AUSTERLITZ—This town of 1,654 souls is spread out over 48.8 square miles, allowing an average of 34 people per square mile. Its only municipalities are two hamlets, Austerlitz and Spencertown, where the town’s two Election Districts will vote on November 5, at the Spencertown Firehouse on Memorial Drive. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Voters in this rural town have a choice for some offices: two candidates for supervisor, a three-way contest for two seats on the Town Board and two candidates for the one open town justice post. The posts of town clerk and highway superintendent are uncontested. All terms are for four years.
Jeffrey Braley Sr.
Jeffrey Braley Sr., the Republican incumbent, is running with the endorsement of the Republican, Independence and Conservative parties. Mr. Braley, 69, has been supervisor since 2010 and also held the post from 2003 to 2005. From 1978 to 2002 he was town justice.
Mr. Braley was born in California and is a graduate of Chatham Central School and the University of Wisconsin. He worked for the Chatham Central School District. He and his wife, Leslie, have four children and five grandchildren.
“The Town of Austerlitz has grown immeasurably over the last 40 years,” Mr. Braley told The Columbia Paper. “More people, more homes, more roads require a larger infrastructure to furnish the services our citizens need and want. The town has accomplished all that and has kept taxes low, one of the lowest rates in Columbia County.”
Mr. Braley lists as some priorities for the town: partnering with St Peter’s Church to expand the town’s summer recreation program; the review of town laws and regulations by the Comprehensive Oversight Committee so Austerlitz can continue to gracefully grow; the Highway Department following its plan of road improvement through better drainage, and paving and equipment upgrades; speed control of traffic a priority in the hamlets of Spencertown and Austerlitz.
Robert Lagonia, an enrolled Republican, is running for the supervisor post with the endorsement of the Austerlitz Democratic Committee. He has been an Austerlitz town justice since 2003 (he still holds that post) and was previously Philmont Village justice, from 1998 to 2005.
Mr. Lagonia, 48, is proprietor of Lagonia’s Pizza and Café in Chatham. He was born in New Rochelle and holds an associate of science degree. He is a board member of the Columbia Golf and Country Club. He and his wife, Michelle, have two sons.
“Public safety is a very important part of my campaign,” said Mr. Lagonia in his statement to The Columbia Paper. “In particular, the poor condition of some of the roads, especially Route 203, and the high rate of speed by motorists driving through the hamlets adversely affects the quality of life for Austerlitz residents.
“As a town justice for 10 years, I understand firsthand that the town must find a safe place to hold court. The number of people in Town Hall on a court night routinely exceeds the building’s capacity,” he said, adding that the crowding creates “an unsafe situation.” He said he is committed to finding an alternative court space “without costing taxpayers a fortune” and that he supports a new firehouse for the Austerlitz Fire Department.
As a member of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors he said that before the county makes a decision on the Pine Haven nursing facility or on consolidation or relocation of county services, he would brief Austerlitz voters and listen to their concerns.
He also pledged to hold “town hall information meetings on weekends before important decisions are made at the local or county level.”
Republican incumbent Carol Pinto was first elected to the Town Board in 2009. She is endorsed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.
Ms. Pinto, 60, was born in Schenectady and is a graduate of Chatham Central School and Columbia Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. She attended Sage College of Albany for courses in legal studies. A registered nurse, she has worked in critical care and dialysis. She has been a staff nurse, charge nurse and nurse manager. She is now an investigator for the state Department of Health Office of Professional Medical Conduct, a position she has held for 5½ years. She and her husband, Robert Pinto Jr., have three sons and three grandchildren.
“I am running for re-election because I feel community involvement is important,” she said. “I believe true consensus, open communication, transparency in government and fairness come from, and are enhanced by the diversity of the people. Not by political party affiliation but by differences in ideas and life experience.
“I believe in fiscal responsibility, in laws and regulations that are appropriate for our town and in that sense of freedom and independence noted in the vision statement for the Town of Austerlitz Comprehensive Plan. I look forward to the opportunity of having four more years to work toward keeping our town a great place to live, raise families and enjoy in retirement.”
Matt Verenazi is a Republican incumbent on the Town Board endorsed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties. He has served one term, beginning in 2009.
Mr. Verenazi has lived in Columbia County 50 years, he said, his whole life. He is a graduate of Chatham Central School and holds a B.A. in geography from SUNY Geneseo. For 24 years he has been a general contractor, self-employed for four years. He has been an active member of the Spencertown Fire Company for 26 years, line officer for eight years, Austerlitz Fire District chief for two years and currently serves on the Spencertown Fire Department Board of Directors. He and his wife, Sandra Smith Verenazi, have two daughters and a son.
“As always, keeping the town budget in check is of great importance,” said Mr. Verenazi. “We need to utilize more of the many grant and loan programs available, through team effort and research. The Town Board needs to convey to the county Board of Supervisors what the residents of the town of Austerlitz expect of them, so as to keep our county taxes under control.
“We need to begin the long process of planning for a new town hall. The current building and location lack secure space for judges, adequate storage for town records, seating for meetings and parking,” he said.
Mr. Vogler, a Democrat endorsed by the Austerlitz Democratic Committee, is making his first run for office. He is 55 years old, a native of Norwood, NJ, who holds a B.S. degree in accounting and is now “semi-retired.”
Mr. Vogler is treasurer for the Millay Society in Austerlitz and a volunteer for the Spencertown Academy and Austerlitz Historical His spouse is David Highfill.
“As an auditor of 29 years’ experience, I will bring an auditor’s ability to understand budgets and expense control, capital expenditure planning and cash management to the Town Board,” Mr. Vogler told The Columbia Paper. “Additionally, I will review our policies on personal use of equipment and compliance with laws, to help ensure that we minimize our risks of financial, legal and reputational loss.
“We have some significant public safety issues in town. Most important is to make sure that the Austerlitz Fire Company completes a new firehouse and Route 203 in the Spencertown hamlet becomes safe.”
Sharon Grubin, 64, is making her first run for political office with the endorsement of the Austerlitz Democratic Committee. She is enrolled without party affiliation.
A native of Newark, NJ, Ms. Grubin is a graduate of Smith College and Boston University School of Law (J.D. with Honors). Currently retired, she was previously a litigation attorney at the law firm of White & Case for 10 years; U.S. Magistrate judge for 16 years (an appointed, not elected position), and general counsel of the Metropolitan Opera for 12 years.
Locally, she is a 29-year resident of Austerlitz. She is a 30-year member of the Spencertown Academy, a board member of the Chatham Film Club and board member and secretary of the Kinderhook Lake Corporation.
In addition, Ms. Grubin has served on the Executive Committee of the NYS Bar Association, Commercial and Federal Litigation Section; American Bar Association, former chair of National Conference of Federal Trial Judges Special Projects Committee and Publications Committee; National Association of Women Judges (lifetime member); and NYS Association of Women Judges (former director). She has taught seminars for practicing lawyers and for law students, and has written hundreds of published legal decisions and articles.
“Cases must be decided fairly, regardless of who the parties are,” said Ms. Grubin. “The Town justice hears criminal and domestic violence matters with imprisonment of up to one year, evictions and other important matters, in addition to DWI and other traffic cases. Cases affect people’s reputations, pocketbooks and safety.
“Laws can have unforeseen consequences. Austerlitz deserves a judge who will apply them knowledgeably and correctly. There are always two sides to every story, and each must be heard in full. I believe that being a federal judge for 16 years has given me the judicial temperament, patience and skill to serve Austerlitz properly.”
Karen M. Kellogg
Karen M. Kellogg, 41, is a Republican running with that party’s endorsement. She has held no previous political office. A native of New Haven, CT, she holds an A.A. degree in business management and a B.B.A. in accounting. She works for the state Office of the State Comptroller.
Ms. Kellogg has two children. She is a past president and member of the Spencertown Fire Department Auxiliary, past president of the Chatham Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association and a member of the Board of Assessment Review and Association of Government Accountants. For the Columbia County 4-H Program, she led a 4-H group in Spencertown.
Ms. Kellogg did not give a statement to The Columbia Paper.