Dan Hust | Democrat | Contributed
Neversink Supervisor Mark McCarthy is seeking two more year as his town's leader, against Retired Detective Don Starner.
McCarthy didn't plan to run again
Story by Dan Hust
GRAHAMSVILLE October 29, 2013 Just like the last time two years ago, the Town of Neversink’s supervisor race may be as mild as they come.
In fact, incumbent Supervisor Mark McCarthy didn’t initially plan on running for re-election, and if Republican/Independence candidate and fellow Grahamsville resident Don Starner wins, McCarthy will happily guide him in all the issues concerning the top spot.
“Don’s a friend,” McCarthy affirmed. “His wife Julie and I went to school together. I’ve known her family my entire life.”
Not long ago, McCarthy redid their home’s basement through his McCarthy Construction business, so the two men have both a personal and professional bond.
“He’s a good man, and he’ll do a good job,” said McCarthy.
Then again, McCarthy hopes voters feel the same way about him, especially having just finished his first two years at Neversink’s helm.
After all, Starner’s candidacy only came about after McCarthy, 52, indicated he wouldn’t run again. His wife Paula’s retirement and their daughter Ashley’s transition to college meant the couple could travel and enjoy more time together.
But then Paula’s mother became ill, “so we put those plans on hold,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy himself realized he had unfinished business as Neversink’s supervisor: the relocation of the flood-destroyed town ballfields, the cleanup of the old town landfill, the ongoing quest to bring senior citizen housing to the area.
So he threw his hat back in the ring under the Democratic and Conservative lines not knowing town Republicans had already found a potential successor in Don Starner.
Now the two men are waging a friendly battle for the two-year position.
McCarthy touts his experience as a primary reason voters should once again choose him.
He’s proudest of negotiating a new agreement with New York City over the assessed value of the Neversink Reservoir.
Though he can’t yet reveal details, the dropping of litigation that’s been ongoing for decades with the city which pays the majority of taxes in Neversink bodes well for the town.
It’s a result of McCarthy personally calling the leader of the city’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“I said, ‘Why aren’t we sitting down and talking about this?’” he recalled. “You know what he said to me? ‘We didn’t know you wanted to!’”
With the aid of the town board and attorney, McCarthy hammered out an agreement with the DEP that he indicated will positively benefit Neversink’s bottom line.
“We have struck an unheard-of 20-year agreement with the City of New York for a small reduction in their taxes,” he promised, though the agreement has not yet been signed.
He’s also proud of bringing sewer services to the Little World’s Fairgrounds, of keeping the town’s budgets underneath the state’s two-percent tax increase cap, and of successfully navigating an endless amount of frustrating red tape.
“I’m anti-government anyway, but the enormity of it surprises me,” he confessed. “All these government agencies that you have to please, and the rules you have to abide by it’s maddening to me!”
So why put up with that for another two years?
“The good, to me, is that you get an opportunity occasionally for government to be helpful to its citizens.”
As an example, he cites the town’s recent $192,000 purchase of 16 acres of city-owned land on Route 42, where new softball and baseball fields are being built to replace the ones destroyed along Sundown Road during Hurricane Irene in 2011.
The town has already garnered half a million dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the effort, but McCarthy plans on pushing for reimbursement for engineering and design costs, as well.
“I want to finish this,” he insisted. “I started it. I want to finish it.”
He’s also hoping to land federal “brownfield” dollars for a pre-emptive cleanup of an old town landfill. While one councilman has suggested turning it into a solar farm, McCarthy is just interested in saving the town from liability, should the landfill ever contaminate neighboring properties (including city-owned land).
But all he’s asking for is two more years to complete these goals.
“I’m a term-limits guy. This is it for me,” he affirmed. “Somebody else may have great ideas, too.
“I love this town, and I’m not a politician. I’m a public servant.”
Retired Det. Starner looking to lead Neversink
Story by Dan Hust
GRAHAMSVILLE October 29, 2013 Don Starner is ready and eager to lead his home Town of Neversink.
But his run for town supervisor on the Republican and Independence lines might not have happened had he realized his friend, incumbent Supervisor Mark McCarthy, was ultimately going to seek re-election.
“Mark had decided not to run [initially],” Starner recalled inside the kitchen of his Grahamsville home. “I said, ‘You know what? I could do that!’”
Nearly a quarter-century of proud service with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, plus three years with the Town of Fallsburg PD and five more as a loss prevention supervisor covering 23 area Victory supermarkets, had educated him on the many facets of and issues facing the town, county and region.
“I’ve always wanted to help people that’s why I joined law enforcement,” he remarked. “That’s what it’s all about.”
He’d also briefly run for Sheriff (before his Republican Party colleagues nominated current Sheriff Michael Schiff instead), so political waters were familiar.
But in Neversink, things aren’t so much about the politics as they are about the waters.
“We are so governed by the New York City watershed, it’s ridiculous,” lamented Starner, who’s observed it firsthand for the 22 years he’s lived in the town. “It needs to be watched and needs to be checked.”
There’s the tax issue, with the city fighting assessments throughout the watershed a significant concern in a township which derives close to three-quarters of its revenue from taxing city holdings.
But that may be worked out shortly, so Starner’s chief concern is resolving the ongoing flooding problems in Claryville.
The Neversink River flows through that northerly hamlet on its way to the gigantic Neversink Reservoir, and past downpours and hurricanes have devastated the largely residential downtown, even to the point of requiring condemnation of several homes.
Starner is worried that more problems are coming, thanks to the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) ironclad rules over relocating and dredging the river and its tributaries.
“The DEP doesn’t like to admit they’re wrong about anything, but we have a problem with flooding in Claryville,” Starner insisted. “... I love to fish, but I’m more worried about people than the fish.”
He’s an advocate for revisiting the watershed’s memorandum of agreement (MOA) that spelled out what towns and the city can and can’t do.
With the city buying up properties and the cost of building a house $15,000-$30,000 higher than neighboring towns due to DEP regulations, Starner wants to stem the outflow of residents from an already sparsely populated township.
“We’re controlled by the city,” he explained, “and I am NOT for sitting back.
“I’ve dealt with lawsuits my whole career, and I’m not afraid of lawsuits. I feel we cannot sit back and not do anything.”
Starner, however, isn’t all about scrapping with New York City. He also is eager to work on completing the town ballfields that had to be moved from Sundown Road to Route 42 due to Hurricane Irene flooding.
“I’m 100 percent for the kids,” he affirmed, “because they are our future.”
The Air Force veteran has three of his own two grown children, Joe and Rebecca, from a previous relationship, and 12-year-old Emily, a Tri-Valley seventh-grader he’s raising with wife Julie, a nurse practitioner.
Oh, and one other “kid”: Barkley, a golden lab who lives up to his name.
“Barkley, he’s my boy,” Starner said, breaking into the kind of grin that’s rare on a veteran police officer’s face.
Now retired from the Sheriff’s Office, Starner remains active in his community, as a member of both the Grahamsville Fire Department and Reformed Church, a volunteer at the Little World’s Fair and an avid sportsman.
At 61, he’s learned how to handle the diabetes that runs in his family, and it’s obvious that he’s not interested in slowing down.
Or leaving town, for that matter.
“This is home,” he confirmed. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Part of the attraction in staying is Neversink itself.
“It is a close-knit community, and we have to keep it that way.”
That’s why he’s not letting his run for supervisor interfere with his friendship with the incumbent, no matter how awkward it might be.
Indeed, the two men regularly confer on town business, and each has promised to help the other, should they win.
“I have nothing to say bad about Mark,” Starner affirmed, pointing out that McCarthy redid his home’s basement not long ago.
He may be a Vestal native, but Starner is as committed to his hometown as he is to a family that includes two brothers and two children with proud military service backgrounds.
And count on the kind of tenacity that earned him the nickname “Mad Dog” as the lead detective sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office.
“When I sink my teeth into a case,” he promised, “I don’t stop until it’s solved.”