Rensselaerville: Uncontested election features two new board members and returning supervisor and clerk

John Dolce

John Dolce

RENSSELAERVILLE — As it was in 2019, so it is again in 2021: Rensselaerville’s election is completely uncontested, meaning all candidates currently on the ballot are virtually assured of obtaining the posts they’re running for. 

Supervisor John Dolce, a Democrat, is running for re-election on the Democratic, Conservative, and Republican lines. Clerk Victoria Kraker is also seeking re-election on the same lines.

Political newcomers Edward Van Auken and Peter Sommerville are running for town board on both the Republican and Conservative lines, to replace Deputy Supervisor Jason Rauf, a Republican who’s running instead for highway superintendent, and Marion Cooke, a Conservative, who is retiring.

Only Rauf and Sommerville could be reached by The Enterprise, which asked for their perspective of the town and what they think lies ahead in the next four years. Rauf’s responses were reported in a separate profile earlier this month. 

 

Dolce

Dolce, a Queens native, was appointed supervisor in 2018 to replace former Supervisor Steven Pfleging who resigned after he was charged with grand larceny for stealing more than $13,000 from the town (he later pleaded guilty to petit larceny).

Dolce was first elected to the post in 2019, and couldn’t be reached for conversation by The Enterprise then, either. Before he was appointed supervisor, Dolce was a councilman, a post to which he was also initially appointed, in 2016. 

He’s the owner of several businesses that share the name Town Line and also owns Shepard Farms, in Westerlo, which is leasing land to a solar company that installed two large arrays there, to the chagrin of some residents in that town. 

Dolce’s tenure as supervisor has been mostly uncontroversial, save for a meeting last year that drew a large crowd from outside Rensselaerville after a town resident had asked the board at an earlier meeting to pass a resolution condemning display of the Confederate battle flag. That resident was neighbors with a young man who had a large Confederate flag hanging on his home, which he admitted to hanging in part as a way of getting under people’s skin. 

Dolce — who seemed not to fully understand the request — was not in favor of the idea, nor was the rest of the board, so no action was taken. 

Altogether, Dolce’s board has been mostly reactive, dealing with issues as they arise. He told The Enterprise in 2016 that he is “not really into politics.” 

The supervisor makes $16,500 annually. 

 

Sommerville

Sommerville, a Republican who will be 68 the day after the election, told The Enterprise this week that he originally wanted to run for highway superintendent, having experience in construction, but decided he didn’t want to run against Rauf.

Instead, he’s running for town board as a way to “get a little more involved in the town,” he said, adding, “I wish I had something a little more exciting to say.”

This will be his first time in elected office. Besides the 22 years he spent in construction, Sommerville spent 20 years as a charter boat captain on the Great Lakes. He also farms, he said.

“I’d like to tell you I’m a Harvard grad and that I was press secretary for some president, but I’m not,” he said.

On the town board, Sommerville said he wants to keep the town on the path it’s on, since he doesn’t see many pressing concerns.

“I’m not going into it with any great goals,” he said. “I think the town is in pretty good shape, and I want to keep it that way.”

Instead of an agenda, Sommerville is running on values. 

“I know it sounds pretty basic and stupid, but I just want to do what’s right, regardless of party affiliation,” he said, “ … I want to make decisions that are informed by logic and common sense.”

Councilmembers in Rensselaerville make $4,000 annually. 

 

Kraker

Kraker was first elected as town clerk in 2013, and before that had been town justice and court clerk. 

“I love the clerk’s job,” she told The Enterprise in 2017. “I love helping people ... It’s a small town so you have that personal touch. You see people face-to-face and ask, ‘How is your mom doing?’”

At the time, Kraker, who has an associate’s degree in computer science from Columbia-Greene Community College, was a self-employed farrier, meaning she put shoes on horses, along with other hoof-related tasks. She said her goal for the past four years was going to be to make various town processes more efficient and organized.

A full-time employee, the Rensselaerville clerk earns $36,720 annually.

More Hilltowns News

  • The local law, which will be subject to a public hearing in February, would transform the assessor’s office to make it more like that of most other municipalities in New York State by concentrating assessment authority in the hands of one person who’s appointed rather than three people who are elected.

  • After Albany County withdrew its offer to purchase Switzkill Farm in Berne because it became apparent that the property needed substantial investment, it offered to help “secure” the buildings on the property to prevent further deterioration while the county focused on other projects, according to county spokeswoman Mary Rozak, but Berne officials “didn’t want any part of that.” 

  • Troy Weeks, of Rensselaerville, was arrested on Jan. 10 for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riots at the United States Capitol in 2021, and was charged with interfering with an officer among other federal crimes. 

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