The election race in the town of Montgomery is heating up with the addition of four Democratic candidates: Bryan Paz for Town Supervisor, Lynda Mitchell for Town Justice, David Stoudnour for Town Councilman and Susan Cockburn for Town Councilwoman.
Democrats have been gaining momentum in the town, with the last town supervisor race decided by just 35 votes. Heartened by the response from the community, they are hopeful for a record turnout this year.
Mitchell wants to be the town’s first female judge
No stranger to the courtroom, Lynda Mitchell served Orange County as a probation officer for 6 years and as a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s office for 24 years. She currently works part-time in a law firm handling foreclosure cases.
A lifelong resident of Montgomery, Mitchell said she is sensitive to the needs of victims, offenders and a community’s desire to feel safe. She looks forward to serving her community and giving back by using her legal and law enforcement experience. Mitchell said residents can trust that any issues that come to the forefront will be heard fairly and she will pay special attention to issues such as drug abuse.
“The town court is the grassroots of justice,” said Mitchell.
Her fellow candidates said that Mitchell would “apply fresh eyes” and not allow party politics or anything else to influence the courtroom.
Mitchell also noted that if elected, she will be the first female judge in the Town of Montgomery, which would be a “nice change.”
Change in status quo?
The challengers are seeking office on a unified platform to change the status quo in Montgomery.
“The GOP has held the seats for a long, long time,” said David Stoudnour. “You can’t hold the same seat for [decades] and not get a little complacent.”
Stoudnour formerly worked as a logistics coordinator, managing a business with “millions in rolling stock.” He is running for one of the two seats available on the town board.
“I understand what it is like to have to work outside of the box. Now I have the time to do this and I want to give back to the community,” said Stoudnour.
One of the issues the candidates see is a lack of transparency, evidenced by the minutes from the town board meetings lagging at least three months behind.
Bryan Paz, who is running for town supervisor, said that at one time the meetings were televised and if elected, they will give “considerable thought to doing that once again.” In addition, they may move the meetings to alternating weeks (instead of the first and second Thursdays of the month), which would provide more time for the minutes to be prepared between meetings.
Paz is a lifelong town resident and worked at Yellow Freight for 17 years and as an attorney for 21 years.
“I’ve always been interested in politics and the time and place seemed to work so I decided now is as good a time as any,” said Paz.
Paz and his fellow candidates are also concerned about the town’s employees, specifically those that have been working without a contract for well over a year.
“There shouldn’t be a situation where town employees go that long without a resolution,” said Paz.
While he admitted there has been mediation and suggested solutions, he said they have never been put into place.
“It’s not right that these workers have been in limbo for that length of time,” said Paz. “It’s not a way to instill goodwill in your employees.”
“These guys are out there doing their jobs and we need to treat them with the respect they’ve earned,” Stoudnour agreed.
Susan Cockburn, who is seeking the other seat on the town board, said there is a lot they can do as a town board, but it appears to her as though the current members “just show up” leaving the lion’s share of the work to the town clerk and town supervisor.
“There’s no civic pride and no service to the community and that’s why I want to run,” said Cockburn. “You should be ashamed to take what you get and not do anything.”
Cockburn formerly served as town supervisor for two terms prior to Supervisor Mike Hayes taking office. She now has her own business and is looking forward to assisting the town supervisor and working on the issues that come to the board.
She noted there are many looming right now, from outdoor wood boilers to maintenance issues at the town hall, updating contractual agreements, and the care and rehabilitation of historic town properties like the Colden Mansion ruins and the Benedict farmhouse.
Paz said they are also looking to solidify greater cooperation with the three villages and share services—such as creating a single town-wide recreation program.
“I want to make government more efficient for those that live in the town,” said Paz.
While the town is known for being the “Transportation Hub of the Northeast,” Paz would like to move the town “into the 21st century” by inviting a variety of different businesses to the town, insulating it from the troubles that visited Maybrook when the railroad dried up.
“You can’t have a town that’s a one-trick pony,” agreed Stoudnour.
Cockburn noted that a comprehensive plan for the town is long overdue, as well as zoning changes that would encourage business.
Other issues the candidates would like to tackle include addressing a disparity in funding for the libraries and recreation programs, and having town board members pay at least partially for health insurance.
“They’re not bad people,” Stoudnour said of the current town board. “Just people that have seen things through the same eyes for too long.”
By RACHEL COLEMAN