CHATHAM–Four candidates are seeking the two seats on the Village Board left vacant by the decision of incumbents Lael Locke and Joanne Del Rossi not to seek reelection. Profiles of the candidates’ positions are below arranged in alphabetical order. The ballot line for each is mentioned in the profile.
The election is this Tuesday, March 19. Polls at the Tracy Memorial are open from noon to 9 p.m.
An artist in Los Angeles for most of his life, Wayne Coe had enough of living in a less neighborly environment that left him wondering, “If I died, who would bury me?”
So, after a short stint in Brooklyn, Mr. Coe, his wife, a writer, and their children, moved to Chatham, where he has lived for five years. Now, he is running for one of two vacant village trustee seats, on the Chatham United ticket.
Mr. Coe first took an interest in politics three years ago, when he helped in the formation of Chatham United, which he says was a reaction to a large increase in village taxes while many in the village–himself included–were seeing their incomes diminish.
While Mr. Coe describes himself as the “opposite of a ‘no taxes’ candidate,” he, like the rest of his party’s candidates, is trying to rein in taxes and spending in the village.
He said he is also a believer in open government, something he cites as a reason why he became involved in village politics to begin with. Mr. Coe recalled not having access to budget information before Mayor Tom Curran was elected.
“We were told we couldn’t see the budget because we wouldn’t understand it,” Mr. Coe said.
He said he’s been going door-to-door seeking support from voters, much like when Chatham United’s successful 2011 election, and says he still sees plenty of support for the party’s ideas.
“The village has not seen candidates that are willing to go door-to-door,” said Mr. Coe.
While keeping taxes flat, he believes some improvements can still be made to the village. He said the village will have to tackle the water and sewer infrastructure in the coming years.
As an artist, Mr. Coe sees other ways to improve the village as well. He believes as a “far-sighted” idea that the village could create some public art projects to involve the community and beautify Chatham, at a low cost.
His artwork and illustrations have been shown around the world, and has also been involved with film. However, he might be most well-known in Chatham for his sand illustrations on the sidewalk outside the Crandell Theater before the 2011 Film Columbia festival.
Jay Rippel, Jr.
Jay Rippel, Jr. brings a unique perspective to the race for the two open Chatham village trustee seats, having been born and raised in the area, but also having served two tours with the army in Afghanistan during his 30-year military career.
Married with two daughters in Chatham High School, Mr. Rippel has lived in Chatham since 1991.
He served as an LPN in the army is currently an RN at Berkshire Medical Center in the emergency department.
Because he is retiring from the Army this year, Mr. Rippel says he’ll have a little extra free time–enough to serve as a village trustee and fulfill his interest in local politics. He is running on the Chatham Sustainability Party line.
He also sees some areas in the village government that would benefit from a change.
“I’ve been concerned about some of the things [I’ve seen],” Mr. Rippel said.
He hopes to make the Village Board more approachable, and says that meetings should be places that residents can go to voice their opinions, and get answers to their questions. He noted that the current administration limited the public comment period to 15 minutes in recent
As for the Police Department, he said there should be “24-hour coverage in the village.”
While on duty with the army, Mr. Rippel had to leave his wife and children at home alone in Chatham. He says it was a comfort for him to know they were protected by the village Police Department.
While other area departments, such as the county Sherriff’s Office, can serve the village, Mr. Rippel said it was important to he and his family to have a “friendly face” to go to, adding that he would tell Chief Kevin Boehme before leaving and Chatham police would routinely check on the house while he was gone.
On another topic, he said, “I have questions about whether we’re truly being served by having a village administrator.” And he is also skeptical of the need for the village to hire an outside accounting firm, as it does now, to manage its finances, saying that the budget probably hasn’t grown enough to warrant the cost.
Village employment is another of his concerns. He said that the employees he’s spoken to haven’t felt that their voices are being heard.
“Unhappy employees are unproductive employees,” Mr. Rippel said.
Having lived in Chatham for 60 years, David Silliman has pretty much seen it all. He even served as a Village Trustee in 1994. He is running on the Chatham Sustainability Party line.
This March, almost 20 years later, Mr. Silliman is hoping to win a seat on the board again.
On top of his Village Board experience, he has worked in the heat contracting business for years, and now operates DCS Heating and Plumbing. Mr. Silliman and his wife have five children.
He said he’s running again because “things aren’t normal,” adding that he wants the village to return to the way it was years ago. Silliman believes that people move to the village because they like it, and should therefore accept its practices and ways.
Mr. Silliman, along with the others in his party, questions Mayor Curran’s move to reduce the hours of the village Police Department. “There are people who are worried about not having police at certain times,” Mr. Silliman said.
He is also seeking to make village government operate more openly. “We’re looking to make things wide open,” Silliman said, adding, “everything should be on the table” during public meetings and not discussed behind closed doors.
Mr. Silliman believes his previous experience makes him fit for the job. He remembers when a previous administration also attempted to reduce the Police Department, but ultimately had to change its ways after a vocal public let its opinions be heard.
He said he has seen that “adolescents” come out when they know there will be no police coverage.
Ultimately, Mr. Silliman hopes to improve “community involvement” in village government and return things “to the way they were” in Chatham.
Michael Wollowitz, an inventor and designer, has lived in Chatham for 16 years. He is running on the Chatham United ballot line.
He moved to Chatham to be with his wife years ago, and has stayed here ever since. He originally lived near Boston after receiving both a B.A. and M.A. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering.
Mr. Wollowitz has served on the village Zoning Board of Appeals for the last few years at the request of former Mayor Paul Boehme. Now, current Mayor Tom Curran, whom Mr. Wollowitz has known and worked with for many years, has asked him to run for trustee.
“I was hesitant but decided that it was a worthwhile, and hopefully useful, commitment,” Mr. Wollotitz said.
He said public reaction to Mayor Curran’s recent reduction of police hours in the village reflects “resistance to needed changes.
“Some of this is legitimate concern and some is vested interest. We need to listen and respond to the legitimate concerns,” Mr. Wollowitz said. “Unfortunately these concerns have been manipulated and exaggerated by some who seem focused only on negativity. The Village Board needs to work equally for all residents of Chatham, not just a select group,” he said.
Mr. Wollowitz speaks highly of the current board, saying that the decisions it has made were “critical.”
“Tax revenue had decreased while costs for insurance, pensions, and fuel had all increased, Mr. Wollowitz said. “Further increases in the property tax rate would have made it more difficult for working people to stay in Chatham.”
If elected, Wollowitz said he will try to keep the budget in check and taxes down, “continuing the work that Tom [Curran] has done.”
He warned that other municipalities in similar situations have become insolvent because of their spending and have had to eliminate police forces or other services.
“By carefully controlling our budget we can avoid these problems and maintain the character of our village,” Mr. Wollowitz said.
He is also seeking to “improve communication between residents, village employees and the Village Board.”
“We need to implement better procedures so that people are confident that their concerns are heard and their questions get answered,” Wollowitz said.