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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 30, 2009

GOP’s Stevens runs for board, Super Hammond unopposed

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — The slates for the fall elections are taking shape, with Travis Stevens running on the Republican ticket for town board, and long-time Democratic supervisor, Michael Hammond, may be running for re-election, and is unopposed as of this week. But while the GOP has already held its caucus, the Democrats have not yet scheduled theirs.

The town board is currently made up of four Democrats and one Republican, in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2 to 1.

The Republicans, who caucused on July 15, nominated Stevens, Bonnie Donati for town justice, and incumbents Kimberly Swain for town clerk and Gary Salisbury for highway superintendent.

“We did not have a candidate for town supervisor or for local tax collector,” said Steven Brown, the Republican chairman in Knox. “Our feeling is that, if we had a strong candidate for those positions, we would have found one by now. So, rather than put someone forward at the last minute, we thought our efforts would be better spent running for the other offices. We’re looking forward to the races in the fall, and we think we have some strong candidates,” he said.

Supervisor Hammond’s two-year term is up this year, as are the four-year terms for Democratic councilmen Nicholas Viscio and Dennis Decker.

“I have no reason to believe that existing office holders wouldn’t be selected at the caucus,” said Maynard Porter, who chairs Knox’s Democratic Party, “but we’ve only organized from the standpoint of trying to figure out when is the best opportunity to caucus.”

Hammond, who has been supervisor since 1974, and Viscio, who has been on the town board since 1994, both told The Enterprise this week that, though a caucus has not yet been held, they plan on running for re-election.

“I want us to maintain the lowest town taxes in Albany County, which we’ve had,” Viscio said this week.

Decker could not be reached for comment.

Travis Stevens

Stevens, 34, is a lifelong resident of Knox. This is his first run at a political office since he attempted to become a county legislator in 2007. He lost the race to Knox resident and long-time legislator Alexander “Sandy” Gordon.

He works in Albany as an energy conservation technical specialist for the New York State Office of General Services.

“I’d like to create a more open and transparent government,” he said this week, adding that he feels, at times, that there is a disconnect between town government and its constituents. “I’d like to try and reconnect government with people,” he said.

He wants to see more tax relief for seniors and working families as well, he said, adding that he believes energy efficiency is key.

With regard to what direction the town should take on large-scale wind development, Stevens said, “I still would like to see some of the numbers they’ve been trying to get from the meteorological tower, and would like to see the planning board put up a recommendation. I think there’s room for wind energy, but I think it has to be proven that it’s right for this area.”

He added, “I also look to support a diversified local economy, with realistic protection of natural resources.”

Bonnie Donati

Donati ran for town justice in 2007, but was defeated by Democratic incumbent Linda Quay. This time around, Donati’s opponent will be Judge Jean Gagnon. Donati has the backing of the Independence Party, and hopes to run on the Conservative line as well, she said this week.

Donati, 63, was born in Brooklyn. She lived in Knox during the 1980s, moved back to New York City for 15 years, and returned to Knox after her husband, Judge Alfred Donati Jr., died in 1997. Before his death, Mr. Donati was a New York State Supreme Court judge.

Bonnie Donati thinks that her extensive legal background will make her a good town justice.

“I’ve always worked within the law,” Donati told The Enterprise this week. Now retired from a career as a paralegal, she has worked as an insurance claims adjuster, did a stint at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and was in charge of former Attorney General Robert Abrams’s archives during his administration.

“I always did things where I had legal deadlines to face; it’s kind of second nature to me,” said Donati.

She sees this election as an opportunity to help people, she said.

“There are great discretionary advantages in your ability to sentence people,” said Donati. “You have to see the merits of each case as it stands, and you have to temper justice with a little plain old common sense. In my career in New York City, I observed a lot of law being made, and I’ve observed good judges and bad judges, and the bad judges are the ones that make outrageous sentences,” she said.

Between now and the election, Donati, who is retired, will pursue her lifelong hobby: caring for horses.

“There are many horses going to slaughter in this country,” Donati said. “I adopt a lot of them; some I rescue, some I foster and try to find homes for.”

She concluded, “I don’t think this is a political position, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having one Democratic judge and one Republican judge. Politics shouldn’t really be involved; the law is your boss.”

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