Liberty Town Board Replaces Clerk
By Dan Hust
LIBERTY January 5, 2007 Liberty’s town board on Tuesday unanimously approved Laurie Dutcher as the new town clerk.
The 9-year deputy town clerk was appointed to replace Janet LeRoy, who retired in December after a distinguished 26-year career.
“Janet was a tremendous mentor to Laurie,” said Supervisor Frank DeMayo after the meeting. “She was the consummate professional… [and] really understood the meaning of being a public servant. She will truly be missed.”
Dutcher will have to run for the elected position in November, and she confirmed this week that she plans to do so.
Most other appointments during the board’s annual reorganizational meeting went smoothly, as well. But one proved controversial.
John Schmidt, longtime planning board chair and 18-year member, was replaced as chairman by the town board with Diane Deutsch, but the vote was 3-1, with one abstention from Councilman Maurice Gerry.
Deutsch in the past has filled in for Schmidt as chair when he was unable to attend planning board meetings. Schmidt remains a planning board member.
New Councilman Clarence Barber, the sole dissenting vote, expressed concern over appointing a real estate salesperson (which Deutsch is) to any position on the planning board, citing concern over potential conflicts of interest.
“It’s like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse,” Barber said.
DeMayo, who initiated Deutsch’s appointment and then approved it along with councilpeople Tom Hasbrouck and Lynn Killian, responded that other real estate people and general contractors had sat on the planning board. When any conflicts arose, they dealt with them at that time, he said, rather than trying to anticipate any.
He added that the potential for conflict is ever-present in a town as small as Liberty and cannot practically be a barrier to appointments.
As for the change in leadership, DeMayo and Schmidt were on opposite sides.
“It’s time for a change,” DeMayo remarked.
“I talked to the planning board and asked them about it, and they were fine,” he added, later explaining that he spoke with two planning board members and one alternate who supported the idea, in addition to Deutsch herself. He spoke to another unidentified planning board member who he said didn’t have an opinion one way or the other.
DeMayo did take responsibility, however, for the ultimate decision to recommend the switch though he remained intentionally vague on the reasons why.
“This doesn’t give me good confidence for the 25 years I put in that planning board,” replied Schmidt, adding that DeMayo was listening only to “the same people who have been complaining for 20 years.”
Gerry abstained but agreed with Barber that something in writing from the planning board was warranted regarding their feelings on the matter.
In other business, Liberty Community Development Corporation (CDC) Executive Director Heinrich Strauch attended to report on the organization’s 2006 activities.
From more than half a million dollars in grants to new sidewalks, from creating a business park to working to reopen Griebel Park, from a Walnut Mountain skatepark to a village housing study, Strauch and office manager Ruth Dawson (plus a contracted grantwriter) stayed busy the whole year.
Though the state roadwork that closed much of downtown Liberty this past year “hindered our ability to raise funds and support,” Strauch said the CDC has a total of 102 members and plans to invest about $1 million into the township this year and $1.7 million next year.
They’re also seeking enough grants to wean the CDC off the financial support it receives from both the village and town, in addition to the Gerry Foundation.
“The CDC’s been really active in pursuing these funding sources and projects for really only 18 months,” said a proud DeMayo.
For more information on the CDC, contact them at 292-8202.
For more information on the town and its board, contact Town Clerk Laurie Dutcher at 292-5110.
The board meets the first Monday of the month at 4 p.m. and the third Monday of the month at 7 p.m., both times in the basement of the town hall on North Main Street in Liberty.