Cazenovia Town Board candidates, from right, Pat Race, Kristi Andersen and Pat Vogl participated in a candidate forum at the Cazenovia Public Library last week. (photo by Jason Emerson)
By Jason Emerson
With the November elections only weeks away, candidates running for Cazenovia town board, Madison County clerk and Madison County sheriff made their pitches to local voters at last week’s candidate forum, hosted by the league of Women Voters of Cazenovia.
The candidates for county offices — Ann Jones and Mike Keville for clerk and John Ball and Todd Hood for sheriff — each had five minutes to introduce themselves and say why they were the best choice for their respective office, while the candidates for Cazenovia town board — Kristi Andersen, Pat Race and Pat Vogl — had a more extensive discussion, answering questions posed by the audience.
In the clerk’s race, Jones, current deputy Democratic commissioner at the county Board of Elections, is facing off against Republican Keville, current mayor of Chittenango.
Jones has worked in the county office building for nearly 14 years, while also serving on various volunteer boards and committees in the community. “I know how Madison County works,” she said. “My background lends itself to being Madison County clerk.” She said the clerk’s job is about “ease of access and quick turnaround of documents.”
Keville, who is a teacher in the Chittenango school district and has been mayor of Chittenango for the past 18 months, said, “There’s a difference between knowing what the office of clerk does and having the experience and background to do the job.” Keville said his experience as mayor, plus years on the village zoning board of appeals, has prepared him for the job.
In the sheriff’s race, longtime law enforcement official Hood, a Republican, is running against the current Acting Sheriff John Ball, a Democrat, who has been filling the job since former sheriff Al Riley resigned earlier this year.
Hood has served in city, town, county, university and park police forces, including 20 years in the Syracuse City Police, where he worked in major crimes, street patrol, investigations, gang violence and SWAT. He is also a deputized U.S. Marshal and currently works as an investigator for the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office.
“I feel experience is my strongest attribute,” he said. “If you don’t have experience, people can die if you make the wrong decision.” Hood also encouraged voters who may be unsure of whom to vote for for sheriff, to ask their local police officers for their opinion, because they know and understand the needs of the job.
Ball has been undersheriff for seven years and acting sheriff since June. Although he has never served in the field as a law enforcement officer, he said “both undersheriff and sheriff [positions] are police officers.”
Ball said that in his years in the county sheriff’s office he has commanded in disaster response and armed standoff situations, he has added patrols and personnel in the office and the county jail, which is overseen by the sheriff, has had no riots, deaths or disturbances. “I live here, I work here, I know our county,” he said.
In the Cazenovia town board race, three candidates are running to fill two seats, with incumbents Kristi Andersen and Pat Race being challenged by former school board president Pat Vogl. In addition to giving summary statements, the candidates all were asked about taxes, zoning laws, public safety and consolidation.
All three agreed that the village police provide excellent public protection, that the town’s zoning laws are not overly restrictive and that it is too early to in the process to fully oppose or support the possible consolidation of the town and village.
Vogl, who is basing his campaign on the belief that all boards need member turnover in order to get fresh eyes and new experience, did challenge the status quo. He said the town needs to do more to cut resident taxes and that the zoning process needs to be reasonable and not overly restrictive, and he voiced a strong opinion that if consolidation happens “there’s definitely going to be winners and losers” in terms of cost and tax shifting.
“Boards are structured as they are for a reason: they want a systematic turnover to get fresh ideas, fresh faces and different skill sets,” he said. “I will always put the community first.”
Both Andersen and Race said that while they agree that board turnover is a good thing in general, at the local level elected representatives are not entrenched in a job for power and influence (as they are at the national level) but because they want to serve the people. “We do this because we love the community,” said Race, who has been a town board member for 11 years, as has Andersen. “I know the community, I love to serve the community; it’s something I have a passion for.”
On the idea of cutting town taxes, Andersen and Race both said the town does not have high taxes — what residents see increasing on their bills are county and school taxes. “We would all like our taxes to be less, but town taxes are very low,” Andersen said. “Most of our taxes come from the county.” She said Cazenovia’s tax rate is the second lowest in Madison County, behind only DeRuyter, and she encouraged voters to look online at the town budget and see how money gets spent.
Race agreed. “Taxes need to be cut, but the town taxes are well managed,” he said.
In their closing statements, Race and Andersen emphasized their experience on the board as assets to be kept, while Vogl repeated his belief that boards need new members.
Andersen said her strengths as town councilor other than her years of experience are her intellectual curiosity, her ability to work with people and her willingness to work hard.
Race said he enjoys serving on the board, he is proud of the work he has done over the years, especially in the areas of highway and water district maintenance, and he loves serving his community.
Vogl said he believes his 11 years of experience on the school board has prepared him for the job of town councilor, and he will bring his willingness to listen, his positive mindset and his ability to look at issue with fresh eyes to the board.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.