Dan Hust | Democrat
FORMER TOWN OF Bethel Republican Supervisor Harold Russell has announced that he will challenge Incumbent Dan Sturm, a Democrat, for the seat.
Russell to challenge Sturm in Bethel
By Dan Hust
WHITE LAKE Harold Russell’s back in the game.
Whether he’ll win it this time remains to be seen.
The Bethel farmer plans to run for the Bethel town supervisor’s seat on the Republican line this November, aiming to recapture the position he lost two years ago.
Current Supervisor and Democrat Dan Sturm, however, plans to keep the seat and is ready to show voters why they should agree.
“I’m not real pleased with the way we’re going,” Russell said of his desire to return to town politics. “Dan Sturm promised us a new beginning ... and we’re not going anywhere.”
Russell is particularly concerned about the “working person,” or blue-collar employee, who lives in the township.
“They need to be thought of and spoken for,” he remarked, arguing that pending zoning changes could potentially limit the possibility of young couples and families moving into the area.
“I really don’t think people are being represented fairly,” he said.
But he was bested by Sturm by about 100 votes in the last election in November 2007, after having served just one term as supervisor.
Russell blames that in part on the fact that Sturm knocked on hundreds of doors, while he got to about five.
In addition, the removal of a beloved tree in the park in downtown Kauneonga Lake caused some controversy.
“I won’t cut down anymore trees!” he promised with a laugh, then seriously added, “People had sentimental feelings towards that.”
He also feels he was blamed for the overexpenditures in the highway department, though that’s overseen by a separately elected official.
“I turned the finances around in the town the two years I was there,” he stated, pointing out he saved the township $90,000 by opting to forego a liner on the aging town pool in favor of recaulking cracks.
Now he’s concerned that plans for a $3 million highway barn replacement will deplete funds all over again.
“I’m not saying spend no money, but spend it wisely,” he explained.
Sturm, a food services manager/trainer and resident of Mongaup Valley, is proud of his legacy as Bethel’s latest supervisor.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I want to continue that,” he said last week. “I’m going to vie for the Democratic nod.”
He’s likely going to get it, subsequently standing upon his record to earn voters’ approval.
“In spite of the economic problems we have, I think 2008 was a great year,” he said.
Sturm pointed out that the playground at the town park was finished on budget and ahead of schedule; the new sewer line extension along 17B is being constructed; sizable Main Street grants have and will continue to revitalize local downtowns; highway department complaints are down and new equipment has been purchased; the Citizens Energy Assistance Program has proven a success; and morale is up all with a tax increase of 2.6 percent, one of the lowest in the county.
Plus the new zoning changes will protect the community’s rural character and quality of life, he added.
“The end product is something everyone’s going to be proud of,” Sturm remarked.
He’s also proud of restoring a professional atmosphere to town board meetings and of improving management and banking practices in the town hall.
“It’s a better place to work and do business,” he pointed out.
As for Russell, with whom he worked on the town board for four years, “I appreciate all he’s done for the town,” Sturm said, “but I wouldn’t want to go backwards.”