Contributed | Contributed | Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Jerry Fielding, Ramon Cedeira and William Rieber (l to r) are all vying to succeed retiring Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini this November 5th.
Trio vying to succeed Supervisor Cellini
Fielding hopes to succeed friend and mentor
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO October 29, 2013 For 63 of Gerald “Jerry” Fielding’s 70 years, he’s been a Town of Thompson resident.
For some of that time, he’s also been the town historian.
And a Sullivan County worker.
A skiing enthusiast and ski hill/ski shop operator.
An Army Reserves, Monticello Elks and NAACP member.
A director of the Goshen Historic Track Board, longtime president of the Catskill Amateur Harness Driving Association, and ongoing gubernatorial appointee on the NYS Dept. of Labor’s Passenger Tramway Council.
Husband to Kathy, a Master Gardener who’s helped keep Broadway beautiful through Sullivan Renaissance.
Father of three: Nicki, a teacher at the Cooke School; Kristin, a CPA; and G.R., an engineer.
Now he hopes voters agree to let him add a new title to that long record of service: Thompson Town Supervisor.
His old friend, Tony Cellini, is retiring at the end of this year, and Fielding would like to replace him.
“It’s tough shoes to fill, no doubt about it,” Fielding affirmed. “He’s made connections in so many places.”
But Fielding’s been around when some of those connections were made, and he’s got his own deep roots in the region.
Fielding moved from New Jersey to Monticello in 1950 when he was just 7. His father Fred had landed a chemist job with Synfleur, once a significant employer in the county seat.
Fielding’s parents both taught him the value of public service Fred as a member of the Monticello School Board during the vote for centralization, Emily as the well-remembered Thompson Town Clerk for two decades.
After graduating Monti High, Fielding joined the Army Reserves for six years during the Vietnam era and earned a business administration degree from Rider University, putting that education and experience to work in a variety of places.
He spent a decade working for the county’s Child Protective Services, first as a caseworker, ultimately as a supervisor.
He turned a lifelong passion for skiing into successful ventures running Holiday Mountain and Kutsher’s ski areas, plus ski shops at the Raleigh Hotel and upstate Belleayre Mountain.
About the only thing he didn’t successfully get to do was be Sullivan County Treasurer, losing the one race he ran for that position.
The registered Republican also didn’t win his party’s primary for this year’s supervisor race, forcing Fielding to run on the Independence line.
“It was a disappointment,” he admitted, “but it didn’t stop me.”
And he’s got no ill words to speak of the two other candidates for supervisor, Ramon Cedeira and Bill Rieber.
But he does feel he’s the best choice of the three.
“I have the time. I’m here seven days a week,” he said. “I have no relatives looking for a job or working for the town. I have no strings attached.”
So what does he hope to accomplish in office? Fielding’s got a particular focus on guiding development in Sullivan County’s most populous and busiest township.
“There’s a lot on the drawing board,” he observed, referring to large-scale resort and housing projects at the old Concord Hotel site, Kutsher’s and Monticello Motor Club, among others.
He’s not against development just the unfocused version.
“The control of development is going to be paramount,” he affirmed, adding that he’s not a fan of “overlay” zoning, where the existing density of a parcel can be too easily changed.
“People have to realize that development can increase the number of children in your school, which can impact taxes,” he pointed out. “I think you have to supervise what’s going on.”
He promises to do that in the friendly but firm manner for which he’s known.
Fielding said he’s also committed to a low property tax rate, open government and senior/youth/veterans programs.
And thanks to his friendship with Cellini, he’s confident he knows how to accomplish all of the above.
“I know the operation of the town,” Fielding said. “I know all the aspects of the town.”
Cedeira offers himself as a fresh candidate
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO October 29, 2013 Town of Thompson Supervisor candidate Ramon Cedeira says Sullivan County is in his blood.
Born and raised in the area, Cedeira graduated from Monticello High School in 1984, later attending SUNY Sullivan for two years.
For the last 27 years Cedeira has worked for the same large beverage distributor, his service area allowing him to deal mostly with businesses in and around the Town of Thompson.
“This has given me the experience of working with business owners, and staff to their satisfaction in an increasingly demanding economic environment. This is all to satisfaction of my employer who has rigorous requirements to work by,” says Cedeira about his life’s work.
Asked the issues he’s running on, Cedeira was brief, “I think the important issues today in the Town of Thompson are fostering business growth while enhancing our existing businesses. Of course there’s tax control, and I think the best way to manage this is by saving money whenever and wherever possible. Fair and equal code enforcement would be my last big issue.”
Having run for the Thompson Supervisor post in the last election, Cedeira says, “I’m motivated to run again because I’m the candidate that is not part of the machine we have in our town government. One that will explore all options and hear all voices en route to a path of smart choices for the people.”
Asked what he’d do differently than outgoing Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, who’s run the district which includes the county seat Village of Monticello for two decades, Cedeira said, “This will be an extensive list that will need to be analyzed and prioritized once I am elected. At this moment that’s all I can say about that.”
As far as his views on Proposition 1, the November 5 referendum on casino gambling in the Catskills, Cedeira offered, “I support casino gaming as a much needed economic boost. Keeping in mind our need to expand other development of businesses and industry to provide a more diversified tax-base. Having all your eggs in one basket is not a wise plan.”
Asked how he feels about all of the currently proposed development in the county, (e.g. The Concord/EPR project, the proposed spa/resort on the grounds of Davos Ski Resort and the project proposals at the old Grossinger’s Resort), Cedeira said, “As I said before, smart diversified business influx is welcome. I will look closely at each plan and proposal with an open and fair mind.”
Regarding all of the recent problems in the troubled Village of Monticello, which lies in Cedeira’s prospective district, he says, “Cooperation from all is essential. Monticello needs to be, and will be again, our ‘Shining Star’ to success, as it was for many years. This will take nurturing from our heads and our hearts. The village, town and county both need this to happen as soon as possible.
“The town currently seems to be in denial through its inattention. We need to do whatever it takes to help,” he added.
Asked if he had anything more to say to prospective voters, Cedeira offered, “I am a businessman not a politician. I am about fair and equal government for all, and always will be. Your vote for me will be a step in the right direction for the Town of Thompson.”
Rieber believes he has character, experience
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO October 29, 2013 Thompson Supervisor candidate Bill Rieber certainly has the governmental experience chops for the job he hopes to be elected to come November 5.
With 29 years logged as a Town of Thompson councilman, four years on the Thompson Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and actual time as Thompson Supervisor when outgoing Supervisor Tony Cellini fell ill late in his 20-year term, no single candidate comes close to the experience Rieber a long-time area businessman already has.
In fact, qualifications are, according to Rieber, the main issue to be considered by voters in the upcoming election.
“The major issue really going into this election is, who is qualified, truly qualified, to handle the major issues of the town?” Rieber noted. “If we get gaming that’s a game-changer. You’ve had the same supervisor for 20 years. He’s [Tony Cellini] done an adequate job of running the town for certain, but right now you need a fresh face. Regardless of what happens in November that’s going to be the fact anyway; you’re going to have a fresh face.
“So the major question is who’s going to be qualified to handle the growth? Who is qualified to handle the planing and zoning issues sure to come up if we get gaming?” Rieber added. “If we don’t get gaming it’s going to be an equally monstrous job to handle what we don’t have. I went through a lot of it years ago when they first started talking about gaming. It’s just a daily grind. I mean it’s meeting after meeting after meeting and more meetings… meeting with developers and planners. Meeting with lawyers and the architect. I can handle it. I know what needs to be done. I’ve been there to some extent, and I think that if we get gaming, some things are going to happen that nobody knows and you’re going to have to know how to think on your toes. I have a good idea what to expect. I know I can handle it and I’m confident handling it.”
As far as his motivation for running for the supervisor post, Rieber explained, “What motivated me was Tony’s retirement. It’s a job I’ve always wanted to do. I did it for a while when he was ill; I was acting supervisor. As a board member I was his deputy, and when he took ill for quite some time I ran the town. I liked it. I enjoyed it and it’s a good challenge. I want to give back to the community. That’s all I’ve done all my life is serve the public and volunteer.”
As for what he’d do differently than Cellini, who oversaw an unprecedented amount of expansion and development during his two-decade tenure, Rieber says, “I’m my own personality. I’m not Tony. You know, we got along, but we always had many many differences of opinion as well. I have my own style of running government and dealing with people and a different public persona. Tony’s a great person but I’m not Tony. I’m a consensus builder. I try to work with people. I try to be positive. Blunt? Yes. If I have an opinion you will certainly know my opinion.”
Regarding Prop. 1, the November 5th referendum on casino gaming in the Catskills, Rieber is emphatic: “It’s more important than any other thing on the November ballot… including my election. If you vote for nothing else, vote yes for gaming.”
With a troubled village and its more often than not divided government right smack at the center of Rieber’s prospective district, Rieber remains hopeful.
“What I can say is this: I’m willing to work with anybody. If we can put our heads together, put the past away and behind us and get back to working again, I will work with anybody. The village is a beautiful one. It can use some change, though, and we can make the downtown a better place to be,” he said. “I am willing to work with Gordon [Village of Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins] and anyone on that board… I can shake hands, sit down and get some work done with any of them. Let’s keep the politics out of it and just get down to the dirty work, and get it done. As far as redeveloping the village I think we need a major shot in the arm. One of my thoughts would be to redevelop the center of Broadway into an educational facility. The new library [planned for the old Cohen’s Bakery on Broadway] is going to be more a benefit to the village, actually for the entire town, than anybody realizes. I’ve been on Broadway since 1970. I own a business here. I raised a family here and pay taxes here. I support Broadway and take very good care of my building. I want others to also take pride in Broadway.”
People need to realize that running this town is not a job to take lightly,” said Rieber. “You’ve got an $11 million-plus budget, almost $2.5 million in payroll and 60 employees. That’s 60 different personalities to have to deal with on a day to day basis. We’ve got eight or nine sewer and water departments and aging plants and facilities to deal with. There are many issues to address in this town. It’s not an easy job to be taken lightly, and the person that will be picked for the job needs to be able to handle it. I feel I’m competent and fully capable to do the job. Without question.”