Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

Race in Ghent focuses 2 board seats sought by 4


GHENT–Four people are running for two seats on the Ghent Town Board this November. Incumbents Patti Matheney and Peter Nelson Sr. are both running for reelection. Ms. Matheney is on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence Party ballot lines. Mr. Nelson is on the Republican and Conservative lines. Craig A. Simmons and Koethi Zan are also running for a seat on the board. Ms. Zan is running for the board on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence ballot lines. Mr. Simmons is on the Republican and Conservative lines. The two candidates with the highest vote totals will win four-year terms.

There are also two Town Justice candidates on the ballot for two open four year terms. Mark S. Portan and Michael N. Bruno, both incumbents, are running on the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence ballot lines.

All the Town Board candidates were contacted. Mr. Simmons did not return the candidate questionnaire.

Town Board

Patti Matheney

Ms. Matheney, 61 is a registered Democrat running for reelection on the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families ballot lines. She has been on the Town Board for one term.

She was born in North Carolina and has a B.S. from North Carolina State University. Her husband is Michael Schrom.

In the community, Ms. Matheney was on the Ghent Bicentennial Committee, was editor of the Ghent History Publication, founder of GhentCAN, and co-founder of Connect Columbia, a community action network committed to bringing affordable broadband to all corners of Columbia County.

She was also a trustee of the Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) board and chair of CMH Foundation.

Ms. Matheney and Ms. Zan sent a combined candidate statement, which reads:

“Koethi Zan and I are committed to securing for all Ghent residents access to high-speed internet service, which is essential for economic development, education, and healthcare in our community. If elected, we will ensure that town government is open and transparent and that residents are informed of town issues in a timely manner. We will support local farms, seek state and federal grants to improve town infrastructure, and provide fiscally responsible governance. We are also dedicated to preserving the rural character of Ghent and to maintaining a positive community spirit within the town.”

Peter Nelson, Sr.

Mr. Nelson, 76, is a registered Republican. He is running for a third term on the town board. He also served for 17 years on the town Planning Board.

Mr. Nelson was born on Long Island but moved to Ghent in 1948. He graduated from Chatham High School and studied at Hudson Valley Community College. He is co-owner of the Kline Kill Airport and owns Premiere Builder, Clifton A. Nelson & Son.

Mr. Nelson stopped by the Columbia Paper office to say that he is running for the board again because of the zoning issues in the town. “I feel so fortunate that I was able to live my life here in Ghent and I’d like to give young people an opportunity (to live here).” he said. He also said people “shouldn’t be chased out because of the expense.” As for reviewing the zoning, Mr. Nelson said the town has to be “careful that you look at the total population and not part of it.”

In a flier from the Ghent Republican Committee list the candidates goals for Mr. Nelson and Craig Simmons as “keep Ghent financially strong and low taxes. Don’t burden residents with unnecessary laws, regulations and unnecessary zoning restrictions. Support business development within the nature of Ghent mindful of young people’s employment opportunities, as they are our greatest asset. Keep Ghent an affordable, small town!”

Craig A. Simmons

Mr. Simmons is a lifelong Ghent resident according fliers from the Ghent Republican Committee. He is currently on the Chatham Central School District Board of Education. He has been on the board for eight years and was president for two years.

As board president he received the Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA) Friends of Education Award.

He owns Simmons Automotive in Ghent and Arch Bridge Farm, which raises pure bred Angus and produces row crops.

Koethi Zan

Ms. Zan, 47, a Democrat, is running for Town Board on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families ballot lines.

Born in Alabama, she has a B.S. in Economics from Birmingham-Southern College and J.D. from Yale Law School. She is currently an internationally-bestselling crime novelist who lives with her husband, Stephen Metcalf, and their two teenage children.

She is on the town Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as the Ghent Zoning Review Committee. She is on the board of trustees for the Columbia County Youth Theatre and Art Omi. She is executive director for Protect Ghent; co-founder of Connect Columbia; organizer of OutHudson Youth Alliance; and past board member of the CMH Foundation.

Patti Matheney (l) and Koethi Zan
Peter Nelson, Sr., (l) and Craig A. Simmons
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