Democrat Photos | Ted Waddell
INCUMBENT SUPERVISOR OF the Town of Fallsburg Steve Levine, a Democrat, (left) is seeking re-election against Ken DeMars, a Republican, who feels equally capable of the position.
Incumbent Levine, Challenger DeMars Both Feel Qualified to Run Town of Fallsburg
By Ted Waddell
SOUTH FALLSBURG Steve Levine, the incumbent Democratic supervisor in the Town of Fallsburg, is seeking his sixth term in office.
Prior to being elected supervisor five terms ago, Levine, 52, served as town councilman for nearly two terms.
Towards the end of Levine’s second term, Frank Kaplan, the supervisor at the time, resigned and Levine was appointed to the position, subsequently running for the job as elected leader of the town.
“I gave it a try and got elected by a large majority,” he said. “After four years, I ran again and got elected with more votes than the first time,” he recalled.
“It went from there, and I continued to run successfully, I stayed involved.”
Asked why he wanted to toss his hat into the political ring for the sixth time, Levine replied, “A lot of things go on in Fallsburg, it’s a very complicated community,” citing a town police department, a large water and sewer system, two parks with seasonal camping, two 18-hole golf courses and five separate fire departments serving the hamlets of South Fallsburg, Woodbourne, Mountaindale, Loch Sheldrake and Hurleyville.
Levine grew up in South Fallsburg, graduated from Fallsburg Central School in 1972, and four year later received a degree from SUNY Albany.
He then returned to his hometown, where he started working at Fallsburg Lumber, the family business founded in 1908.
Steve and Ellen Levine have three children: Nolan, the oldest at 26, works in the lumber yard, Blake, 24 and Jacklyn, 21. All are Fallsburg High grads.
Why did Levine decide to get into politics?
“I’ve always been community- minded,” he said. “I’ve been a member of the volunteer fire service since the age of eight, and moved up through the ranks to chief (he’s now a firefighter), and served as president for a couple of years.”
“When my kids were in school, I was active (as a coach) in Little League and AYSO soccer, and helped bring AYSO soccer to Sullivan County.”
“As things progressed and evolved, I was asked to run for councilman,” he added. “I’ve always had an interest in politics.”
Levine said that when first elected to public office, Fallsburg was losing hotels and bungalow colonies and as a result of their going off the tax rolls, “our economy was terrible here… there were a lot of blighted buildings, and we were in a transitional stage. We had to clean up the community.”
“Despite what people say, Fallsburg is a better looking community than it was eighteen years ago,” he said, noting that over the years, hundreds of dilapidated structures have been torn down.
“Anybody who doesn’t take care of their property, we go after,” added Levine. “We created laws to make things look nicer, and when things look nicer people feel better about their community.”
On the issue of growth and development in the town, Levine said one thing to keep in mind is “that most of these developments don’t happen all the time… [but] the future of Fallsburg continues to be growth.”
“Our tax base was eroding, we were losing assessments and our taxes were going up like crazy,” said Levine. “We needed somebody to come in and pay the bills, so now anybody who wants any [town] services has to be taxpaying.”
“We’re always open to any new businesses, and the Green Park at the college (Sullivan County Community College) is something we jumped on board with right away.”
He said another big issue the town is dealing with are the large number of tax exempt properties (approximately 40 percent).
Fallsburg recently adopted a new comprehensive management plan, updated zoning regulations and a new emergency management plan.
“We have to keep an eye on growth, and you need jobs in order to get people to live here on a year-round basis,” said Levine, adding, “We welcome the Hispanic people moving in, as well as all ethnic groups to come to our town.”
Another major issue confronting the town is dealing with a town landfill that, according to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), was improperly closed back in the 1980s.
“It’s something that should have been done twenty-five years ago, but we have to deal with it now,” said Levine, noting that while the government will pay half of the cost, the town must find a way to come up with its share, an estimated $2-6 million.
On the issue of his availability, the local business owner said, “I run the town without a manager, and no, I’m not here [in the supervisor’s office) eight hours a day, but my business is five hundred feet from here, and people come see me all the time down there.
“I consider it a full-time job,” he added, “and whether I sit in this office or not, I’m always available, I’m always around.”
Levine said he has the leadership skills to transition the town into the future, and as such should be elected to another term as supervisor.
“It’s a complicated job, and I think the knowledge I have is worth it to the town to keep me there,” he said.
“I’m aware of the issues, and if somebody new comes in here, they’re not going to know anything. People can depend on me to be there, depend on me to watch what’s going on.”
By Ted Waddell
WOODRIDGE October 9, 2007 Kenny DeMars is running on the Republican slate against long-time incumbent Steve Levine (Democrat) for Town of Fallsburg supervisor. If elected, this would be the challenger’s first time in public office.
DeMars said that about two years ago, he started working to convince the town that it needed a new comprehensive management plan and zoning codes, and spearheaded the creation of a group called “Fallsburg Watch.” Subsequently, he was appointed to a committee charged with drafting the plan and codes.
“The plan was adopted a year ago, and the new zoning codes last June,” said DeMars. “It’s a major improvement because we [previously] had codes and plans that were ambiguous at best and subject to [differing] interpretation, and now it’s very clear. We have a huge amount of growth coming to Fallsburg, and the new code and plan will facilitate that.”
DeMars said that hundreds of concerned citizens showed up at town board meetings as a result of the new watchdog initiative, a move he credited with “raising awareness… and basically persuading the town board that we needed to rewrite our codes and our plan.”
While pleased that the management plan was adopted, the challenger isn’t a happy camper; as he said, “It’s still sitting on the shelf. It hasn’t even been printed, let alone distributed to the board members as the plan itself calls for.”
In response, during a brief telephone interview regarding DeMars’ statement, Levine said the new plan and zoning codes were on file at the building department, were available online at the town’s website, and that Alan Sorensen, the architect of the plan/codes will be holding a four-hour training course for town officials.
DeMars, 48, and wife Maria don’t have any children but are the proud “parents” of three Border Collies: Izzy, Shadow and Gabby, known around town as the “Fallsburg Watchdogs… who play frisbee like you wouldn’t believe.”
He was born in Toledo, Ohio, number nine of ten children, and moved to the Poconos as a youth, graduated from Pocono Mountain High School in 1977, and later studied engineering at Penn State University.
“I started working at the age of ten with a paper route, and when I was fourteen worked as a carpenter’s helper and learned all of the building trades,” said DeMars.
After a while, he started his own contracting business, and during the late 80s, was a construction supervisor for a builder of 300 vacation homes in the Poconos.
“I ran the show for the company, and as such worked with dozens of different municipalities with permits, planning and purchasing, and different homeowners associations,” he said. “So I know about permitting and regulations, and that’s one of the things I hope to bring here.”
DeMars said he now does what “I love, and that’s buying old buildings and restoring them.”
In 1993, he moved to NYC and worked for a couple of years on bridge and culvert construction in Manhattan and Staten Island.
“I have major experience in hands-on construction,” said DeMars. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it. And we need to do it here.”
In 1998, he bought the old Hotel Israel outside Woodridge, a circa 1928 hotel that began life as the Lindy, became the Roosevelt in the 40s, the Hotel Israel in the 60s, saw a brief stint as a kids’ summer camp in the 70s before becoming a flop house and then sitting abandoned for many years.
“Today it’s back to its heyday condition,” said DeMars. “It’s now saved.”
Asked why he decided to run for supervisor, DeMars replied, “The same reason I bought my house, I saw something with huge potential that needed a lot of work… people said it couldn’t be done, but I did it.”
“Fallsburg is the same way,” he added. “Our main streets need to be revitalized, our infrastructure is crumbling, and it’s not being done as well as it could be. There isn’t the leadership it will take to do it.”
DeMars said the first thing that everybody talks about is taxes.
“We’re trying to lower taxes by bringing in new development, and our taxes are continuing to go up,” he said. “The reason the taxpayers are paying too much is that they are paying to mitigate the impacts of development… the developers should be paying for it.”
DeMars is calling for interaction between governments so “Fallsburg will get its fair share through diplomacy, tenacity and a full-time supervisor.”
“The supervisor is a part-time job, but Fallsburg is a full-time community,” he said. “I’m willing to work full-time for part-time pay to get the job done.”
“I want to take on Fallsburg,” said DeMars. “I live here, and I want to make it a better place.
“I’m the right guy for the job,” DeMars concluded.