Three New Paltz residents have announced their candidacy for New Paltz Village Mayor.
Tim Rogers, Sally Rhoads and Amy Cohen have begun collecting signatures to earn a spot on the ballot in the May 5 election. Current incumbent Village Mayor Jason West has not yet publicly announced if he will once again run for the position and was unable to be reached for comment.
Rogers said each of those contending in the mayoral contest must obtain 100 signatures by March 31 in order to officially enter the race.
A product of New Paltz, Rogers said his parents have lived in the Town of New Paltz for over 40 years, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from SUNY New Paltz. Rogers earned an MBA graduate degree in finance from New York University and built a career in investment management.
“I purchased my own home in the Village of New Paltz in 2007,” he said. “Since last summer, I have been investing in a deep-energy retrofit of my house on Elting Avenue.”
Rogers said his ability to address local issues through a financial lens came from his education and background and has made him a successful addition in his roles on the New Paltz School Board and Town Planning Board for the last few years.
His love of analysis and explanation of “things that are complicated or less intuitive” will aid him in campaigning for the role of Village Mayor, he said.
“I was recently sitting at the Mudd Puddle café one Saturday afternoon and a friend came by and asked what I was working on,” Rogers said. “I said I was drafting a note explaining the 2.25 percent state aid rate used for reimbursement on interest with school district capital projects. My friend replied ‘Ugh, poor you.’ Her response reminded me that I’m lucky because I truly enjoy this type of work and problem solving.”
As to what Rogers would do in the mayoral position, the candidate would focus on housing, zoning code and infrastructure issues requiring attention.
“I would like to see more village board support for our village staff. We have several individuals who take pride and do great work in the treasurer’s office, public works and building department. I’d like to review with them whether there are ways to improve or update their operations,” Rogers said in a New Paltz Times article. “But better village planning and cooperation with the town regarding infrastructure solutions for sewer, stormwater, drinking water and potential development are the most important big-picture tasks. However, planning is futile without code enforcement. Village building department code enforcement is a process that needs better board supervision and quite possibly an overhaul.”
Rogers believes West, Rhoads and Cohen have done impressive work for the New Paltz community in the past and will continue to make strides to better the village regardless of who wins in May.
While each candidate offers a different set of skills and experience, Rogers said he specifically offers a unique combination of three main proficiencies: hard work with a good grasp for arithmetic, commitment to see projects through and a belief in environmentalism.
Rogers said he is also involved with the community in non-political ways, including coaching the tee-ball and soccer teams of his two children each spring and fall since 2013.
When Rhoads and her husband moved to New Paltz in 1970, she became active in the town and village.
“I believe I know this community better than any other candidate running for mayor,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads added that she has had multiple roles in the community over the years, ranging from a Girl Scout Brownie leader and classroom mother to her current position as Village of New Paltz Trustee, which has held since 2011.
Rhoads cited her time as a member and President of SUNY Faculty Wives and Women, Chair of the Elting Library Annual Book Fair and a founding member and later President of the Lifetime Learning Institute of SUNY New Paltz — a continuing education program for adults 55 and older — as prominent positions she has held.
Rhoads was a Board of Education member for 15 years and then president for several more, she said. She was President of the Elting Library Board of Trustees for 10 years, culminating in the board’s raising of $3.6 million to build an addition and remodel the library that opened in 2009.
“As both a member and leader of boards, I have demonstrated my ability to serve intelligently, respectfully, collaboratively and cooperatively to achieve results,” Rhoads said. “I have a reputation for working hard, following through and producing positive results. I think the residents of the village know by my past performance that I have no personal agenda and that I will address all issues, large or small, with the best interest of the entire village in mind.”
Rhoads said that as a village trustee for the past four years, a “learning curve” is present in performing effectively in village government. She believes her experience will allow her to surpass this and “hit the road running without dropping the ball.”
Rhoads said addressing the high taxes in the village “is probably most important.”
“The combined tax bill for village, town and school taxes is dangerously close to exceeding taxpayers’ ability to pay,” she said. “We must find ways to continue providing needed improvements — new and repaired sidewalks and improved street lighting for pedestrian safety — and expected services and at the same time hold the line or preferably reduce taxes.”
She believes one way to accomplish this is for the village, town, school district and university to share services such as snow removal and street repair and cooperatively purchase commonly used materials.
“I think village government has failed to establish a much needed positive and collaborative relationship with the college which would benefit both,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads would like to form an association of SUNY communities composed of villages, towns and cities with SUNY campuses through the New York Conference for Mayors. The association would identify commonly shared problems and positive solutions to being a college community in New York State.
“I believe having a college in our community is a positive asset and SUNY students have been major community volunteers for many years participating in important community events such as ‘Clean Sweep’ and the annual library fair,” Rhoads said, adding that she is currently working with a joint committee of SUNY members, the town and college police, tavern owners and community members to address village quality of life issues that impact students and residents.
“I think it would be terrific to be the first woman mayor in the village’s 300-plus year history,” Rhoads said.
Also vying for the spot as first woman village mayor is Cohen, a New Paltz resident for 18 years and mother of four. She said the free-thinking atmosphere of the community and university brought her family here.
“Unfortunately, things in our local government are going downhill,” Cohen said.
Cohen said the village’s ban of plastic bags is a recent example of the village’s poor legislation.
“The law only effects a 1.6 mile radius, it doesn’t include supermarkets,” she said. “Every law that you legislate costs between $6,000 and 8,000. We can fix the playground or beautify downtown with that money.”
Cohen also said the village’s “war on students” is a position local government must change.
“They are anti-student,” she said. “Certain individuals do not want students living in houses in the village. There are also new building inspections, where builders will be able to come in and if they see anything off, the building inspector, licensed by New York State, will need to report anything to local police. Now, they are trying to work on a new noise ordinance. They are trying to run land lords out of business and run students out of the village. And I will tell you that every candidate except for me supports that.”
Cohen said she is different from the other potential candiates in that she believes in being able to work together to get things done instead of “just making a million laws.”
As co-owner of the Groovy Blueberry retailer, Cohen said she has been involved in retail and wholesale for 25 years. Within the New Paltz community, she has been volunteering in the town for the last three years in “the capacity of police commissioner, a current member of the Democratic Committee and as a Town Planning Board member.”
With this experience, Cohen said she is good at delegating and being a team leader. She will be able to work with town leadership and bring the two separate governments together and work in unison, she said.
Cohen said the biggest issues she would address as village mayor are the numerous safety issues in the village. She said while current village government focuses on the safety of student housing, safety issues for children are not being met.
“We have a playground that is dilapidated and deteriorating and has already existed two years past its shelf life,” she said. “We also have other safety problems by our middle school. That is a horrendous corner. I got you that crossing guard, and I want another. I also want better signage. Let’s worry about the kids, our pedestrians and our cyclists and get new sidewalks.”
The village mayoral election will take place on May 5.