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Meet the Candidates Night: Voters hear from candidates at forum

PINE PLAINS — Pine Plains voters became more informed about their 2021 candidates after spending the evening of Friday, Oct. 15, in the Community Room above the Pine Plains Free Library. That’s where they heard the candidates for the Pine Plains town supervisor, Town Board and the Dutchess County Legislature campaign for office at 7 p.m. The Meet the Candidates Night was hosted by the Pine Plains Free Library and moderated by the Dutchess County League of Women Voters. It was a packed house.

Starting with the Town Board candidates: incumbent Matthew Zick (NOP) running on both the Democratic and Republican lines, Diana Woolis (D) and Robert Ambrose (R), each candidate summed up their principles, policies, past experience and plans for the future. They also gave closing statements. Once their platforms were presented, they took questions submitted by the audience.

Town Board candidates were asked what the top three infrastructure needs are in town and how they plan to address them.

Woolis highlighted broadband, sustainable economic development and keeping families in town and attracting new families to Pine Plains.

Zick cited installing sidewalks at the recreation fields, the Durst project and getting a sewer system.

Candidates were later asked about addressing affordable housing; implementing a compost system in town; the government’s role in safeguarding public health; and how to encourage rational development without ruining Pine Plains.

Asked how to bridge the gap between longtime residents and new homeowners, Ambrose suggested having community events to get everyone involved while Woolis said to forge a connection between “the old-timers and the new-timers,” Pine Plains needs a bigger tax base to do more for the community.

Asked what they hope to accomplish on the board, Ambrose said he wants to work on ongoing projects and help Pine Plains grow. Zick said he wants to see current projects completed, such as moving Town Hall to the center of town, and for everyone to be on the same page and work together. Woolis said the town’s priorities must be laid out in an updated Comprehensive Plan.

Responding to the question “How do you define good government?” both Ambrose and Zick agreed that means working in the best interest of the taxpayers while Woolis named transparency; engaging citizens and having their voices heard; and enacting policies as key features of good government.

Next, the candidates for town supervisor spoke — current town Supervisor Darrah Cloud (D) and her opponent, Brian Walsh (R), the fire chief of the Pine Plains Hose Co. They highlighted what they’ve accomplished for the town and what they hope to achieve in the future.

Asked how much time they have to dedicate to the supervisor role, Walsh replied, “I have the amount of time it takes to get the job done and accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”

Cloud, who has served two terms, noted the position is 24/7 and reflected on her own flexibility and accessibility.

The audience asked about the need for a sewer system; what candidates would do to improve the town; what skills qualify them for the position; and their  priorities as far as updating the Comprehensive Plan.

Addressing how to bring Pine Plains natives and newcomers together, Cloud spoke of “citizen assemblies” to bring people together while Walsh suggested reviving past Community Day events.

The last question for the town supervisor candidates was about encouraging growth and development.

“We need to grow, we need to bring new people in, we need to bring the younger generation in, we just need to be more open,” Walsh said, adding affordable housing is vital, as is word of mouth to attract more new residents.

Cloud said Pine Plains needs better broadband access in every home, and infrastructure is key.

Lastly, the audience turned its attention to Claire Owens of Millerton and Chair of the Dutchess County Legislature Gregg Pulver (R-19) of Pine Plains, both of whom are campaigning for the 19th District in the Dutchess County Legislature. To learn more about Owens and Pulver, read this week’s front page.

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