Three vie to be Wurtsboro's mayor
By Dan Hust
WURTSBORO The mayor’s race in Wurtsboro has three longtime residents vying for the two-year seat.
Voters will make their choices between noon and 9 p.m. tomorrow, March 19, at the village hall at 7 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Michelina “Mickey” Maher
Incumbent Mayor Mickey Maher is running on the Democratic, Republican and People’s Choice lines.
A resident of Wurtsboro for more than three decades, Maher is finishing her first term as mayor but served for seven years prior as a village trustee.
“I have a wonderful board. We work together,” she explains. “And there are a lot of projects we’d like to complete.”
For instance, the U.S Department of Agriculture has a low-interest loan that the village has incorporated into plans to upgrade its water system. Flooding issues are being remediated, she says, and she wants to work with residents to identify and solve a host of other concerns.
Maher’s proud of having started a bike rodeo for local kids and installed a handicap ramp at the village hall.
She insists she’s available 24/7, and her work as a cook at the Chase Elementary School and coordinator of the religious education program at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (where she’s been involved for 31 years) have made her a well-known face in the community.
Maher’s husband Bill is the president of Wurtsboro Renaissance, and she’s the proud mother of Bill, Shawn and Anthony and grandmother of 10.
Robert “Bob” Whitehead
Bob Whitehead, a 42-year Wurtsboro resident, is aiming for a fourth term as mayor, having served from 1997-1999 and 2001-2005.
Along with two years as a village trustee, the 79-year-old is a political veteran in Wurtsboro and a dissatisfied one, at that.
“I’m very upset with what I see in the village,” he says, “especially the way the national parties get the top lines on the ballot. The national parties have no place in such a small community. ... They make it into a den of snakes.”
Whitehead feels members of those parties have been trying to shut him out of the political process, forcing him to run on his own independent line, Wurtsboro First.
“I’m still viewed as an outsider, a city guy,” he remarks.
So he’s urging voters to show they’re not cowed by the political heavyweights and are willing to help him break down any barriers.
“I want to lay it on the line so nobody can dodge it,” he says.
Lifelong Wurtsboro native Paul Champagne, 48, is hoping voters will grant him the privilege to enter village politics as mayor.
Though he’s never been a village trustee, he has served on the village and Town of Mamakating’s Disaster Plan Committee and helped create the Chase Elementary School’s emergency evacuation procedures.
Indeed, he has become one of Wurtsboro’s best-known and respected volunteers thanks to his three decades of service with the fire department, including as chief and president.
He’s also a lifelong member of the Community Church of Wurtsboro, a past president of the Willing Workers group, and an active volunteer with the Mamakating Little League and the local Cub Scouts.
Along with his running mate Robert Hawkes (a trustee candidate vying against incumbent Barbara Piper), Champagne promises to lead the village in a new direction.
“We feel it’s time for a change,” he says.
For one, he wants to ensure the mayor is reachable around the clock. He also seeks to restructure the village’s Maintenance Department to make it more efficient and create a long-term maintenance schedule. And he promises to continue the water system upgrade and street repavings while seeking out grants and trying to keep taxes from increasing.
He and wife Brenda have two children, Kaitlyn and Christopher, who have successfully made their way through the Chase school (Champagne’s alma mater, too), so it’s no surprise he also wants to minimize the closure risk the school faces.
He feels he can best accomplish these goals as mayor, which is why he is running on the independent Eagle Sanction line along with Hawkes.
“I want to show some appreciation to a village that has given me so much,” he says.