Chatham board’s 2 seats sought by 4 candidates

CHATHAM–Four candidates are running for two seats on the Town Board November 7.

Incumbents Henry Swartz, Jr. and John Wapner are running for reelection. Running with Councilman Swartz on the Republican, Independent and Conservative ballot lines is Michael R. Blasl. Councilman Wapner, who was elected in 2016 for a one-year term created by a vacancy, is running on the Democratic and Chatham Citizens line as is political new comer Kevin Weldon.

Town Board members’ terms are for four years.

Both the Democrat and Republican town committees have endorsed incumbent Highway Superintendent Joseph Rickert, Town Clerk Beth Ann Rippel and Town Justice Michael Rosen.

The candidates filled out a questionnaire from The Columbia Paper and all but Mr. Swartz included a short statement.

Here, in alphabetical order are their bios and statements.

Michael R. Blasl

Mr. Blasl, 58, is a registered Republican and chair of the Town of Chatham Republican Committee. He currently serves as a county coroner, having been elected to that post in 2014. He is the owner of the French, Gifford, Preiter & Blasl funeral home in the Village of Chatham. He is a graduate of the American Academy McAllister Institute of Mortuary Science.

In the community, Mr. Blasl serves as the treasurer of Chatham’s Ocean Fire Company #1, and treasurer of the Chatham Lions Foundation. He is the president of the Friends of the Tracy board, a member of the Town of Chatham Citizens Finance and Planning Committee, and a member of Columbia County Child Fatality Review Team. Mr. Blasl is also a member of the Kinderhook Elks and communicant of Saint James Church.

He received the Lions Club International Melvin Jones Fellow award in 2016.

He is married to Dawn Marie Blasl, a professor at Columbia-Greene Community College. They have a grown son.

There is more information about Mr. Blasl’s campaign on his Facebook page, blaslforchatham.

His statement reads: “I became interested in running for Town Council when we were told there was no money. It seemed to me people sitting on the board should have been aware of the towns fiscal distress before it became the doomsday they predicted. The bleak forecast allowed pressure to force people to accept pay cuts and lose benefits, while the Council (except Henry Swartz) and Supervisor would not address a cut in their compensation. I feel that leaders need to lead by example. I learned the reality based budget put in place could cost $25,000 of accounting expenses that were not budgeted for.

I hope to bring fairness to the council. I want everyone to be represented, making sure families can afford to live here, that the youth, veterans and seniors have supported programs that help them enjoy their lives here. I want everyone visiting Chatham to wish they could live here.”

Henry Swartz, Jr.,

Mr. Swartz, 58, is registered Republican, who has been on the Town Board for eight years. He is the owner of Hatfield Joyce Inc., in Valatie.

Mr. Swartz is a 38-year member of the Niverville Fire Department. He is on the Columbia County Cause and Origin Team, the Columbia County Traffic Safety Board and is deputy director of Columbia County Emergency Management.

Mr. Swartz has been married to his wife, Tammy, for 38 years. They have one daughter, Amanda, and a son-in-law, Mike Trapasso, and a four-year-old grandson.

(Mr. Swartz did not provide a statement.)

John Wapner

Mr. Wapner, 68, has been on the Town Board for two years. He was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Maria Lull when she became town supervisor in 2015 and then he ran for the seat in 2016. Mr. Wapner is not enrolled in a political party.

He is a self-employed clinical and consulting psychologist. Before that he was director of Psychological Services Center SUNY Albany. In his consulting practice, he consulted on workplace issues with the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Albany, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Emma Willard School and the City of Albany, including Police and Fire departments. He is the chief psychological consultant to the NYS Employee’s Health Service and has been a consultant to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) concerning Federal Police Officers.

His professional affiliations include lifelong membership in the American Psychological Association, and the psychology division of the International Association Chiefs of Police. He received the Department of Psychiatry Annual Award in 1975 for outstanding graduate work.

He has a B.S. from Washington University and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University.

Mr. Wapner was the president of the Board of Education for the Chatham Central School District from 2005 to 2012. He is on the Columbia County Human Services board and was president of the Columbia County Society for Mental Health.

Mr. Wapner and his wife, Cynthia Bobseine, have two grown children.

His candidate statement reads: “As a member of the current Town Board, I collaborated to establish a transparent government that solves problems, provides services efficiently, and encourages an inclusive, welcoming community. I believe our progress is undeniable.

Specific accomplishments include: keeping 2017 taxes below the cap; committing to a budget that will reach this goal again; initiating solutions to long standing infrastructure problems such as repairing crumbling culverts by getting grants that cost the taxpayer nothing; and obtaining grants for electric vehicle charging stations for the village. In addition, we have begun to rejuvenate and rebuild Crellin Park by developing private/public partnerships administered by a community-based Park Commission. We have formed bi-partisan committees to advise the Board about finances, roads and zoning. We have eliminated the deficit we inherited and replaced accounting chaos with transparent order.

I am enthusiastic about continuing this progress, and I ask for your vote on Election Day, November 7.”

Kevin Weldon

Mr. Weldon, 59, is a registered Democrat. He owns Weldon Design, an interior design and workroom services company. Before starting his own business, Mr. Weldon had a 20-year career performing first as a modern dancer then in musical theater. He has performed at Radio City Musical Hall, on Broadway and in regional theater, and at Jacob’s Pillow. He has been a resident and business owner in Columbia County for 20 years. He is married to Peter Newman.

Mr. Weldon has a B.F.A from the University of Illinois.

He is a current board member on the Society of New Concord. Mr. Weldon has performed in fundraisers for the society as part of the Backdoor Boys.

For more information about his campaign, go to or on Facebook at KevinWeldonChatham.

His candidate statement reads: “[I’m] looking to expand my success of building working communities to the Town of Chatham. Working beyond personal politics for the good of our town. Let’s work together for our community!”

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