GHENT–Two registered Republicans are competing this year for the office of Town Supervisor, while three people are running for two open seats on the Town Board in the November 5 election.
Michael Benvenuto, a Republican, has been endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties for supervisor, and Republican Richard Sardo is running against him on the Conservative and Independence lines. They look to fill the seat left behind by Larry Andrews, Ghent’s long-time supervisor, who died recently before the end of his term.
Incumbent Town Board member Larry Van Brunt, a Republican, is running for re-election to the board on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines. Democrat Mallory Mort is endorsed by the Democratic Party and has an independent Ghent First line on the ballot. Republican Charles Wood is running on the Democratic and Independence Party lines. Incumbent Linda Schlegel-Hess is not running for re-election.
Town Clerk Michelle Radley is running unopposed for her first full four-year term. She was elected in 2011 to finish the remaining two years of the late Rosemarie Elliott’s term. Town Justice David Harrison Sr. is also running unopposed for re-election. He is seeking his fourth term. Ben Perry is running unopposed for his first term as Highway Superintendent. Incumbent Mike Losa is not seeking another term.
Michael Benvenuto, 55, a Republican endorsed by both his party and town Democrats for a four-year term as supervisor, currently serves on the town Zoning Board of Appeals. He has a B.A. in sociology with concentration in criminology, and was Columbia County Probation director before retiring in February. He was employed with the county for over 31 years.
He earned the New York State Council of Probation Administrators Presidential Recognition Award in 2003, and earlier this year received a state Division of Criminal Justice Services Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives Certificate of Commendation.
Mr. Benvenuto and his wife, Maria, have a daughter, Nina. He is a former coach of Little League and Summer Youth Soccer League. He is a member and former treasurer of the Sons and Daughters of Italy, and a member of the Hudson Elks Club. He is also a former treasurer of the NYS Council of Probation Administrators.
In his candidate statement to the Columbia Paper he wrote, “Within the past year or so the Town of Ghent has experienced issues such as NYSEG Columbia County Transmission Project, Columbia County Airport, and the ‘Northwest 11’ segment of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. As Supervisor I would represent the best interest of the town and its residents facing such issues. Being a member of the Ghent Town Zoning Board of Appeals has given me insight into the town laws and has fueled my belief that we should gradually review the 2009 Comprehensive Plan. As Director of the Probation Department I managed a large agency budget, supervised a staff of 16 and was forced to deal with the effects of difficult state mandates, some of which were unfunded. My financial and administrative experience was similar to the responsibilities of a town supervisor and I made cuts to the probation budget repeatedly as part of the county budget preparation process.”
Republican Richard Sardo, 56, running on the Conservative and Independence lines, currently serves on the Ghent Town Board. Mr. Sardo is self-employed as a land surveyor and also collects tolls part-time for the Thruway.
He has a state Professional Land Surveyors’ License, and has an A.A.S. in Civil Engineering Technology from Hudson Valley Community College. In Fall of 2011, he made President’s List for HVCC, and made Dean’s List in the Fall of 2012 and the Spring of 2013.
Mr. Sardo and Elizabeth, his wife of 27 years, have two children, Alex and Cady. He has volunteered as an umpire and coach for several Little Leagues over many years, including Chatham Little League. He also served on the Chatham Little League board. He was the supervisor of umpires from 1999-2004. From 2006-2011, he served on the Columbia Greene Umpires Association. He also volunteered with the Chatham Booster Club during that span.
In his statement, Mr. Sardo wrote, “In my opinion the issues facing the town have to do with (1) Keeping tax rates low. By doing this we must find new sources of revenue. I would like to explore the possibility of collecting more revenues from non-profits. One plan I have is to charge an easement conveyance fee on all easements up to and over 5 acres in area… (2) The second issue facing Ghent is that of eminent domain and the expansion of a safety zone for the Columbia County Airport… I would oppose any eminent domain proceeding on Constitutional grounds… (3) The third and most important issue facing the town and the county is the threat to our ‘Home Rule.’ The Albany Regional Sustainability Plan, if implemented would create a regional board of planning and zoning where these decisions in all of our towns like Ghent would be dictated from Albany. Our own Planning and Zoning boards would be reduced to merely the ‘implementation of the plan.’ This plan is a direct threat to our home rule and to our private property rights. The right to own property is The fundamental right to our liberty as sovereign individuals, citizens of the State of New York and I would vehemently and tirelessly oppose any measures or regulation that would be a threat to our property rights.”
Mallory Mort, 56, a Democrat running for a four-year term on the board with the Democratic Party endorsement and an independent Ghent First line on the ballot, is a manager at Gallagher’s Stud, where he’s worked for 34 years. He graduated Penn State in 1978 with a B.S. in Animal Production.
Mr. Mort is a current member of the county Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board, and serves on the boards of Protect Ghent and NY Thoroughbred Breeders. He was also president of the NY Angus Association. Mr. Mort and his wife, Karen, are parents to three sons, Emory, Austin and Tyler. He is a 4-H leader and volunteers at the county fair.
Mr. Mort wrote in his candidate statement, “Ghent has had several issues arise lately, with the most recent being the county’s plan to expand the CC Airport while Ghent has no representative on the Board of Supervisors. The Ghent Town Board should insist that no further action be taken until questions regarding the airport’s financials and true economic impact have been answered and the town is represented on the Board of Supervisors. The town should fight NYSEG’s proposed power line through Ghent and push for viable alternatives, such as double circuiting the Churchtown-Craryville line, that have been proposed.”
Lawrence “Larry” Van Brunt
Republican candidate Lawrence “Larry” Van Brunt, 71, seeking re-election to a four-year term on the Republican, Independence and Conservative party lines, has held his seat on the board since 2002. He was appointed deputy supervisor in 2007, and has been serving as acting town supervisor since the death of Mr. Andrews.
A lifetime resident of Columbia County Mr. Van Brunt is also a life member of the Ghent Fire Department, Ghent Sportsman’s Association, Columbia County Agriculture Society and the state Association of Transportation Engineers. He’s worked for the state Department of Transportation for 38 years, and was a part-time deputy for the Columbia County Sherriff’s Office for 35 years. He’s been married to his wife, Elnora, for 50 years, and they have two sons, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He is a former scout leader.
In his statement, Mr. Van Brunt wrote, “With NYSDOT, I worked my way through technical titles to Civil Engineer I. I retired as Project Engineer in 2000, was in charge of projects of over $22M of NYS funds. I’ve had advanced supervisor training, incident command training, and was Ghent Court Officer for 30 years. I’ve been Deputy Supervisor last six years, and in charge of all town affairs since July 2013 (acting supervisor). I’ve been involved in the Comprehensive Plan, mining zone, highway, zoning and planning committees. I was a long-time member of the Ghent Reformed Church, and now a member of Ghent Bible Baptist Church. I’ve been a Ghent resident for 47 years. I will continue to work with all residents, listening to their concerns, and gathering all the facts before making a decision.”
Charles “Chuckie” Wood
Charles “Chuckie” Wood, 58, a Republican running on the Independence and Democratic lines for a four-year term, worked at the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities for 34 years and has retired from that job. The Chatham School graduate attended State University College at Ononta. He is superintendent of Ghent Union Cemetery and a 30-year member of that board.
Mr. Wood and his wife, Nancy, have two sons, Kerner and Collin. He is a life member and current board member of the Ghent Fire Department, where he is also a past president. He is a 24-year member and current president of the Ghent Sportsmen’s Association.
He wrote in his statement, “I believe the issues in our town are pretty much the same all across our state: Taxes and the fiscal responsibility that comes with how they are spent. We also have the power line issue and my question would be who benefits and at what cost? I would add the need for clean, sustainable economic development that protects our community’s character.”