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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, September 27, 2007

Conservatives question absentee ballots

By Tyler Schuling

ALBANY COUNTY — A political candidate who calls himself "a true Conservative" is questioning the absentee ballot process.

Of 14 absentee ballots taken for last Tuesday’s Conservative Party primary for Rensselaerville, 13 were returned, all of them cast for Democrats. No enrolled Republican or Conservative candidates received votes.

Democratic candidates Marie Dermody and Gary Chase, both running for town council, received nine votes in yesterday’s count by the Albany County Board of Elections, and Democratic assessor Jeff Pine also received nine votes.

Four absentee ballots are being contested, meaning the courts will decide.

Anyone can apply for an absentee ballot, said John Graziano, the Republican commissioner of the board of elections. When applying, voters choose how they receive their ballots; they can either pick them up in person at the board’s office; have the ballots sent to them; or they can have the ballots picked up someone they designate. A designated person can obtain up to eight ballots, according to Graziano.

Designated ballot obtainers in the Rensselaerville primary were all Democrats — Sherri Pine, Bradley Chase, Bonnie Chase Gifford, and Rensselaerville’s highway superintendent, G. Jon Chase.

Steven Wood, an enrolled Conservative running for assessor in Rensselaerville, called himself a "true Conservative" and complained about Democrats infiltrating the party.

"We’re going to lose the line. At least I am," he said. In the last town election, he lost a close race to Chase, the incumbent highway superintendent, and has been outspoken about highway issues at board meetings this year.

"These are the four challenges we have to win in order to tie," said Bob Bolte, an enrolled Conservative, yesterday.

One ballot being contested by the Conservatives is from Eddie Welsch, whose address is listed on Miller Road, which, Bolte said, has no house. Welsch could not be reached for comment.

The 41-acre property at 97 Miller Road, listed as a mine and quarry and valued at $30,500, belongs to James L. Welsch, of Medusa, according to 2007 tax rolls.

Yesterday, Bolte and Wood challenged absentee ballots on different grounds — their signatures and dates.

Republicans Myra Dorman and Allyn Wright, both Republicans running for town council, did not receive any votes from absentee ballots. Each received nine votes last week.

"If we’re going to get politics to stop stinking like a dead woodchuck in the hot summer sun, we’re going to have to get some ethics," said Wood.

Last Tuesday, only 10 Conservatives voted — all on paper ballots. Eight votes were counted for Wood. One was invalidated because a voter’s name was written on the wrong line. Another ballot said "none."

"They might have won and it may be legal," said Wood. He questioned the process of Democrats picking up Conservative ballots. "Is it ethical to deliver absentee ballots to Democrats"" he asked. He answered his own question, saying it is not ethical and it "stinks to high heaven."

Riexinger blazes trail
First woman to head state’s Fish & Wildlife

By Jo E. Prout

BERNE — Patricia Riexinger is the first woman to head the state’s Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources Department.

A Girl Scout leader, she quotes a scouting slogan to describe the plans she has for her division of the Department of Environmental Conservation: "Make new friends and keep the old."

Riexinger said that she will maintain the state programs and also look for new opportunities "to preserve New York’s awesome biological diversity"to keep that resource around for many generations to come."

"I am very excited," Riexinger told The Enterprise of her recent appointment. "It was something I had always dreamed of." Being named director is "a huge honor," said the Hilltown resident. "I am so excited and thrilled."

Riexinger is a nationally-certified wildlife conservation biologist. She has worked with the DEC for 30 years.

Former Director Gerry Barnhart retired in August. Riexinger applied for the position after contemplating both the responsibilities of the job and its opportunities, she said. She was one of 13 candidates, but as a longtime DEC employee, the position became a promotion from within the same structure, she said.

The directorship required a background check. As a Girl Scout leader, Riexinger has already had her background investigated.

"I assured them that there was nothing wild from my college years," she joked.

The position also required a formal appointment by the governor, which she received.

Riexinger’s early years with the DEC were spent with the Waterfowl Unit, and then as a reptile and amphibian specialist in the Endangered Species Unit, according to information released by the DEC press office.

She was nationally recognized for her work preparing a state wetland conservation plan, and she administered more than $1 million in federal wetlands grants, the office reported.

"One is silver and the other’s gold"

"I look forward to maintaining and strengthening our existing programs," Riexinger told The Enterprise. She said that hunting and fishing programs in the state are strong and will be continued.

"I also look forward to strengthening habitat protection programs," she said. Riexinger hopes to update freshwater wetlands maps. She also wants to update the endangered species regulations.

"It was over 10 years ago that we last reviewed the species that should be listed as endangered," she said.

Riexinger wants the division to work better with landowners to protect fish and wildlife on privately-owned lands, she said. She hopes to support and complement existing federal programs for private land management, she said.

"The vast majority of land [in New York state] is in private lands," Riexinger said.

She said that the LIP, or Landowner Incentive Program, would continue. This program protects grasslands, which are declining around the state as old farmland lays untilled. Many of these grasslands are growing up into forests, she said. Establishing a mowing program would protect animals that are losing their grassland habitat, Riexinger said, by preventing the reforestation. Haphazard mowing too early in a season can also damage nesting birds, she said.

Riexinger also hopes to work with federal farm programs to establish buffers along stream corridors to keep sediments from farms out of natural water sources, she said.

Buffers can help filter excess nutrients from agricultural activity out of the streams, and stabilize stream banks, thereby protecting them from erosion, she said.

She called the programs "good for property owners, so their property doesn’t erode into the stream."

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