people in place to help you.”

Cyr concluded, “If enough people fight it, the town will see it needs to revaluate. Without negative feedback, you’re not going to go forward.”

On handling garbage, Cyr said Knox workers are already taking apart electronics so the valuable parts can be sold.

“We need to get ahead of the curve,” he said. “We have to look at all of our resources and find different companies that will take it.”

Cyr wants to form a waste-management committee in town to research the best options.

He offered to chair the committee, and wants to “take field trips to other places to see what they do.”

He concluded, “We’re moving in the right direction.”




Dennis Barber

KNOX — Dennis Barber, 64, a Democrat who has served two four-year terms on the Knox Town Board, said he keeps at it because he cares about the people of Knox.

“I’m proud of Knox he said,” noting his family has lived in town for five generations.

His time on the board has been stressful since 2015, he said, when Vasilios Lefkaditis was elected supervisor.

“I believe small towns are about people. You have to treat people nice,” said Barber. “The town runs on volunteers — all the boards, the youth council, the new ag. committee, they’re all volunteers.”

He credited Maryellen Gillis and the youth council with leading the effort to build the new playground in the town park but said Gillis and the youth council all left because, in Barber’s opinion, Lefkaditis didn’t treat them well. (Gillis went on to found the Helderberg Family and Community Organization.)

“You have to take care of them. Not run them down and talk behind their backs,” Barber said of volunteers.

“The same with Lou Saddlemire,” said Barber. Saddlemire had worked on park maintenance since the 1970s and was also the town’s dog control officer. “Vas didn’t like him. Now he’s gone … Lou left because of how he was treated.”

“Vas disparaged Dan Driscoll,” Barber said of the man who drafted Knox’s first zoning ordinance, chaired its first planning board, and was the driving force behind its comprehensive plan. Driscoll also helped lead a regional study for informed planning, and he helped create a land trust to preserve open space in the Mohawk and Hudson valleys. Driscoll died in 2016.

“And he didn’t want Bob Price,” Barber went on about the longtime Knox Planning Board chairman who has been replaced as chairman. “Vas just wants his own people.”

Barber continued, “We have to live with each other, be nice to each other. Don’t say, ‘My way or the highway’ … Dan, Lou — they were kicked aside. A lot have gotten out because they don’t like the way thing are going.”

Referring to his fellow Democratic councilman, Barber said, “Me and Earl don’t have the power; it’s 3 to 2.”

Barber, who is president of the town’s historical society, cares about Knox history and recently designed its first-ever town seal. He said that, as a volunteer firefighter, he chaired the fire department committee that first hosted the Pucker Street Fair and, for the last two years, has chaired the committee hosting the revived Pucker Street Fair.

Barber said of Knox, “It is what it is — a rural community. People come here for low taxes and open space. They don’t want to be told what to do.”

Barber said he’s a Democrat because his father was a Democrat “and most of the town were Democrats … The party took care of local people, getting county jobs.”

He went on, “The Democrats were conservative then … The party has moved to the left — not me.”

Barber is also running on the Unify Knox Party line; which was founded in 2016 by Erick Kuck, a former Knox councilman who said he wanted to offer voters a third-party option in the 2016 election. Kuck eventually withdrew from the race after he planned on moving to Holland.

“Vas wanted to monopolize all the lines,” said Barber. “The Unify Party was to say we include everyone in town. We’re all here for the common good.”

Barber currently works as a school bus driver and said that dovetails well with his interest in youth; he also coaches modified basketball and referees basketball games. He founded the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Sports Hall of Fame, having graduated from the school in 1973.

His other work experience includes seven years at the Knox Highway Department, which he said means he is familiar with highway expenses and equipment. He also worked for the state’s Department of Transportation for 25 years, and he has served as treasurer for the Knox fire district commissioners.

On town employment practices, Barber said, “We did develop an employee handbook with a set of rules and regulations to follow. That was put in place after they [the transfer station workers] were let go.”

Barber says it would be a “good idea” to have employee evaluations. He noted, when he worked for the DOT, he was regularly evaluated on his strengths and weaknesses.

“You’d sit down with the foreman,” he said. “That was helpful.”

On business, Barber said, “The weather and the Hill and the number of people in town are a big deterrent to business … We’re not very far from anything,” he said, noting the short drive to Altamont. He named businesses nearby like the Agway and Mobile Mart and new Dollar General in Berne.

He does not think creating a new business district would mean new businesses would flock to town. “I don’t see anyone knocking at the door” to fill the vacancies in the current business district in the hamlet, he said. “The same for the MRD by the Foxenkill,” he said of the current multi-use residential district there.

He also said that many people have the misconception that more businesses in Knox would bring in more sales-tax money. “We don’t get that money,” he said. “It goes to the county and is divided up by population,” then distributed to municipalities across the county.

Barber also explained his reason for voting against the MRD proposed for the intersection of routes 156 and 157. “The people that lived there didn’t want it,” he said. “You have to think about the people.” 

He also said, “We plucked out six or eight [properties] who didn’t want to be in it; it was like spot zoning.”

On agriculture, Barber said, “By all means, we should have as many farms as we can. That’s what we were built on. He noted not many dairy farms have survived, but new, smaller farms are coming in.

“The new committee will help us promote and save small farms,” Barber said of the Agricultural Advisory Committee.

He also said, “All the people on the board have a farm or worked on one.”

Barber said of the $130,000 Climate Smart Communities grant, “I think we should use it to somehow cut back on our energy use.” He mentioned rebuilding or fixing the highway garage, or putting solar panels on the garage roof or on the roof of the town hall.

“We have four years left on the town hall mortgage, then we can work on the garage,” said Barber.

On property revaluation, Barber said, “I think we’re in line. I think assessments are fair.”

When a municipality undergoes revaluation, he said, “the bottom line is somebody’s go up, somebody’s go down. It’s a crapshoot.”

He concluded, “We’re better off than Westerlo. We’re in line with the rest of the Hilltowns.”

Barber said free garbage disposal is one of the benefits in Knox, which does not provide water or sewer services. “We have to absorb as much as we can without raising taxes,” he said. “Right now, employees are taking things apart for more recycling.”

He also said, “If we’re not accepting [refuse], it will end up by the side of the road.”

Barber said that Councilman Karl Pritchard regularly goes to meetings in Albany to stay on top of the latest recycling trends. “It’s always changing,” he said. “We keep up pretty good.”

Barber stressed that he does not want to charge residents for disposing of refuse.

Barber concluded,of his run for office, “I’m about values, character. I wouldn’t fire anybody without any reason … It’s been stressful the last few years … We need to treat people right.”




June Springer

KNOX — June Springer, a Democrat running on the Republican line, says she sees a lot of positive changes in Knox.

“I think Vas is going in the right direction,” she said of the supervisor elected in 2015, Vasilios Lefkaditis.

She also said, “I believe in giving back.”

Asked about her goals, if elected, Springer said, “I’ve always dreamed of a community center..” She noted that Knox had recently built a new playground in the town park and said a community center would be the second phase.

The center — a plan that she noted is “in its infancy” — would be funded through grants and fundraisers, she said, adding, “I don’t want it to be political.”

Springer went on about the need for a community center, “We’re isolated a lot in the winter … so much is off the mountain. We don’t want to go off to the gym or to socialize.”

Springer, 60, moved to the Hilltowns 40 years ago, living in Berne for five years before she moved to Knox. When her children, now grown, were in school, Springer, at the turn of the century, served on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board.

“My mom was the Voorheesville village clerk when I was a kid. I was always around small-town operations,” she said. “As a teenager, my parents bought a family restaurant.”

Springer worked at her family’s restaurant, and also worked as a landscaper until 16 years ago she was offered a job at Diversified Automotive, where she now has a managerial position.

She noted that it’s a private business. “We’re always accountable to the budget,” she said, adding, “Running a town is similar to running a small business … You have to be accountable to the taxpayers.”

Springer said her job requires her to work well with a wide variety of people.

“I believe in building consensus and supporting the majority,” she said. “If you disagree, disagree respectfully.”

On the town’s employment practices, Springer said, “I support safety improvements … as well as yearly reviews to address issues and improve performance.”

She concluded, “More straightforward policies protect all parties.”

Her son, Jeremy Springer, is one of the transfer station workers hired on Jan. 1.

On bringing more business to Knox, Springer said she supports a plan proposed by Lefkaditis that recently did not get approved by the town board, of establishing a Multi-use Residential District, or MRD, at the intersection of routes 156 and 157. 

Referring to the fact that a supermajority vote was needed to pass the measure since the Albany County Planning Board hadn’t approved the MRD proposal, Springer said, “I understand a 4-to-1 vote is harder to pass.”

She went on of the recent 3-to-2 vote that defeated the proposal, “I don’t think it should be a done deal.”

Springer continued, “There is room for growth while keeping the rural character.” She said that more businesses in town would provide “opportunities and conveniences” for residents.

“Should everything be a business district — no, obviously,” said Springer. She suggested that appropriate placement for businesses would be anywhere along the main roads in town, routes 146 and 156.

“I’m against big box completely. I believe in mom-and-pop,” said Springer. She also said that home businesses should be encouraged.

“Make it so everyone knows what the rules are,” she said, noting that stay-at-home moms could do crafts and retirees might want to “tinker with lawnmowers.”

On agriculture, Springer said, “I definitely believe in farming. If anyone wants to farm, they should be able to.”

She went on, “With any farm, you need the land to sustain those animals.” 

Referring to Councilman Ken Saddlemire, a dairy farmer, Springer said, “Listening to Ken and people who presented to the board, there are so many state regulations to farm the right way.”

Springer said that dairy farms had been the “hardest hit,” and went on, “If there’s a way to support them, and bring them back, I’d support it 100 percent.”

On how to spend the $130,000 Climate Smart Communities grant, Springer said that she didn’t have enough information to have a recommendation but thought maybe her goal of a community center that would use “green energy” could be a possibility.

“I’m not an expert,” she said of renewable energy, “but I believe in it. I have solar panels on my garage. I hand my clothes out on a line.”

The big question, Springer said, is: “What is the right way to go?”

On the need for town-wide property revaluation, Springer said, “I think they are fairly well set … Being a long-term owner, my assessment has gone up steadily, so I think it’s fair … I’m not paying what I paid 36 years ago or even 20 years ago.”

She concluded, “We’re meeting our tax obligation.”

On how to solve the waste crisis, Springer said, “We need to recycle as best we can. You may need one part of that computer, not the whole computer. Take out the valuable parts. The manpower would be paid for in the long run.”

Similarly, she said, to remove the freon from discarded refrigerators.

Springer called for “creative recycling.”

She also said monitoring at the transfer station is important and concluded, “They’re on the right track there.”

Overall, Springer said, “I believe we must respect our differences and build on our common beliefs.”

She defined those common beliefs as “honesty, integrity, and accountability.”





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