Ted Waddell | Contributed Photo
DISTRICT 1 LEGISLATOR is one of the many positions up for election. Facing the opposition of Republican David Sager, left, is Patrick Harrison, a Democrat, right.
Harrison, Sager Set to Replace Outgoing Cunningham in District 1 Race
Harrison Wants to Be
'Voice of the People'
By Ted Waddell
NARROWSBURG October 5, 2007 With the announced retirement of Chris Cunningham as Sullivan County District 1 legislator, 40-year old Patrick Harrison is running as the Democratic candidate against David Sager on the Republican ticket.
Harrison is taking to the campaign trail under the slogan “Leadership and Integrity.”
Along with his wife Peggy he has owned Rasmussen Funeral Home and Rasmussen Furniture Store in Narrowsburg and since 2004 is co-owner of Gray-Rasmussen Funeral Home in Barryville.
He is a third general funeral director “raised with the responsibility of serving the community” and is endorsed by the Working Family Party.
Harrison grew up in Archbald, Pennsylvania and graduated from Valley View High School in 1985, later earning a degree in business management from the University of Pittsburgh and an associate degree in occupational studies/mortuary science from Simmons Institute.
After a brief stint as a dispatcher for a trucking company, Harrison spent the next six years working in the financial lending and controls industry, in both the commercial and private sectors.
The Harrisons have two children, both of whom attend the Homestead School in Glen Spey: 6-year-old Molly and Patrick, 7.
The local business owners are members of three chambers of commerce (Sullivan County, Narrowsburg and Barryville), and Harrison belongs to several mortuary organizations.
“I have more than a working knowledge of financials and a sound background in policy, procedures and controls,” he said. “I feel we need to run the county as a business, and we need to look at everything and the way money’s being spent to make sure that it’s responsible.”
Harrison said that one of the main issues facing local folks and their communities is economic development and taxes.
“We need to find jobs for people, and we need to stabilize taxes,” he said, noting his disapproval of the recent increase in the county’s sales tax rate from 71⁄2 to 8 percent.
“It’s affected a lot of people, and running a furniture store we’ve seen that,” said Harrison. “A lot of the consumable items are not being bought here, people are going over to Pennsylvania and other places, second home owners are bringing things up from the city, so people aren’t spending money in Sullivan County… we’re seeing the middle class decline.”
Harrison said that after taking a look at the county’s 285-page, $185-million budget, he thinks the programs the current administration has implemented are good, “but it’s costing the taxpayer’s more money.”
“The belief is when you increase taxes, you’ll get more revenue, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way,” he said. “It works the opposite way, because people go out of the area to save money.”
Harrison took issue with the local 5 percent room tax, which affects the many lodging businesses.
“When you add that five-percent to eight-percent, that’s a thirteen-percent tax,” he said. “That’s going to affect things.”
If elected, Harrison wants to take a close look at the county’s department of public works (DPW), a department that recently was hit by a couple of scandals involving top officials.
He also wants to join the fight to stop high voltage electric transmission towers being erected in parts of the federally protected Upper Delaware River corridor.
“The [Upper] Delaware is one of the most protected rivers (in the United States), so how can they run power lines over it?” said Harrison of the New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) project.
“Funeral directors make good politicians because we listen, and being a successful businessman, I’ve had people come into the store to voice their concerns, and I welcome that,” he said. “I’m very accessible.”
“There are many issues in the county, and I want to be the voice of the people,” said Harrison.
Dr. Sager Passionate About What Ails County, And a Cure
By Jeanne Sager
Editor’s Note: Despite the common last name, the reporter and the candidate are not related.
JEFFERSONVILLE There’s Sullivan County in Dr. Dave Sager’s blood.
The Republican candidate for the District 1 seat in the Sullivan County Legislature bears his history like a coat of arms.
Fifth generation of the Meddaugh family to live in Sullivan County on his mom’s side. Second generation on his dad’s. Raised in Monticello, and 1989 graduate of Monticello High School.
In 1997, Sager came home after earning his doctor of chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College.
Two years later, he moved to Jeffersonville with wife Michelle, buying Bodenstein Chiropractic.
Today the couple lives in Jeff in the Town of Delaware on the far side of District 1 with their sons, 4-year-old Owen and 3-year-old Dylan.
Sager is running as much on their future as on his history.
“There are reasons kids aren’t coming back to the area, and they’re blatant,” he explained. “I think we’re on a crash course for oblivion.”
Sager took his first steps into politics in 1999 when he became the county’s youngest ever coroner.
The son of long-time Thompson Republican Party Chair Phil Sager, Dave was asked to run for coroner several times before he agreed.
“I wasn’t a fan of politics, and I know how it can get nasty and dirty sometimes,” he recalled. “That isn’t what I’m about.”
He relented when the Republicans promised unanimous support. Re-elected in 2003, Sager has served for eight years.
His decision to switch gears comes at a time when the future of District 1 is up in the air. Chris Cunningham, who has held the seat since the Legislature’s creation, is stepping down.
Sager said he’d be running even if Cunningham had decided to stick around.
His campaign has been built around a fresh approach to county government.
For Sager, the idea is “out with the old, in with the new.”
“I will open the walls of the county government like never before,” he explained. “I am passionate about returning it to the people and giving you all a voice in government. I am determined to restore your faith in public servants.”
Sager doesn’t have a lot of faith in the current Democratic-controlled Legislature. Their 2005 firing of then-County Manager Dan Briggs was just one example of a “Legislature out of control, almost maniacal,” he said.
He has a laundry list of opportunities lost and squandered by a government that should be taking advantage of the county’s geographic location just two hours from the city to develop the economy and woo industry.
Sager sees a community that could take advantage of its location to serve as an Internet hub for people who don’t want to work in Manhattan. He sees opportunities to increase green technology use not only in industry but to recover from the devastating affects of a county government that balanced its budget on the landfill in Monticello.
The biggest problem, he said, is the Legislature doesn’t listen.
“You don’t get to rule in a vacuum,” Sager noted. “I’m going to be visible; I’m going to be approachable.”
He’s already created a website, www.davesager.org, and he’s vowed to begin holding town hall type meetings in District 1 to keep his constituents well informed of the goings on in Monticello.
Sager said his knowledge and history in the county make him the ideal candidate.
“Perspective is a very valuable tool in getting where you have to go,” he explained. “I watched the complete demise and elimination of the hotel industry. I’ve seen the scaling down of jobs, especially good paying jobs.
Number one on Sager’s list is tax reform, focusing on the most realistic ways he sees to reduce the current burden. That means lobbying hard to get some change on the state level that’s what will have to be done to get large parcel exemptions scaled back and possibly return some of the Lotto money originally intended to support education back into the schools.
“We as a state and as a county need to realize, if we don’t look at serious tax reform, then I’ll see you all in Honesdale,” he said with a sigh. “We are being eaten out of house and home by taxes.
“The reason there’s a ‘for sale’ sign on every other lawn isn’t because they’re speculating on Bethel Woods or casinos,” he continued. “It’s because things are out of control. Clearly there’s a problem when the county government is the largest employer in the county.”
Changing that means making Sullivan County more than just a nice place to live. He’d like to see it become a viable place to live for everyone.
“Sullivan County has always survived in spite of itself,” Sager said. “It’s time to make it thrive.”
He moved to District 1 because he said the people were “warm, friendly and we fell in love.” Now he’s here for the long haul.
“I want to see good things happen for this county because I grew up here, I live here, and I want my children to have the choice of coming back here,” Sager said simply.