Dan Hust | Democrat
Close friends Joe Pond and Mark McCarthy are both squaring off for the position of Town of Neversink Supervisor. Each candidate feels confident that no matter the outcome of the election, Neversink will be lead by a strong leader.
A friendly contest in Neversink
Joe Pond always ready to serve
By Dan Hust
GRAHAMSVILLE Joe Pond’s campaign motto is apropos of both the man and the rulers upon which it’s emblazoned:
“Measure Twice. Cut Once.”
That commitment to thoroughness is what Pond promises he’ll bring to the Neversink Supervisor’s seat.
It’s based on his years not just as an attorney but as an all-around handyman, from his Grahamsville home to his bright red 1946 Farmall tractor, which he affectionately calls “Ruth” after the original owner, Ruth Baxter.
The 75-year-old Pond is a household name all over the Town of Neversink actually, thanks to a myriad of community activities.
Currently a commissioner with the Grahamsville Fire District, he’s served the fire department for 42 years.
He’s also a proud member of the Neversink-Rondout Antique Machinery Association (where “Ruth” gets special attention).
As an attorney with an office in the heart of Grahamsville for the past four decades, Pond earned his reputation as an honest lawyer, but he also supplemented that income at various times as a real estate broker, title insurance agent and income tax preparer for individuals and small businesses.
“So I know what the small businessman is up against,” he remarked.
He also understands town government, having served as both a town board member and town justice in Neversink.
In fact, he was both from 1975 to 1980. But when the state mandated the positions be held by separate individuals, Pond opted to stick with being justice, and he continued in that capacity until 1989.
“But there comes a point when you’re limited as a justice,” he related. “You can’t engage in political activities.”
Now, more than 20 years on, he’s finally engaging in those political activities, running on the Republican and Independence lines.
Yet his biggest campaign promise is “to stay the course.”
No rocking the boat here.
“The town board is in charge,” he explained. “Basically I’m a member of the town board. You can come into my office, sit and talk and tell me what’s on your mind, and we’ll discuss it with them.”
Besides, he’s basically happy with the town’s direction under retiring Supervisor Greg Goldstein.
Pond’s biggest concerns are tax-exempt properties, though he acknowledged Neversink’s unique situation in Sullivan County.
“For each tax dollar, New York City pays 70 cents,” he affirmed of the town’s benefit from hosting two major reservoirs in the city’s water supply system.
Still, he’s keenly aware of the local tax burden and promised to utilize his business and financial experience to keep taxes from rising unnecessarily.
He praised the town’s staff especially its bookkeeper and highway department and is eager to continue the youth football program and find a spot for the flooded-out Little League.
Yet being supervisor was far from Pond’s mind when he moved here in 1968.
Having grown up on farms in Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, he was familiar with open, rural spaces, but he decided to follow his brother into the Navy after first joining the Marine Reserves at 18.
“I decided I’d make a better sailor than a Marine,” he laughed.
Four years later, he began pursuing higher education, ultimately gaining his law degree and being admitted to the bar in 1967.
By that time he was working in Legal Aid in Manhattan and had five children with his wife, Larissa. Both of them wanted a better quality of life for their family.
So responding to an ad, Pond joined well-known attorneys Lou Scheinman and Ivan Kalter in Sullivan County, spending his first days ironically writing appeals regarding the city’s taking of land for the reservoirs.
In 1971, he went into business on his own, setting up shop in Grahamsville.
Later, he and Larissa bought 100 acres and built a house nearby, raising their five children who’ve now given them 12 grandchildren.
“We thought it was a great place,” Pond said of his home town, including the Tri-Valley School, the laid-back atmosphere, and of course the neighbors and friends.
But after retiring two years ago, why does he want to jump back into a busy life?
“I’ve caught up on all my chores around the house,” he matter-of-factly stated. “I’ve got plenty of energy and time, and this would be a change of pace for me.”
He was asked by the Republican Party to mount a run, but frankly, Pond doesn’t mind if his Democratic rival, Mark McCarthy, grabs voters’ favor.
“He’s been a friend. He went to school with my son,” Pond recalled. “We get along fine, and if he’s elected, it’ll pretty much go the same [in Neversink].”
But he’s ready to serve if the voters want him.
“I think I can do a good job for the town,” he affirmed, “applying my time, energy and talent.”
Mark McCarthy loves Neversink the way it is
By Dan Hust
GRAHAMSVILLE Mark McCarthy is as generous about his rival for the Neversink Supervisor’s seat Joe Pond as Pond is about him.
In fact, this may be the mildest race in Sullivan County history.
“He’s not my ‘opponent,’” McCarthy affirmed on a warm autumn day outside his Grahamsville home. “I’d be just as happy if Joe becomes supervisor. I’ve known the man for many, many years, and he’s right in line with my thoughts.”
McCarthy is a bit younger (50) and running on the Democratic and Conservative lines, but just like Pond, he’s a community guy through and through.
“I love this place. I’ve lived here my entire life, and the community has been good to me,” he explained. “The rest of the world changes at a drastic rate, but Neversink has always been a bedroom community.”
Raised on Pepacton Hollow Road, McCarthy has lived in a century-old log cabin on Big Hollow Road for the past dozen years. He’s lovingly restored it and added on, showcasing his skills as a carpenter and owner of McCarthy Construction.
“The most fun I had was redoing the kitchen,” he related with pride.
The second most fun volunteer job? Helping build the gigantic addition to the Daniel Pierce Library.
He’s been a dedicated member of the Grahamsville Methodist Church for 35 years, the Grahamsville Fire Department for 32 years and the First Aid Squad for 10 years.
Over in Monticello, McCarthy has been a board member with the Recovery Center for the past 15 years (which in part explains why he’s glad Neversink has repeatedly chosen to remain a “dry” town).
His wife, Paula Gray, is the school librarian at Tri-Valley, while his daughter, Ashley, is an 18-year-old senior at T-V.
And one can’t miss the family pets on a trip to the house dogs Megan and Aggie, and cat Izzy, all rescues.
This is his treasured life in the Town of Neversink, one he doesn’t want to see disappear. He doesn’t necessarily mind change, “but you can’t give in to every whim.”
He feels that sentiment is shared by many residents.
“I think the majority are conservative-minded, community-oriented folks, and that’s why they live here.”
McCarthy, in fact, brands himself as a fiscal conservative.
“We are debt-free, and that’s important to me,” he said. “[As supervisor,] you have the opportunity to make sure the bills get paid on time.”
He brought that philosophy to the town board a decade ago, when he served four years as a councilman. Now, with his daughter grown, he’s interested in returning to the town hall and continuing that service.
Having suffered through the recession like many others, McCarthy is adamant about resisting New York City’s continual attempts to reduce the assessments on its vast properties within the township.
“You’ve got to be ever-vigilant, because they have many attorneys,” he observed.
Plus with the state’s new two percent property tax cap, tough decisions already await Neversink.
“If there needs to be a cut, you’re going to have to decide which services are more important,” he acknowledged, though he added, “We’ve always had a surplus at the end of every year, as far as I know.”
So has the highway department, which has got $1 million alone in a machinery fund, according to McCarthy, and scrimped for a decade to build a new highway barn that’s the envy of surrounding towns.
“They shop and they squeeze to get the biggest bang out of their buck,” he said in admiration of both former Highway Supt. Gary VanValkenburg and his successor, Preston Kelly.
McCarthy, however, is not afraid to have the town spend money where it’s needed, including providing land for the local Little League, which was displaced by major flooding in September.
“That’s something I want to be a part of,” he affirmed. “... That’s part of our Parks and Recreation Department, and we’re already spending money on that.”
He’d also like to attract senior housing and cell tower builders and plans to advocate strongly for such.
“Anybody that knows me knows I’m a no-nonsense guy. You will not have to wonder how I’m thinking,” he affirmed. “I’m a plain talker and a straight-shooter ... and I’m going to do what I feel is right.”
For example, he’s not interested in bringing the “dry/wet” issue back up for a vote, worried that it could irrevocably alter Neversink’s character.
“I’m not against drinking,” McCarthy explained, “... but I don’t see what those towns [that permit alcohol sales] have to offer.
“I’m just saying I like Neversink the way it is.”