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Copake may lack cash, but it’s rich in candidates


COPAKE–Races abound this November as Copake voters will have the chance to make choices for every town office except one.

Town finances are the perennial hot topic as the town struggles for a second year to pay some unexpected and even some expected expenses.

Also, voters will decide once and for all, whether they want to keep the town Police Department, which has become an issue in recent years as the Town Board has scrambled for costs to cut.

Independence Party member Jeff Nayer vies for town supervisor against Democrat Linda Gabaccia.

Current Republican Town Supervisor Reggie Crowley has served one four-year term and is not running for re-election.

What follows are candidate profiles based on candidates’ responses to The Columbia Paper questionnaire.

Linda S. Gabaccia, 53, is running for a four-year term as town supervisor. On the Town Board since January 2006, she is endorsed by Democrats and the Working Families Party.

Born in Great Barrington, Ms. Gabaccia is a 1976 graduate Taconic Hills High School. She attended Mount Holyoke College from 1976 to 1978; Barnard College from 1978 to 1979 and is a 1980 graduate of Mount Holyoke, graduating with a BA in biology. She owns and operates the Depot Deli in Copake Falls. She is a member of the Friends of Taconic State Park and lives in Copake Falls.

In her statement of issues, Ms. Gabaccia said, “Six years of experience on the Town Board is an important asset for the position as supervisor, as we initiate checks, balances and cost-saving measures such as more accurate in-house bookkeeping to restore financial stability to the town. Fiscally responsible decision-making also needs to be brought to the county level.” She continued, “Implementing the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan needs to begin immediately. I will bring strong and compassionate leadership to Copake by working with the board, researching issues, engaging in open and inclusive dialogue and acting decisively, always with the long-term vision in mind of Copake as an economically viable, energy-smart community, meeting the needs of all its citizens.”

Jeff Nayer, 62, is backed by the Independence, Republican and Conservative parties in his bid for town supervisor. He is currently the chairman of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and is one of three town police commissioners. He served briefly on the Town Board after being appointed to fill a vacancy in 2005.

Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Nayer went to high school and is a self-employed air conditioning and heating contractor.

He is a member of Friends of Taconic State Park, the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society, the Save the Copake Clock Committee and the Copake Grange. He is chairman of the Taconic Hills Little League Scholarship in memory of Dana Bessette Jr., a surrogate parent for the Taconic Hills Committee on Special Education, a former board member of the Friends of Copake, a past Boy Scout Troop 130 committee chairman, past officer of Roe Jan Little League and a past member of the Board of Directors of the Taconic Hills Little League.

Mr. Nayer said his “top priority will be to control spending and actively manage the town’s budget. As I am out campaigning, I hear how homeowners can’t afford to keep paying ever increasing taxes. I hope that with proper management of the budget I will be able to keep taxes down to the absolute minimum necessary to run the town efficiently, plus with good forward thinking we can build up our unexpended balance and create a building repair fund and maintenance equipment fund that we desperately need.”

Mr. Nayer and his wife, Lorraine, live in West Copake. They have one son, Zachary, 23.

Four people are in the race for two four-year seats on the Town Board, none of them incumbents. The two highest vote-getters will win the two available seats.

Current Councilmen, Daniel Tompkins and Walter Kiernan, both Republicans, elected at the same time as Supervisor Crowley, have also opted out of seeking a second term.

Democrat George Filipovits, 49, running for a four-year term on the Town Board, is endorsed by Democrats and the Working Families Party.

He served in the US Air Force and attended the US Air Force College, where he earning 28 college credits.

He works for the Columbia County Highway Department and serves on the Town Planning Board.

In his statement of issues, Mr. Filipovits said tax increases are a major issue and that if elected, he will develop a five-year plan to avoid future large tax increases and make budget cuts when needed to keep taxes low.

Another issue he will address is the revitalization of downtown Copake. He said he will use the newly passed Comprehensive Plan to that end by following the plan’s recommendations and action items. He said he will work with local business and property owners to lead them to opportunities–such as grants; connect them with county and state agencies and programs and seek investors.

Mr. Filipovits has two grown stepdaughters. His wife is Barbara Filipovits.

Stephen Hoppe, 43, is a Republican running for his first term on the Town Board with his party’s endorsement and that of the Independence Party.

Born in East Islip, Mr. Hoppe holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and is a freelance video editor.

“Our town government needs to communicate better with its residents and also to engage them more in the process of making improvements for the town,” he said in his statement of issues. “Together, with input from the people — both lifelong residents and second homeowners — we can make Copake a better place. The biggest issue for us to overcome collectively is our inability to communicate well as a group. We give too much attention to political affiliation and we spend too little time on collaboration. If elected, I will remain open-minded to all views and interests equally,” he concluded.

He and his wife, Marge, have one son, Jeremy, 10.

Kelly Miller-Simmons, 40, is a Republican candidate for town board, who is cross-endorsed by the Independence and Conservative parties.

She graduated from Taconic Hills High School and the Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy. 
She serves as deacon and cemetery operations manager at the West Copake Reformed Church and is an active member of the Copake Fire Department Auxiliary.

She and her husband of 18 years, Chris Simmons, have three children: Hannah, 17; Noah, 13; and Ashley, 8.

Susan Winchell-Sweeney, 48, is an enrolled Democrat. She also has the endorsement of the Working Families Party and the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation in her bid for a seat on the Town Board.

She serves on the Conservation Resources Committee, the Downtown Route 7A Revitalization Citizens Advisory Committee and as alternate member of the Economic Advisory Board.

Ms. Winchell-Sweeney grew up in Speculator, in the Adirondacks, and earned a BS in interdisciplinary studies-archaeology and soil science from the State University of New York- Empire State College.

She is an archaeologist/research and collections technician with the New York State Museum.

If elected, Ms. Winchell-Sweeney said she:

*Would assist with the establishment of a 5-year financial plan

*Encourage community revitalization by working with local businesses and individuals, aggressively pursuing grant money and implementing the action items recommended in the newly adopted Comprehensive Plan

*Support development of Copake as a sustainable, environmentally protected community.

She has one son, Liam Sweeney, 12.

Two candidates have faced-off for the position of town clerk/tax collector, a four-year term. Current Town Clerk/Tax Collector Vana Hotaling, a Democrat, is retiring at the end of the year and will not seek re-election.

Democrat Rachel Collins Kelly, 42, seeks the post with the endorsement of the Democratic and Working Families parties, along with the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation.

Born and raised in Copake, she returned in 2007 with my family. She is a graduate of Wellsboro Senior High in 1987.

Under employment Mrs. Kelly lists: elder home care, office administration, woodworking and construction, working with people with disabilities, service industry, real estate and property management.

In her statement of issues, Mrs. Kelly said, “The top priorities facing the next Town Clerk are computer skills, organizational skills and a fresh perspective. Bringing Copake’s office infrastructure into the 21st Century. Copake needs to have all its files easily accessible to both town government and the public. It is critical in this day and age to store information as accurately as possible and to retrieve that information when necessary. I will create online forms and applications for easy access to town government. Copake needs to have Town Hall business hours better suited to the public’s use.”

Mrs. Kelly said it is her intention to open at 8 a.m. and also to have evening hours to better accommodate residents.

“I will do everything in my power to run Town Hall as a non-partisan office, showing no party favoritism to any party or person,” she said.

She and her husband Kevin Kelly live at Taconic Shores and have a son, Dylan, 6 years old.

Lawrence O. Proper, 54, wants to serve as town clerk/tax collector, a post he held for 12 years from 1986 to 1998.

He is a Republican running with his party’s endorsement along with endorsements from the Independence and Conservative parties.

The former town highway superintendent for 11 years (1998 to 2009), Mr. Proper was born in Great Barrington and graduated from Taconic Hills High School. He currently serves as the buildings and grounds superintendent for the Taconic Hills Central School District and is a deputy town clerk/tax collector for Copake.

Mr. Proper is a life member and past treasurer of Copake Fire Company # 1; member and past treasurer of the Columbia County Association of Town Superintendents; past secretary/treasurer and commissioner Copake Fire District; past member Copake Memorial Park Commission; past coach and treasurer Roe Jan Little League Organization; past member, lieutenant, treasurer and director of the Community Rescue Squad; past member and lieutenant of the Craryville Fire Department

Mr. Proper said in his statement of issues that if elected he would “work together with the chief fiscal officer, Town Board and department heads to try to stay within the adopted budget for 2012, build the Town’s unexpended balance back to what it was 15 years ago so we have money for emergencies purchases like we are faced with this year, encourage the use of county and state contract purchasing whenever applicable and utilize the intra-municipal contract to the fullest extent when there is a need to share services, rentals and large purchases.

He and his wife, Teri, have four children: Todd L., 33; Ryan B., 30; Andrew M., 26; and Bridgette S.L., 16.

An incumbent and a political newcomer seek one available seat as town justice, a four-year term.

Glenn Schermerhorn, 65, is an enrolled Republican running with Democratic Party endorsement.

Born in Hudson, Mr. Schermerhorn is a graduate of Ockawamick Central School and Springfield College with a BS in history and physical education.

He is retired from the Taconic Hills Central School District, where he was a teacher, athletic director, coach and summer enrichment program director.

Mr. Schermerhorn is a Roe Jan Young-at-Hearter; Taconic Hills Youth basketball and soccer coach; a Taconic Hills High School coach, 1968 to present; secretary/treasurer Phudd Hill Lodge, 1986 to present and an inactive member of the Elks Club.

In his statement of issues, Mr. Schermerhorn said, “By seeking this position, I am hoping to serve the citizens of the Town of Copake in a fair, insightful, and judicious manner.  I feel I have accomplished this in my educational career at Taconic Hills, and now wish to transfer these skills from the classroom to the courtroom. I have dealt fairly with individuals my entire life, and will continue to do so if elected to this prestigious office.”

He and d his wife, Cynthia, have four children: Kyle, 39; Shandra, 38; Alison, 16; and Grayson, 14.

Republican John P. Spencer, 61, has served one four-year term as town justice and seeks another with his party’s endorsement along with that of the Conservative and Independence parties.

Born in Newton, MA, he is a graduate of high school, the New York State Police Academy and DEA School.

Mr. Spencer is a member of the West Copake Reformed Church and a former member of the Copake Economic Advisory Board.

He was a 21-year member of the New York State Police, 6 years as a trooper and 15 years as a criminal investigator. He is currently a small business owner. He and his wife, Joan have two daughters, ages 9 and 10.

Incumbent Town Highway Superintendent William Gregory is running unchallenged on the Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Working Families and Independence party lines.

To contact Diane Valden email

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