Three in running for Charleston town supervisor position

A three-way race for Charleston town supervisor is set for the Nov. 8 ballot, featuring a rematch of

A three-way race for Charleston town supervisor is set for the Nov. 8 ballot, featuring a rematch of 2009’s race between current Town Supervisor Shayne Walters and former supervisor Christoph Piening.

Jon Blake Benelli

AGE: 45

BALLOT LINES: Independent IR Party

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Auto mechanic, farm laborer


Christoph M. Piening

AGE: 71

BALLOT LINES: Democrat, independent Responsible Government Party

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Fonda-Fultonville schools; commodities contract trader

PERSONAL: Married, five children, three adopted sons

Also on the ballot will be independent candidate Jon Blake Benelli, a newcomer to politics who said he doesn’t want to pursue changes and decided to run for office simply because he doesn’t want Piening in office.

“I just don’t want to see Chris win,” Benelli said.

He said he recalls hearing about Piening’s run-in with the law that resulted in a conviction for voting more than once, using a name on a ballot other than his own and affecting the results of a primary election.

Other than that, Benelli said he has simple ideas for Charleston.

“I don’t want to see taxes go up,” he said.

He said he’s handwriting flyers for his campaign and putting them in mailboxes as well as making roadway campaign signs out of wood.

“I campaign a little bit at a time,” he said.

Piening, who says fierce opposition during elections in the 1970s were behind his actions that led to voting fraud convictions, is focusing his campaign on what he sees as shortcomings in the administration of Walters, who took office in 2004.

An audit released in January from the state comptroller’s office criticized the lack of regular accounting practices by the town’s former bookkeeper, noting that discrepancies ranged from $900 to $100,000.

“The audit is a devastating indictment of the lack of accountability on the part of the Town Board, especially the supervisor,” Piening said.

He said Charleston should start working on a plan for development, draw more participation from residents before decisions are made and upgrade technology.

“We don’t even have a website, a telephone system that transfers calls, nothing. We live in the 17th century,” Piening said.

At the county level, he said he wants to focus on economic development and maintaining a budget at or below the state’s new 2 percent property tax increase cap.

“We need to curtail the spending because people cannot afford another dime in taxes. We’re taxed to the limit,” he said.

Piening said he believes the county should start looking at the number of departments it takes to run county government.

“We’ve got so many departments we don’t know where to start. I’m sure that we can combine some department heads, combine some of the staff of the smaller agencies and somewhat limit government,” he said.

He also wants the county to explore hiring a county manager.

Though he’s not pleased with Walters’ handling of the town’s finances, Piening said Walters has taken care of town residents impacted by the disastrous flooding in late August and early September.

“I give credit to Shayne that he’s done a good job with the flood.”

Walters said Piening shouldn’t talk about financial irregularities.

“The fact is that he had a bad track record here,” said Walters, who hears a lot of discussion when he fills in at the town’s trash transfer facility on the weekend.

“What I need to do is stand on my own two feet and do what I can for this town,” he said.

He said the town has a new bookkeeper, has developed a corrective action plan for the books and three different documents are now used to verify accounts for the town with a budget of just under $1 million and a tax levy of $328,000.

Walters said there’s been progress in Charleston during his administration.

Assessed value of properties increased from $8.9 million last year to $9.1 million this year, he said.

“There’s growth.”

Walters said most of the towns roads have been re-done over the past seven years.

People move to Charleston to be out in the country yet accessible to work elsewhere, therefore making sure the roads are usable and plowed in the winter is an important task.

“They come out here to be in the peace and quiet and be left alone. But to come out here they have to drive a distance. If they’re going to pay the taxes, they deserve a fair service,” Walters said.

“I work as hard as I can and that’s it. To make promises to people is kind of foolish. I’ll do whatever I can for somebody, and that’s it. That’s the only promise I’ll ever make,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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