Meet Your Town Supervisor Candidates: The Schroon Laker Interview

On the eve of Tuesday’s election, Schroon Laker reached out to all three candidates for Town Supervisor: Dennis Christian, Mike Marnell and Meg Wood. We wanted to hear from each candidate -- in their own words -- about their qualifcations, how they will improve the quality of life for year round residents and the "summer people", how they will keep taxes in check, and what motivated them to run. Check out what they told us after the jump.

Mike Marnell

What qualifications make you the better candidate for Town Supervisor?

Well experience number one. I’ve been on the town board for 10 years, Superintendent for Highways for 20 years, served on the Schroon Lake Central School Board for five years (I got off that when I became the Superintendent of highways… didn't want to be on two positions) But I have also been a business owner in Schroon Lake for 27 years. I owned Drakes Restaurant and Motel (1967 - 1978) for 10 years and a gift shop (Ursula’s) on Main Street for 17 years. (1986 - 2001).

And also I worked as a heavy equipment operator, so I know the ups and downs of a blue collar worker. I haven't been a boss all my life, I've worked in the trenches.

How will you make life better for both year round and summer time residents?

One thing I want to do -- you read health insurance goes up every year 20 per cent, 25 per cent and I want to find out why towns in Essex County can't accept bids for insurance. You can for everything else. We always got Blue Cross. They say it can’t be done. Well if you took all the towns in Essex County -- these 18 towns -- and all county employees, you'd have 1200 or 1300 people who will all need the same type of insurance and you can get competitive bidding and maybe it wouldn't be any less, but it's worth a try.

And how will that make life better for both year round and summer time residents?

It would make it better by having less taxes.

We have a lot of problems with Verizon coming out through Hoffman. They have very poor service. They talk and talk and talk and say they are going to change the lines, but people go for a week to ten days without telephone service and there is no cell service either. I would be on the phone with them on a weekly basis questioning them.

Also (repairs to) Route 9….That project was an experimental job back in 1998, 1999 and it didn’t work…the state engineers told me (the patching of the concrete) was an experimental job…I walk a lot and you pick up pieces (of concrete) the size of bricks and half a cement block on down through there. And I would urge, I would be after the Department of Transport in Albany weekly….I live down Bay Road, you can hear the dump trucks going on down there, it’s just a disaster and it shouldn’t be. So that’s one thing I would urge…It was an experimental job that didn’t work so I think we should get on the list of repairs…you ride around Blue Mountain Lake, and different places and they have done projects. I know the State is short on money, but if they did something experimental and it don’t work they should give it a priority to repair it.


When they put in the key ways, they cut the concrete and put re-bar in it and counter board it and then poured new concrete and it isn’t working. Concrete isn’t staying in. They patched it this summer, around June -- they went through with black top and filled ‘em in. I got a 12 shoe and there were spots there I could put my foot in and I ride a motorcycle too, and I don’t like my front wheel dropping in them.

How do you plan to keep property taxes in check?

By conserving money. We can't do anything about the assessments, that’s the assessor’s job. We gotta do mores with less. We gotta use our own personnel. We have good personnel and there's a lot of things they can do, that we hire private contractors to do, with guidance. Maybe hire one person to oversee it, we can do it. I did the Band Stand project, I rebuilt the Band Stand. I was the Superintendent of Highways at the time. The town had a bid that was awarded for $225,000, $235,000 somewhere in there and I said oh my god that's crazy, we can’t, we shouldn’t do it. Finally I convinced them that they should not be doing this...they had to pay the contractor to get out of it. I took my men down there, we hired a local man an electrician/ carpenter combination and we rebuild that Band Stand for $55,000… And I did it in one month.

And when the state put the new boat launch in…we gotta grant, the town did, to improve that area… and I suggested we put the sheet pile in, fill it in and make it what it is…and we had a lot of money left over. I had a contractor come down and drive the sheet pile in and we put the concrete in and we put the sod in and it looked beautiful.

And then we had money left over to put those new steps to the beach and money to go into the Boat House for a new fire escape… so we saved a lot of money. The biggest thing I can give the town is my expertise on building.

I've built homes, I’ve built the Schroon Lake Inn, up near exit 28, (The Tavern) So I’ve been in a lot of construction all my life and I can save, if we ever build a Library -- it’s on the plan -- by using local help and our own people we can save. It’s estimated to coast $800,000, I know I can do it for $400,000, easy…

I’m interested in Youth programs. I’ll guarantee the ski tow will be operating when it’s supposed to be operating, the skate rink will be open, I’ll be there. I am not one to sit around, I have my hands in everything.

What motivated you to run for Town Supervisor?

The general public…I’m about town all the time. I had one person after another (say) “Mike, why don’t your run for Town Supervisor, you’d make a great supervisor. I’ve been retired for four years, I’m 65 years old, I’m still in excellent health, I work hard, so after people asking me – not just Joe Blow -- but people who know what they were talking about and they wanted me to do it so I circulated a petition and won the primary.

Meg Wood

What qualifications make you the better candidate for Town Supervisor?

I have lots of qualifications. I have personal background here with Schroon Lake working with my husband here for many years running a Main Street business, Wood Insurance Agency. After he died I kept it going ‘til my son went off to college when I decided I could do what I wanted to do.

All those years working on Main Street I got to know the people and the issues and all those years my husband and I volunteered for almost every organization in town, from the Arts Council, to the Chamber of Commerce, to the Planning Revitalization Council, Beautification Committee, you name it.

So I did that for many, many years, then about 9 years ago I went to work for the State Assembly and I am the district director of the 113th district, which means that I make sure everything runs smoothly, I deal with legislation, I figure out, or ask other people to figure out for me, work with legislation, why it doesn’t happen, why it does happen. I work with grants helping people write grants, critiquing grants, managing grants. There’s not a lot of money for grants right now, but I have that experience.

One of the big things that people may not be aware of with the different assembly members and senators is that there is a lot of constituent work and constituents can be individuals or families, businesses, or organizations, counties, or a combination of those things. And in working with constituents you work with state agencies, pretty much all of them….The Department of Health, Department of Corrections, State Education, Transportation, so I have gotten (to know) over the last 9 years how the different agencies work, how they don’t work, and got to know a lot of people…the area of the district is 5,000 square miles…all those towns, the elected officials in those towns and businesses if they have needed assistance in one way or another, and I’ve worked with County Board Supervisors..I know the give and take, I know the individuals.

I have also come to realize there are problems in our town and I have also come to realizes we are one of the happier towns in our region. We are doing very well, even though we have a lot to complain of as individuals. And I think that’s a neat thing to know and I think it is something to take advantage of and for me…I live about seven, seven and a half miles west towards Olmstedville, and we have issues here of very poor land line service with Verizon, and so when people complain about not having cell phones, eell we’d like cell phones, too, but we’d like to have our landlines work most of the time.

We don’t have broadband, we all have satellite dishes on our houses or barns out here and I think that’s one of the major issues now to deal with as a region…I think we need to collaborate and find out what the other towns here in the Adirondacks are doing….it’s not to say we haven’t done it, to solve our problems.

How will you make life better for both year round and summer time residents?

Does that mean we don’t have any hurricanes or tropical storms? (laughs).

One thing would be to have solid infrastructure that is past our water and sewer and our streets and streets lights, and our sidewalks. There’s a lot of stress on finances right now. So I don’t see taxes going down, we could probably hold the line for a year or two before the state deals with the unfunded mandate part of the equation which fits supposedly with the 2 per cent tax cap. So taxes are something that has to be worked on.

I see our school is doing really well for our local people. My son got a great education and he is in New York now doing well. Summer people? Most of the summer people I know are good friends of mine out here – far from town – a lot of them want to be left alone. I think enhancing our access to the arts would be a really good thing for year round and summer people.

I know Seagle Colony is more of a presence downtown now with Tony Kosetecki living in town and participating with the Chamber of Commerce as one of their directors. I think the Arts Council, I think the people involved in that now work hard, but it seems like an awful lot of that is based on summer music, rather than year ‘round multi-faceted arts experiences, so I think it would be a good thing for the town to work with those people and help them develop that.

I think we realy need to support our businesses. I think we need to be aware that our health providers, Hudson Headwaters, no matter what anyone’s personal experiences is, they are cutting edge rural health care and they are known throughout the country for that, they are being squeezed with reduced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicad. And squeezed by regulations, and when they need help, not necessarily in the form of money, just the support of the community. I think we have to be ware of doing that. We went for a decade or more without a pharmacy. We need to support our pharmacy, that’s a private business, it’s still a service for the community, so making the town aware that every part of the town relies in at least some way on the other parts of the town is important.

How do you plan to keep property taxes in check?

That’s going to be very hard. The Town board is having budget meetings again tomorrow. We have, at the meetings we have had so far, decided we are going to do our best to stay within the 2 per cent cap, that’s gonna be hard to do, we have suggested cutting some of the money the town gives to all the different organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, like the Arts Council…so that’s going to be something that we probably end up doing. I think we have to deal with the mandates, where 90 per cent of our county taxes go towards unfunded mandates…it’s pretty scary, Medicaid is the most expensive thing we pay for, and one of the problems with that is that it is in our culture now, we can’t just say OK, no to more Medicaid. The same with social services, we can’t just eliminate them. So it is going to be tough to keep taxes in check….As services do fall away a little bit, we are going to have to make sure the old fashioned taking care of our neighbors comes about. When I first came to town I remember the town’s Meals on Wheels were cooked in Vera Lovett’s kitchen, and you drove up and you got the little boxes with the tin foil on top from her and you drive and handed them out. They weren’t cooked by the county and trucked around. I understand Department of Health issues with food preparation you know but I don’t remember anyone getting sick from Vera Lovett’s cooking.

What motivated you to run for Town Supervisor?

It was nothing I ever totally planned on. I am at a stage of my life where my husband died many years ago, my son is grown and is educated, living in New York (he comes home as often as he can) I worked here in town, I had an opportunity to work out of town for many years, and it just seemed to coalesce, all the knowledge I have picked up, especially working with the Assembly, that I have stuff that I don’t even know I have, running around my brain and it was suggested by someone outside of Schroon Lake that I run for the Town Board, and I did that two years ago and was very happy to learn how the town actually works…I’m very guilty of making assumptions on partial knowledge, and working on the Town Board was a real eye opener, that just because you know a lot, doesn’t really mean you know what’s going on…so when Cathy (Moses) said she was going to retire, a few people said: ‘Why don’t you run?.” I have the time and I have the knowledge, I have the inclination. I might not have had it five years ago, but I have it now.

Schroon Laker could not reach Dennis Christian. While on the ballot, Marnell and Wood told us he is not actively campaining for office.