Rensselaerville elections a foregone conclusion with all seats unopposed

RENSSELAERVILLE — Surrounded by contentious elections in the other Hilltowns, Rensselaerville has decided its grass is green enough with all its seats going unopposed, mostly to be held by their incumbents. 

The town is continuing its long tradition, unique among the Hilltowns, of having a board with members from a variety of parties.

John S. Dolce, a Democrat, is seeking election as town supervisor after stepping in last December to replace supervisor Steven Pfleging, who was charged with grand larceny for stealing more than $13,000 from the town. Dolce is endorsed by the Democratic, Republican, Conservative, and Independence parties.

Dolce, who did not respond to repeated requests from The Enterprise for an election interview on town issues, is a businessman who owns Town Line Auto, Town Line Motor Sports, Town Line Self-Storage, and recently purchased the former Westerlo resort Shepard Farm, now home to two large solar arrays. Dolce joined the board in 2016 by appointment, continuing his term by election until his appointment as supervisor. 

Brian Wood, a Democrat, is seeking election to the town board after being appointed to fill a vacancy earlier this year. He is endorsed by the Democratic, Conservative, and Independence parties

Anthony Guadagno, the only newcomer, as well as the only candidate enrolled in the Independence Party, is seeking election to the town council, replacing Margaret Sedlmeir, who is not up for re-election. Guadagno is endorsed by the Democratic, Conservative, and Independence parties

Gregory E. Bischoff, a Democrat, is seeking election to be town justice. Bischoff was appointed to the justice post following the death of Justice Ronald Bates in March 2019. Bischoff had earlier been elected justice in 2012, ending his term in 2016. He is endorsed by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Rensselaerville had 1,318 registered voters as of March, 2019. 578 are Democrats; 289 are Republicans; 275 are unaffiliated; 108 are with the Independence Party; 60 are Conservatives; and the remaining 8 belong to the Working Families, Green and Reformed parties.

Guadagno and Wood were asked about their relevant background and about these issues:

— Solar: Rensselaerville is in the process of drafting commercial solar-energy-system regulations through its Solar Committee. At a special meeting in October, residents raised concerns that primarily dealt with the potentially radical nature of change that would occur with the introduction of large-scale solar-energy properties. 

How do you balance the positive impacts of growth and development across the board with the desire to retain Rensselaerville’s foundational characteristics?

— Assessor: Rennselaerville and Berne were the only two towns left in Albany County with elected assessors. The state changed its laws to do away with three elected assessors nearly a half-century ago. Rensselaerville is switching to an appointed assessor and the town board is required to appoint an assessor in time to start on Jan. 1, 2020. 

What are you seeking in an assessor? 

— Public trust: Rensselaerville was stunned when Steve Pfleging, then supervisor, was charged last December with stealing $13,000 from the town. 

What safeguards have been or should be put in place to avoid such a theft? What has been or should be done to restore public trust?

— Community Initiatives: Rensselaerville is home to the Carey Institute as well as to the Huyck Preserve. It also has an active library and committed volunteer fire departments.

How can the town best harness the energy and expertise of these diverse groups to improve the quality of life in town?

— Affordable Housing: The Hilltowns offer no facilities geared specifically for elderly residents who may still want to stay in the community after selling their homes. Also, many young families starting out have trouble finding affordable housing in town.

What can or should the town do to ease this situation?




Anthony N. Guadagno


RENSSELAERVILLE — Anthony N. Guadagno, a member of the Independence Party, is running for a seat on the Rensselaerville town council. He is endorsed by the Democratic, Republican, Conservative, and Independence parties. 

Guadagno is a newcomer to politics, but has experience in leadership and town management. Before moving to Rensselaerville in November 2001, Guadagno spent 24 years at the New York City Fire Department and attained the rank of lieutenant. He was on the scene for the Twin Towers attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Guadagno immersed himself in Rensselaerville by volunteering for the ambulance squad for eight years, and serving on the zoning board of appeals for six. He’s also on the board of Conkling Hall, a community center on Methodist Hill Road.

Now, he hopes to bring honesty and quality work to the town government, as well as an attitude of compromise.

“One of my pet peeves,” Guadagno said, “especially on the local level, is partisanship.”

On solar energy, Guadagno is a strong advocate, and explained that any negative impacts, like the appearance of solar farms against the region’s landscape, can be mitigated with careful planning.

“I think that solar energy would be compatible with our natural environment if done right,” he said.

Guadagno takes an attitude of personal responsibility on most issues. When asked about the qualities he would view as most important in an assessor, he listed skill, honesty, and work ethic. 

On honesty in the town, Guadagno acknowledged that it would take time to repair the damage inflicted on the population’s trust in government following Pfleging’s multi-thousand-dollar theft. He also suggested that two signatures be required on all checks of a certain amount.

Guadagno has strong faith in the community of Rensselaerville, describing it as unique among other towns. 

“People participate as much as they can,” he said, but stated his regret that the people who are willing to help are already involved in one of the town’s many volunteer positions. Otherwise, the town “is doing good” on coming together and using its human and cultural resources. 

On the availability of senior housing and ways to attract younger residents who are not financially flush, Guadagno dismissed the town’s role in the issue.

“I don’t think it’s the town’s job to get involved in affordable housing,” he said. 




Brian S. Wood


RENSSELAERVILLE — Brian S. Wood is a Democrat running for election to the Rensselaerville town board. He’s spent a year as a councilman, so far, having been appointed to fill a vacancy in January 2019. 

For Wood, being a public official is a matter of service, not politics.

“I’m about as apolitical as it gets,” he said, instead describing himself as a hometown guy continuing a long line of community involvement.

“I just want to help out,” said Wood.

Wood is a lifelong resident of Rensselaerville and has served as captain of the sheriff’s Emergency Management Division as well as chief of the local fire department. Before his appointment to the town council, Wood was a member of the planning board.

“[The town council] is becoming a job that nobody wants to do,” he said, “so I’m just stepping in to do it.”

When asked what’s at stake in this election, Wood took the opportunity to espouse his views on the “silly” 2-percent levy limit placed on municipalities by the state.

The cap puts a counterproductive connotation on tax increases, he said, which many see as an infringement on personal rights and property, but which Wood sees as a necessary evil in funding the town. 

“I don’t want to pay more money in taxes … but there are certain things that just have to be done,” he said, adding that years of low tax increases culminate in a year of substantial increase.

“Everybody’s going to feel the pain,” Wood said, “and it’s not going to be good.”

On solar, Wood positioned himself around a philosophy of laissez-faire governing.

“To be honest with you,” he said, “if I were living next to a guy with a solar farm, would I want to wake up every morning and look at it? No.”

But he explained that doesn’t mean he should tell the private property owner what to do.

“I don’t like regulation,” Wood said, adding later that party politics that infect issues like solar-energy development are going ruin small towns more than the developments themselves.

On the assessor, Wood said he likes the idea of someone who’s “educated in the process,” explaining that an elected but otherwise unqualified individual can take years to get the “knack” of the job. 

“It’d be like, if the town ran out of paramedics,” he said, asking if it would be better to pick a qualified paramedic to take over, or let someone without medical background take over, and “for those four years, you’re taking your life into your own hands.” 

On trust, Wood commended Supervisor John Dolce on his transparency in budgeting. In Wood’s opinion, part of the burden for being informed is carried by the residents, who he says don’t attend town meetings.

“People don’t take enough of a concern on how the town’s doing,” he explained.

Wood used a resident who comes to most public meetings and raises her concerns as an example of a virtuous citizen, in his eyes.

“She may not be the most popular, but she’s not obnoxious, she’s not unprofessional. She’s just concerned,” he said. 

Communication is key for Wood in issues of both town trust and town coordination. 

He cited a chili cook-off he went to at Conkling Hall on Methodist Hill Road as a great community event, but that the only advertising was done online and that residents without Facebook would be out of the loop and disengaged.

On affordable housing, Wood said the town doesn’t have the budget to help families and senior citizens find shelter in the town.

“How can you make housing any more affordable than just having an acre of land and putting a modular home?” he asked rhetorically. 

“The only thing we can do is support larger initiatives that come from the state or third-party non-profit groups,” he said before concluding with, “We need every dollar we can get just to pay salaries and pay bills.”




Gregory E. Bischoff 


RENSSELAERVILLE — Gregory E. Bischoff is seeking election for town justice of Rensselaerville. Unchallenged, Bischoff is endorsed by the Democratic and Republican parties. He is an enrolled Democrat.

Bischoff’s professional background is heavy in education, having been a teacher for the Middleburgh school district, principal at Camp Cass youth detention center, and a ski instructor. He also worked for AT&T and served in the United States Navy.

Bischoff served as town justice from 2012 until 2016, and was appointed in 2019 following the death of Justice Ronald Bates in March. 

“It’s sort of a community-service type thing,” Bischoff said of why he’s running, and added that he enjoys the work.

On recusal, Bischoff said that it doesn’t happen often that there’s a need to do so. Though there’s been at least one instance where both he and the other town justice had a personal relationship with the parties involved and had to transfer the case to another jurisdiction. Ultimately, his decision to recuse is made case-by-case. 

“If there’s a perception of unfairness or favoritism, I’ll recuse myself,” he said.

Because the Albany County district attorney recently announced he would not prosecute marijuana possession cases with less than 2 grams, Bischoff was asked on his views about marijuana prosecution.

“A lot of people do it,” Bischoff said of possessing marijuana. “We had some crazy laws [with] people losing student aid on possession charges.”

Bischoff said he would rather focus on the opioid crisis than recreational marijuana.

In general, Bischoff’s goal in sentencing is rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. He said he takes in a number of factors that inform his verdict, like age, veteran status, and the nature and circumstances of the crime committed.

“You try to do what’s right for the people,” Bischoff said. “You realize the person … is a person and you don’t want to ruin their lives.”


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