Incumbent Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart is running against challenger Walter Wettje, Jr. in general election Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Stewart is pursuing a second term on the Democratic and Orangetown First lines. Wettje will be on the ballot on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.
Patch sent questionnaires to both candidates. Their answers are listed with the questions below. The candidates are in alphabetical order by last name.
Patch: Why did you decide to run for election?
Andy Stewart: Two years ago, after 10 years as Executive Director of Keep Rockland Beautiful, I decided to run for Town Supervisor because I felt Orangetown residents deserved a Supervisor who was open, accountable and professional and able to bring high-quality Town services to all residents in a cost-effective and proactive way. I also saw the Stop and Shop and Rockland Psych redevelopment projects were stalled, and nobody seemed to be facing up to the perennial golf deficits at Broadacres.
Under my leadership the Town has progressed on the redevelopment of the RPC lands, faced the golf deficit squarely, worked closely with business leaders to foster economic development, and promoted more open and accessible government through public access TV and other means.
Over the next two years, we will face tough decisions about how to provide top-notch services to our residents while avoiding steep tax increases. It won’t be easy or “fun,” but I do look forward to making sure these budget debates take place in a nonpartisan, objective way that maximizes public awareness and involvement. Frankly, I feel inspired by how well our local government works most of the time – we have a body of laws, a cadre of professionals, and teams of employees working together to manage vital services and infrastructure that most of us take for granted because it routinely works so well. After almost two years in office, I have built relationships and knowledge that will serve the Town well over the next two years. Two years is enough time to get major projects going, but not enough to finish them, so I am offering myself for another two year term.
Walter Wettje: I decided to run for Supervisor because the town has lacked leadership for many years and I believe that I have the experience and background to fill that critical void.
Patch: What personal or professional experiences qualify you to serve as a town board member? Have you run or held elected office previously?
Stewart: I have demonstrated my abilities as Supervisor over the last two years and I’m looking forward to building on this experience. My willingness to work very hard, put my ego aside in the interest of teamwork, and really respect and listen to people are my biggest assets. Many years running Keep Rockland Beautiful and serving on the Orangetown Planning Board mean I really know this town – its land use, civic and business groups, and its history – and I use this knowledge everyday on the job.
I was Executive Director of Keep Rockland Beautiful (KRB) for 10 years. Under my leadership KRB grew its signature Great American Cleanup from 60 volunteer crews to 250, annually removing over 40 tons of trash from Rockland’s streets, parks and streams. I worked closely with government, neighborhood groups and local businesses to enhance our quality of life and raise environmental awareness.
Until my campaign in 2011, I had never run for any office, and I have no plans to run for any office other than Orangetown Supervisor. I also have professional experience as a policy analyst and teacher, with a doctorate in geography, so I am pretty good at sorting out complex issues and helping others understand them.
Wettje: I am a newcomer to politics. I believe I can make a difference by applying my business experience and financial acumen to local government issues. I recently retired from Verizon after a 31 ½ year career that included responsibility for a $1.2Billion capital and expense budget and a $465 million operational expense budget.
My career also included many other executive–level positions and my final assignment was the Director of Strategy / Planning and Operational Efficiencies. I earned my MBA in Finance from Manhattan College.
Patch: What are the top three issues facing Orangetown residents?
Stewart: Taxes are clearly at the top of the list for most residents. As we all know, in Rockland County we pay some of the highest taxes in the country, and so it is imperative that the town do whatever possible to avoid large tax increases.
The second issue I hear most often when I speak to residents is that people are worried—justifiably so—about threats to Orangetown’s high quality of life from overdevelopment and from being forced by United Water to possibly drink overpriced water from the Hudson River.
Finally, the issue of economic development is vital for our town. Without a strong commercial tax base to help shoulder the tax burden, the town could never afford to pay for the critical services—like police protection and road maintenance—that residents depend on. Encouraging new business development in appropriate areas (and supporting existing businesses) is a must in order to put Orangetown on a sustainable financial footing.
Wettje: 1.Stabilization of taxes.
2.Revitalization of the villages and hamlets and increasing jobs.
3. Preserving Orangetown’s unique character, rich history, scenic beauty and safety at all costs.
Patch: What are your plans for addressing these issues?
Stewart: Though I’ve been in office for less than two years, I believe I have accomplished a great deal with many things to build on in a second term. When it comes to taxes, I’ve worked hard to keep the town within New York State’s 2% tax cap. Our 2013 budget was under the cap, and my proposed budget for 2014 also comes in under the tax cap.
If re-elected, I’ll continue proposing budgets that keep faith with our taxpayers and put the town on a sound fiscal footing. I’ll also continue making the tough choices when it comes to town spending, in particular when it comes to the Broadacres golf course deficit. In these economic times, I believe that subsidizing a money-losing golf course to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year is a luxury that the town cannot afford and I believe the town should end its subsidy of the course through private management, passive parkland or redevelopment with clean commercial tax-paying businesses.
As Supervisor, I view it as my job to market Orangetown to businesses, and help attract economic investment. I’ve led efforts to streamline the town’s permitting process and remove the uncertainty that can often keep projects stuck in neutral or convince business leaders to look elsewhere when deciding where to locate. These steps are making it easier for businesses to locate in Orangetown.
When I ran for office in 2011 I made a pledge that I would cut the red tape and help jumpstart the stalled Orangeburg Commons project and as Supervisor that’s just what I’ve done. The new Stop & Shop is open and a new Marriott hotel will soon follow, along with other new businesses. Orangetown has also attracted several other big new projects including a $700 million investment by the Bloomberg Corporation in a new data center in our corporate park.
In a second term, I hope to spearhead the development of a new Orangetown Economic Development Committee to further encourage growth in our commercial and light industrial tax base.
Orangetown has the best quality of life in Rockland County and I’m determined to keep it that way. This has always been a community that prizes low density development and a generous amount of open space, and I share that vision. As Supervisor I’ve updated the town’s master plan for the Rockland Psychiatric Center site to ensure that the town’s goals are clear—we want low-impact commercial development and a waterfront park, not high-density housing, and we want to ensure that the property stays on the town tax rolls, which means no use by educational, non-profit or religious groups. Like many residents I also have serious concerns about United Water’s proposed Hudson River desal plant. High cost water with questionable health impacts is not what we need in Orangetown and I led the Town Board in passing a resolution questioning the need for the desal plant and I have spoken out at the Public Service Commission hearings on this topic.
Wettje: 1. Managing the budget with leadership, consistency and communication.
2. Working with the various Economic Development Corporations to bring in Large and small businesses, which includes filling the more than 1million square feet of vacant office and data center space.
3. Continue to strengthen our building codes and work with all owners of “open air” properties to ensure we keep our town’s beauty and uniqueness.
Patch: How do you differentiate yourself from your opponents' platforms?
Stewart: Just compare our websites: mine has a detailed statement of goals and accomplishments, while my challenger’s “Issues” section is a blank page (http://www.walterwettje.com/issues.html) (as of 10/24/13) – he has not taken the time to tell us any specific. His public comments have included no significant policy proposals that I have heard. He has focused on making general accusations and assertions about our respective abilities to “get the job done,” “review the budget line-by-line,” etc., things I have already been doing in my two years in office.
Based on his public comments, the two of us agree on the big picture: we both want to keep taxes and spending low, encourage new business development, and do whatever is needed to keep out the kind of overdevelopment we’re seeing in other towns. Beyond that, readers will have to check my opponent’s response to see more details of his platform, since he has so far failed to make it clear what specific ideas he has for addressing Orangetown’s problems that differ from mine.
Wettje: Very simply put – Leadership, Accountability, Responsibility and Communication with our unions and Departments.
Patch: If elected, what would you like to achieve over the course of your term?
Stewart: Many of my goals are laid out in my responses to question #4 in this list. In my second term I will remain focused on dealing in a smart and fiscally conservative way with the town’s budget—keeping spending down and taxes as low as possible while still maintaining the most important town services. On economic development my priority is to work with New York State’s Empire Development Corp. to market the Rockland Psych Center property to potential business developers, and to attract new corporate tenants at the Pfizer site in Pearl River. Strictly enforcing town building and zoning codes, and investing in better flood control solutions to protect against the next Irene or Sandy, are also top priorities for me.
Bottom line, we are blessed to live in the best town in Rockland with great quality of life. As your Supervisor I’m determined to stand firm in doing what is needed to put Orangetown first and keep this town an affordable and appealing place to live and raise a family.
Wettje: 1. Present a consistent and stabilized budget.
2. Put shovel to ground at RPC.
3. Make Orangetown more attractive to outside Corporations and small businesses.
Patch: Incumbents: Do you have other employment or own a business in addition to your elected post? Challengers: What is your current employment and will that change if elected? (Orangetown Supervisor is the only full-time position on the town council.)
Stewart: I do not have any outside employment. I am fully focused on doing the job of Supervisor that voters elected me to do.