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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 29, 2010

Aldrich, Feller, and Hartson run for Guilderland library board

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Three men — Brian Hartson, Robert Feller, and Christopher Aldrich —will be on the May 18 ballot for the Guilderland Public Library’s board of trustees. They submitted their petitions by last week’s deadline.

“All three people seem to value the library and want to do their best to serve. That’s a good thing,” said the library’s director, Barbara Nichols Randall.

There are four openings on the 11-member board. Trustee Michael Borges, who is the executive director of the New York Library Association, is not seeking another term.

In recent years, some candidates have launched write-in campaigns after failing to get their petitions in on time.

Nichols Randall said that she was unaware of any write-in campaigns this year.

The top two vote-getters will each serve five-year terms. The candidate who comes in third will serve a four-year term. A fourth person will be appointed after the election to fill the remaining three-year term, said Nichols Randall.

“Our charter says between five and 11 trustees, so we’re not doing anything against our charter if there’s an opening,” said Nichols Randall.

The board has had occasional discussions over the years on reducing the number of trustees, she said. “There are both pros and cons,” she said, naming more diversity on the plus side. On the down side, she said, “People are so busy, it’s hard to get them to commit to do this for no pay.”

It’s particularly difficult for people to commit to a five-year term, she said. In the upcoming year, Nichols Randall said, the board will be reviewing its charter as the State Education Department is trying to standardize public library charters.

Also on May 18, voters will decide on the library’s $3.45 million budget proposal for next year. The budget includes $125,000 to pay for a design for an addition. The recession halted the board’s plan to expand.

If voters approved the $3.45 million plan, up about 10 percent from this year, residents would pay an estimated nine cents more per $1,000 of assessed valuation for a total of $1.06. (For an in-depth story on the proposed library budget, go online to www.altamontenterprise.com and look under Guilderland archives for March 25, 2010.)


Brian Hartson, a trustee for eight years, has been president of the board since 2007 and was vice president for two years before that.

“It’s a challenging commitment, which I enjoy,” he said of being a trustee. He decided to volunteer for another five years, Hartson said, because “the trustees really want a united front in pursuing reasonable growth.”

Hartson said he “absolutely” supports the $3.45 million proposed budget, but goes on to stress, “I want people to know we’re not looking to be spendthrifts with their money. We’re very mindful of the difficult times.”

He noted that about 90 percent of library funds come from local taxpayers “Nothing comes from the town and the state is forever cutting back,” he said.

Hartson is most proud of the grant the library got from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which installed solar panels on the roof to cut electricity costs.

The $125,000 was needed for planning the library’s expansion, Hartson said. “It would be imprudent not to,” he said, noting how library use has increased. “We need to be ready in two to three years at the earliest, assuming things improve in the economy.”

A goal he has for his upcoming term is to prepare for the library’s expansion. “We have to relocate and replace our sewage system,” he said. “Currently, it runs under some of our building, which is not good.”

The board is having ongoing, informal discussions about the number of trustees, Harston said, but has reached no conclusion.

When asked if a shorter term might attract more candidates, Hartson said, “It is really a labor of love.”

Hartson has a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York College at Potsdam, and has studied towards a master’s degree in educational communications at the University at Albany. He recently retired from the state’s labor department where, he said, he “wore many hats” but worked primarily with databases and as a publication editor.

After being a widower for 12 years, he married Alice Tetreault two years ago. “We are having a great go,” he said.

A member of Saint Madeleine Sophie’s Church, Hartson is a past president of the Guilderland Interfaith Council. He has served on the town’s comprehensive master plan advisory board and is a past member of the town’s zoning board. He has also served on the school’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory Board.

Asked what he likes to read, Hartson said, “My favorite book of all time is The Tale of Two Cities.” He read the Charles Dickens classic in his youth and has read it many times since. “It’s the story of the downtrodden with many parallels to the American Revolution,” Hartson said. “I also love poetry.”

William Butler Yeats is his favorite poet. “He’s a giant of the 20th Century,” he said.


Robert Feller says his experience serving on and working with boards helps the library.

A lawyer with Bond Schoeneck & King in Albany, he specializes in environmental, municipal, and land-use law; he was formerly an assistant commissioner with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The library is a very important resource for the community,” said Feller, who was appointed to the board in January to fill a vacancy.

When asked about his goals, Feller said, “I’m not coming to the board with an agenda…I’m familiar with labor management issues and planning issues.”

He has served on Guilderland town and school committees, including a task force that looked at the town’s comprehensive land-use plan and the school’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee.

Feller is a graduate of Union College and Albany Law School. He also holds a master’s degree in business administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

He supports the library’s proposed $3.45 million budget, including the $125,000 to pay for a design for an addition.

“We have an opportunity next year to get some grant money,” Feller said. “If we’re not prepared, that money won’t be available to us.” Having the plan ready, he said “will give us flexibility.”

Feller went on about the need for the addition, “My observation is the library is being used more and more. We’ve had stores like Hollywood video go out of business,” leading people to check out videos from the library instead.

“People use the library more in a recession because it’s free….I go to the library a lot and see how crowded it is. I want to make sure people continue to have this resource and that it continues to grow.”

While he noted that the town board and school board have fewer members than the library board, Feller said he didn’t yet know enough about the dynamics of the library board to comment on whether 11 members is too many. “It could be looked at,” he said. “We need to make it a manageable number.”

Feller recently read and enjoyed Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, but says most of his reading time is devoted to legal cases.

He and his wife, Aida, have two children — Marcos and Alexandra who have used the library for schoolwork.

There’s a tendency these days for students to rely on the Internet rather than books for school projects, he said. “A lot of students do research with Google…People have to understand that, while the internet is a great resource, they have to be aware of how reliable the sources are and be aware of the point of view,” said Feller. “The library gives you a broader understanding of a subject.”


Christopher Aldrich will bring his legal expertise to the library board.

“I look forward to serving the community and adding my talents,” he said, adding, “I’m good at editing. As an attorney for the courts, I write decisions for judges and research the law.”

Aldrich graduated from Union College with a degree in psychology, and then earned a law degree from Hofstra University in 1986. He started working in the Nassau County Court District, where he became supervisor for a law department of 26 judges.

In 2002, he moved to Guilderland and now works in Albany City Court as an associate court attorney for five judges. He ran for Guilderland town judge last fall on the Republican line, and was defeated by the Democratic incumbent.

Aldrich supports the proposed $3.45 million library budget for next year, including the $125,000 to pay for a design for an addition.

“I don’t think it’s a great time to build but it’s a good time to find out how to proceed with an addition,” he said, adding that $125,000 seemed “reasonable.”

“I don’t think five years is too long,” he said of the current trustee’s term. He also believes that 11 is an appropriate number of board members. He called the library board “hardworking,” and said its members serve on a number of committees.

Aldrich is an active member of Christ’s Church of the Capital District and also involved with the YMCA and the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany.

Aldrich described his family members as “avid readers.” He and his wife, Jean, have four daughters — two married and two still at home: Samantha, 15, and Rebecca, 12.

“They usually get the maximum number of books and read them in two weeks,” he said of Samantha and Rebecca, both Guilderland students.

His favorite books are ones he read in his youth — J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. “It was one of the longest books I read when I was young,” he said. “I’ve read it five times.”

In addition to books, his family checks out videos and DVDs from the library, Aldrich said.

“The girls sometimes do their homework there and use the computers,” he said.

Aldrich concluded, “I just think the library is great. They do a great job….It’s a nice place to go.”

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