“Too often, public officials put their own benefits before that of the public,” says Roseanne Sullivan. “My job is to ensure that this does not happen on my watch.”
Incumbent Sullivan (D, WFP, WEP) is seeking re-election as the county legislature against Robert Sassi (R, C, IDP), a Town of Crawford councilman for the past six years and recently retired Valley Central High School government teacher.
Sullivan, a resident of Circleville for over 30 years, has served several different local, state and federal committees and boards. She’s advocated for Pine Bush schools locally as the President of the Orange County School Boards Association, statewide by leading advocacy issues through the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) and federally as her position as a congressional federal representative for NYSSBA.
“My professional background is diverse as it includes experience as an English high school teacher as well as a business reporter for a financial daily newspaper on Wall Street,” she says. “Besides for my school board experience, I have also participated on many different community committees and boards in groups benefitting local PTA, Girl Scouts of America and Boys and Girls Club of Orange and Sullivan Counties.”
If re-elected, Sullivan plans on combatting the county’s opioid addiction problem, keeping taxes low and protecting valuable county services.
“We have many various county organizations working on the Opioid Addiction Task Force of which I am the county legislature’s representative,” she says. “The working members of this task force are beyond talented in their professions and I am here to ensure the monetary resources required for that success from the legislature.”
Sullivan has been elected nine times in both the Pine Bush school board and county service, a feat she says proves her intention of being fiscally conservative. As a member of the Orange County Health and Mental Health Committee, Sullivan helped turn around the financial conditions of Valley View Nursing Home by implementing stringent management changes and providing resources, such as staff training.
“Protecting valuable county services such as what residents receive at Valley View has always been important to me,” she says. “This also stems from my advocacy of public education. We learned from Valley View Nursing Home that even the possible sale of a public entity produces a wave of possible impropriety. Even the New York State Comptroller’s office advised on instances where the sale of public resources actually ended up hurting the public both fiscally as well as through lack of quality services.”
Recently, Sullivan helped to pass a resolution memorializing the County Legislature’s stand on the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) fracking plant in Minisink.
“Not only would a mishap at [the CPV] plant impact the health and safety of residents within a 50-mile radius, but it also brought to light the out of control deals and the misinformation being led by the Orange County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). While it is important to attract business to our county, it is also important that the members of the IDA follow the rules when utilizing and safeguarding taxpayer money.”
Finding ways to save taxpayer money remains a key goal for Sullivan.
“My goal is to always produce win-win situations for both the taxpayers as well as our workers,” she says. “When Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus was first elected, he threatened to lay off hundreds of employees, claiming that the budget was in such dire straits that he had no other choice. In response to this very drastic measure, I introduced and sponsored the Early Retirement Plan as an alternative into legislation, saving the county $14 million while also saving hundreds of jobs. I take this role as the caretaker of taxpayer money very seriously and promise to do so in the future.”
The Early Retirement Plan was approved in 2016 and allows for county workers who have been working for 10 years to 20 years to retire with a one-time bonus of $10,000. County workers who have less than 10 years on the job have the same option but without a bonus. County workers with 20 years to 30 years of on the job experience receive $12,500 and those with 30 years receive a bonus of $15,000.
For Sassi, his main concerns for Orange County are not much different than Sullivan’s. He wants to focus on the opioid epidemic, county taxes, spending and job creation.
“As a member of the Town of Crawford town board, we have made some difficult decisions to keep our taxes down,” he says. “As a county legislature I would work to continue the Early Retirement incentive, consolidate office space and departments without compromising staff and services, and push for shared services. I’m in favor of working with all of our municipalities to do the same. If we can save money, we can cut taxes. I share County Executive Neuhaus’s position on that. We need to work with each other, not against each other. I am committed to working with fellow elected officials in Crawford and Wallkill in order to save taxpayer dollars.”
As a retired 32 year Valley Central High School teacher, Sassi often wondered what many of his students would be doing after high school. He’s thrilled with the addition of the new Sullivan County casino expected to open next spring and the new Orange County Legoland.
“Growing up in Orange County for approximately 40 years I kept hearing, ‘Casinos mean jobs’,” he says. “Jobs in management, construction, hospitality and retail will fuel more development and desperately needed tax revenues. In Orange County, Legoland and Amy’s Kitchen are a start at attracting better paying jobs, especially for young people. Additionally, as a result of promoting Orange County tourism I will be a strong advocate of continuing that push in order to bring people here.”
Like Sullivan, Sassi wants to address the county’s opioid epidemic by educating Orange County residents and introducing programs to prevent and treat drug addiction in schools.
“Drug addiction knows no political party and one death by overdose is one too many,” he says. “I’ve met with District Attorney David Hoovler, Crawford Police Chief Dominick Blasko and Wallkill Police Chief Robert Hertman to educate myself on this ugly epidemic. As a parent I worry about all of our kids. Our schools must be an active partner in instituting anti-drug programs in schools constantly, not just a brief assembly once a year. I pledge to work together with our federal, state and local agencies to take out the supply of drugs while simultaneously promoting education, prevention and treatment.”
Sassi says he’ll gladly join the Opioid Task Force as well as tap into the resources of organizations such as the Orange County Mid Hudson Prevention Resource Center, Town of Wallkill Youth Coalition and Orange County District Attorney’s office.
The Orange County legislature elections are Tuesday, November 7. Sassi and Sullivan are competing for the District 18 seat.
By Jaspreet Gill