Clerk hopefuls spar over tech issues

HUDSON — Technology or, more specifically, the access the public has through computers to county records, has emerged as a central theme in the campaigns of both the candidates seeking a four-year term as the next county clerk.

Incumbent Holly Tanner, a Republican also running on the Conservative and Independence party lines, is seeking a third term. Her challenger is Peter Donahoe, who has the Democratic and Working Family lines.

Each candidate spoke briefly this week with The Columbia Paper about the campaign and the office of county clerk.

Peter Donahoe

Mr. Donahoe lives in Stuyvesant Falls, is a 19-year member of the Stuyvesant Falls Fire Company and has served on the town Zoning Revision and Greenway committees, which included the drafting of the town’s comprehensive plan and proposals for its revision. He has run unsuccessfully for town supervisor.

He has worked for the last 10 years for a biometrics firm in Albany, moving from the firm’s help desk to a post as a technician. The company recently lost its contract with the state, he said.

Mr. Donahoe has made the use of technology a focus of his campaign from the outset, saying the county has “a wealth of information” on such things as deeds, land titles, liens and business registrations. But he says, “the information is being kept from us” because it is not available online.

“Without information there is no job creation… people outside the county can’t see what’s here. It’s not an effective business model.”

He wants to make everything from tax maps to judgments available in digital form through the web. He says at present Columbia County offers less access to official information of this type than most other counties around the state.

On one of the other main functions of the clerk’s office, operation of the county office of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, he praised the staff, saying the people who work there are “always pleasant and customer service oriented.”

Mr. Donahoe and his wife have three children, the youngest of whom is a senior at Ichabod Crane High School.

Holly Tanner

Ms. Tanner was born and raised in the Town of Ghent and graduated from Chatham High School. She holds an associate’s degree in office technologies from Columbia-Greene Community College. Before being elected county clerk in 2002, she was the deputy clerk of the county Board of Supervisors and had previously worked at Columbia Opportunities, Inc. and elsewhere.

Ms. Tanner is the vice president of the New York State Association of County Clerks and is in line to become the group’s next president. She is also proud that in her high school days she was elected the county Dairy Princess.

“I’m the experienced candidate,” says Ms. Tanner. She cites $100,000 in records management grants that her office has obtained and says that under her leadership the office has “migrated to digital for all land records.” She says that though the full records may not be available online, an index of the records is, and the index contains significant information about the documents. If someone wants the digital copy of a particular deed, she said her office will send that file by email.

She says she has moved the technology forward in the clerk’s office while being careful to maintain security and keep expenses in line. “I like to keep our budget low,” she says.

Ms. Tanner says that during her tenure the clerk’s office has upgraded pistol permits to a new, plastic card system, with no new cost to taxpayers. And she speaks of how the office promotes the Return the Favor program, encouraging veterans to file their military separation papers with the county so the veterans receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.

As for the county Department of Motor Vehicles, she says she has aggressively marketed the services of the local office, because some of the money collected there stays in the county.

“I love my job and I love helping people,” says Ms. Tanner.

She and her husband have two children, ages 9 and 6. They live in Ghent.

The election is Tuesday, November 2. 


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