Schenectady County

Experienced leaders face off in Colonie supervisor’s race

Two seasoned politicians with diametrically opposed views of how to run the town are facing each oth

Two seasoned politicians with diametrically opposed views of how to run the town are facing each other at the polls Tuesday.

Paula A. Mahan

OFFICE SOUGHT: Colonie Town Supervisor

AGE: 60

BALLOT LINES: Democratic, Independence, Working Families Party

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Russell Sage College; master’s degree in education, Sage Graduate College; elected Colonie supervisor in 2007, re-elected in 2009; taught in North Colonie Central School District for 27 years

PERSONAL: Married with two sons

Denise Sheehan

OFFICE SOUGHT: Colonie Town Supervisor

BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Graduated Colonie High School, SUNY Oneonta with a bachelor’s degree in economics, UAlbany with master’s degree in public administration; worked for New York state Division of Budget; commissioner of state Department of Environmental Conservation; planning director, town of Colonie; executive director of the Climate Registry

PERSONAL: Married with three stepchildren

Democrat Paula Mahan is seeking a third two-year term as supervisor. Her challenger is Republican Denise Sheehan. The position’s salary is $118,229.

The two candidates have sparred for months over issues mostly relating to town finances. Mahan came into office in 2007 on a platform of budgetary accountability, defeating six-term Republican Supervisor Mary Brizzell by less than 1,000 votes.

Republicans, who long controlled town politics, found themselves on the defensive after Moody’s Investor Services issued a critical report on the town in the summer of 2007 that said it had more than five years of operating deficits that had reached $10 million in the general fund. Later audits put the deficit at nearly $20 million.

Since then, Mahan said she has eliminated the deficit and helped lower taxes. One method was to lease the town’s landfill to a private operator for 25 years. Under the deal, approved in July, California-based Waste Connections will give the town $23 million immediately, $2.3 million a year for the first five years, then $1.1 million a year for the next 20.

Sheehan, former commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Conservation and town planning director, immediately blasted the arrangement, accusing the Democrat-controlled Town Board of crafting the deal without public input. She also said the town has undervalued the landfill’s income potential.

Mahan, a retired teacher, said that after eliminating the town’s deficit, a key issue affecting residents is maintaining fiscal stability while safeguarding services. A second important issue is upgrading the town’s aging infrastructure. If re-elected, Mahan said she would maintain fiscal stability by adhering to a disciplined financial plan, working with departments to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of town government and promoting economic development to increase the town’s tax base.

“We have streamlined our planning process and focused on redevelopment of vacant and underutilized sites to encourage development,” she said.

To improve the town’s aging infrastructure, Mahan said she would continue with Colonie’s five-year master plan. “We are successfully completing our second year of a five-year paving and drainage improvement plan. Also, through our water tank removal project, we have achieved an upgraded system which will serve our needs far into the future,” she said.

Mahan said residents should vote for her because of her leadership skills and ability to move the town in a positive direction. “I utilize a collaborative approach with my staff to achieve efficient operational strategies. In addition, I have a strong work ethic and a desire to serve the public.”

Sheehan identified mismanagement of the town’s finances and lack of transparency in town government as the two most important issues facing Colonie residents.

“Poor financial decisions over the past few years sent our town’s deficit to the highest level in history. As a result, residents have lost revenue-generating assets like the landfill, and town finances rely too much on one-shot gimmicks like the proposed sale of the community center,” Sheehan said.

“Unfortunately, town residents have continually been left in the dark on budgeting, planning, and other critical decisions impacting the town. Information is too difficult to obtain, and we have seen a culture of closed-door politics creep in to Colonie,” she said.

If elected supervisor, Sheehan said she would get the town’s finances in order by implementing economic development programs and strategies at the neighborhood level. She would rely on help from business owners, residents and community organizations.

“I would incentivize business development by streamlining the town’s processes and revisiting outdated fee and permitting requirements. I would also be committed to developing balanced budgets that no longer rely on overly optimistic revenue projections, bloated expenditures and shortsighted one-shot gimmicks,” Sheehan said.

“In addition, I would conduct regular neighborhood Town Hall meetings and budget workshops at various locations around Colonie to keep residents informed of progress and programs, and to solicit input and hear concerns from residents,” she said.

Sheehan said residents should vote for her because she has dedicated her career to public service and has expertise in critical areas needed most by the town. She said her background in budgeting, financial management and leading large, complex, successful organizations, combined with her commitment to bringing honest, open government to residents, have given her the skills and experience necessary to get “Colonie back on track.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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