Ted Waddell | Democrat
TOWN OF BETHEL Councilman Daniel Sturm, a Democrat, left, is taking on Republican Incumbent Harold Russell, right, in this year's Supervisor Race.
Supervisor Race Pits Sturm Against Russell in Bethel
Russell Wants to Manage Rapid Growth in Town
By Ted Waddell
BETHEL October 2, 2007 Two years ago, Harold Russell defeated Vicki Vassmer-Simpson for the job as supervisor of the Town of Bethel.
Now the 59-year old dairy farmer wants to be re-elected to a second term, running on the Republican slate against Daniel Sturm, the Democratic challenger.
“The reason I ran in the first place was to help straighten out some of the finances and get the house back in order,” said Russell.
According to the incumbent, several town-owned buildings needed fixing up, and under his watch the town hall roof was replaced, the highway department barn was spruced up, an energy-saving glass-enclosure installed at the town hall and the dog kennel brought up to standards.
“We also cleaned up the transfer station and it’s open seven days a week to [serve] the residents a little better, and we got some new equipment for the highway department,” said Russell.
If re-elected, he has several items on the agenda, including additional repairs to the 70-some-year-old water system and how to manage a surge in growth within the rural township.
“We have to get a handle on growth in our town, and at the same time protect the character of our town,” said Russell, who’s been running a dairy farm for 42 years.
“I’m a dairy farmer myself, so I understand the need for open spaces, the agricultural and country character of the town,” he said.
The town is currently reviewing their zoning codes and updating its code books to “facilitate economic growth in the town,” noted Russell.
“There has to be a mix, a happy medium where there are different size lots in different zones,” he added. “I feel it’s important to address one-acre zoning in some parts of the town, so the young and the elderly can have an opportunity and a chance to build within the town,”
Russell said that a decade ago, folks could buy a house on a few acres for $60,000 but those days are a thing of the past, as today the price of land has escalated to between $20,000 and $30,000 an acre. And that’s not talking high-end developments such as Chapin Estates.
“We have to make it so that everyone has a chance to live in the Town of Bethel,” he said.
As a dairyman, Russell has 160 head of cattle on his 111 acres, and leases or rents another 400-some acres of land.
He lives on the “family farm, not a corporate farm” with his wife Lynn. They have three kids; Harold III, Wendy and Jamie (all of whom graduated from J-Y), and are the grandparents of eight.
Russell grew up in Suffolk County, New Jersey and graduated high school in 1966, but passed up college to go to work.
“My education was hard knocks, just like everyone else,” he said.
Before getting into town politics, Russell served on the Jeffersonville-Youngsville board of education for six years.
He was on the Town of Bethel planning board for six years (five years as chairman), and served as a councilman for 12 years.
“We still have a lot to do,” said Russell. “With the opening of Bethel Woods, the town is growing faster than we anticipated, but we couldn’t build a $90 million entity in our backyard and not think something wasn’t going to happen …people need to take a reality check on that.”
“For years, people said we either needed a shot in the arm or a shot in the head,” he added of the performing arts center. “Well, we got a shot in the arm.”
“I’ve been supervisor for two years, and I hope to be supervisor for another two years,” said Russell. “You have to take care of the little things, everything has to be in order for it to run right.”
His unofficial campaign slogan?
“‘Keep the House in Order, and Stay on Track,’” replied Russell. “I take pride in my farm and I take pride in my town.”
New Leadership and
By Ted Waddell
BETHEL Daniel Sturm, the 44-year-old Democratic challenger to Harold Russell for the job as supervisor of the Town of Bethel, wants “A New Beginning in Bethel,” claiming, “The town needs new leadership and a new direction.”
As a lifelong resident of the county, Sturm has lived in the town for about 25 years.
He grew up in Monticello and graduated Monti High in 1981, and went on to receive an associate’s degree in management from Sullivan County Community College and a degree in political science from SUNY New Paltz.
He married his wife Dina 22 years ago, and the couple have two daughters, 20-year-old Samantha and Kelly, 11, who attends the RJK Middle School in Monticello.
Sturm has been employed in management for the last 20-some years, working as a general manager and/or training manager, mostly in the food services industry running a series of restaurants.
“For the last 10 or 12 years, I go into a unit that’s not doing too well, they’re not making enough money, the staff isn’t happy or the customers aren’t happy, and I try to correct it,” he said. “I think the town of Bethel needs the same thing now, and at this point having been a town councilman for three and a half years, I honestly think we need a new direction and new leadership.”
In seeking to unseat Harold Russell (R), the incumbent supervisor, Strum said, “As a town board member, I paid attention to the details of running our government, the good and the bad. I’ve been open and honest, and I’d like to continue that as supervisor. I believe I can make a difference and assume the leadership of this town.”
Sturm said that as councilman, he focused on several issues, and he “worked with the youth board to ensure they have the tools and support they need to run the great programs that they do; helped to protect residents by voting against the comprehensive plan which called for town-wide one acre zoning; brought a professional, business-like, detail oriented work ethic to the town board; and helped to secure funding, and with some planning, to construct a pavilion at our town park.”
According to Sturm, when the board passed a zoning regulation that called for one-acre lots size town-wide (he voted no), mistakes were made.
“I think the town board and supervisor dragged their feet,” said Sturm in referring to the adoption of the minimum lot size for residential development.
“We had large, rich developers come into our town and try to take advantage of the flaw in our zoning codes. There was so much attempted growth that we needed a temporary moratorium (passed July 3, 2007 and recently extended for three months).”
“The people in the rural parts of our town are very upset,” he added.
Sturm said that in his view, the town’s new management plan should have been “looking ahead for ten or twenty years… but it didn’t even last two months before we had groups of residents concerned.”
“My goal is to repair the damage that was caused by the law that was passed, and for the town to move forward commercially and residentially to grow and have a zoning law that we can all be comfortable with.”
“I want to focus on the commitment to protect the quality of life for our residents,” said Sturm.
The challenger is a liaison to the zoning board and youth board, and member of Bethel First (he served on the farmers’ market committee and is chairman of the youth visioning committee).
“Highway maintenance is one of the issues facing our town,” said Sturm. “If elected, I would work collaboratively with the highway [superintendent] and the town board [because] right now, I think there is too much politics involved in the decision making.”
“I think the bottom line is the supervisor and the board are responsible for the town’s highways,” he added. “We don’t do the work, but we are ultimately responsible to the taxpayers that the highways get done.”
Sturm is not content to get the potholes fixed.
“I’d like to see Bethel be a leader in the county,” he said. “I will be as honest and straight forward as I have been as a councilman.”