County leaders urge Leadership Orleans class to get involved in local government

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 February 2022 at 9:32 am

‘Our county is worth saving and we’ll need people like you to make it happen.’

Photos by Tom Rivers: Ken DeRoller, a former Orleans County legislator, speaks to the Leadership Orleans class on Thursday in the Orleans County legislative chambers. DeRoller graduated with the 2020 class and was named the group’s alumnus of the year in 2021.

ALBION – The 26 members of the new class of Leadership Orleans were encouraged to get involved in local government by serving on Planning and Zoning Boards, and then looking to be elected officials at the town, village and county levels.

“We need you to run for office,” Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, told the Leadership Orleans class last week. “We need you on village, town and county offices.”

Johnson spoke to the leadership Orleans class last week. She has been as county legislator for 14 years, and the leader of the Legislature for more than four years.

Orleans County Legislature Chair Lynne Johnson and Lyndonville Mayor John Belson discussed their roles as local government leaders. State mandates drive many of the local tax dollars, they said.

She was a member of the Lyndonville Board of Education when she was asked by former State Assemblyman Charlie Nesbitt to pursue the Legislature with the retirement of former Legislator Jack Beedon.

Johnson spoke to the Leadership Orleans class last Thursday during a focus on Legislative Affairs. Several local officials spoke with the class, and the group toured the Orleans County Office Building, and then broke up into smaller groups and visited the Orleans County Public Safety Building, Village of Albion Sewer Treatment Plant, Village of Albion Water Treatment Plant, Orleans County Department of Public Works, Orleans County Emergency Management Office, and Orleans County Clerk’s Building, Real Property Tax Services, and Treasurer’s Office.

Ken DeRoller, a retired county legislator, gave the opening presentation. DeRoller graduated with the 2020 Leadership Orleans class.

He talked about the importance of “being in the room” with other officials and decision makers, and advocating for the county.

He said connecting with other officials at the local, state and federal levels has paid off for the county in recent years with seven canal bridges overhauled, more of the Lake Ontario State Parkway getting repaved, $17 million in projects along the Lake Ontario shoreline including rebuilt roads, erosion protection, a new boat launch, an expanded Yates town park and more public sewers in Kendall and Hamlin.

DeRoller said the officials also need to do their homework and lay the foundation for projects. He is excited about the possibilities with new waterfront plans along the lakeshore and also the Erie Canal.

Barre Town Supervisor Sean Pogue said the town supervisor position is demanding, with many phone calls during the day and frequent meetings during the month.

“Participate, be a little aggressive and get in the room,” DeRoller told the class. “Our county is worth saving and we’ll need people like you to make it happen.”

DeRoller, during his eight years as a legislator, also said he was proud of the county’s success in collecting more recyclables and electronic waste, and collecting more unused medications through drug take-back days. He also cited the transformation of the long vacant former Holley High School into the village offices and 41 senior apartments, a $17 million project.

DeRoller said he is concerned for the county as the population declines, especially with a student enrollment that has been cut in half in the past 20 years.

“How do we entice the next generation to stay in Orleans County, to live, work and play here?” DeRoller asked.

He said more housing options are needed for residents and families. He also wants to see the waterfront – Lake Ontario and Erie Canal – better utilized for business and recreation.

Besides DeRoller and Johnson, other local government panelists included Sean Pogue, Barre town supervisor; John Belson, Lyndonville mayor (and former Yates town supervisor); John Papponetti, Orleans County commissioner of public works;  Jack Welch, county chief administrative officer; Joe Cardone, district attorney, and Charlie Nesbitt, retired state assemblyman.

Belson, the Lyndonville mayor, shared with the Leadership Orleans class that running a local government is challenging, especially when public infrastructure needs to be fixed or replaced. A repair to the Lyndonville dam topped $100,000. The village is facing a $1 million upgrade to its sewer plant in response to mandate from the state. Lyndonville has about 800 residents – not many people to spread out the costs.

“The biggest struggles are how to buy a new pickup truck, keep the residents happy and keep up the quality of life,” Belson said.

Sean Pogue said the role of Barre town supervisor has been very time consuming in recent years with two major energy projects – one with wind turbines and the other with solar panels.

The projects will drastically reduce the town tax burden for property owners, possibly wiping out the town tax bill, Pogue said.

Much of the review process and approvals are out of the town’s control, with a state siting board determining the final say in the project, he said.

The local officials can’t let a big project totally consume their efforts. Pogue said there are still budgets to put together and other initiatives in town. Barre, for example, is talking about a new water tower in the Pine Hill area to boost supply and water pressure in that part of the town.

Pogue said he networks with other local officials, delegates rather than micro-manages, and tries to pump up the town employees with praise.

“This is a part-time job but really it’s full-time,” he said. “It’s a lot of time on the phone, in meetings and the office.”

The Leadership Orleans Class for 2022 is pictured in the stairwell at the Orleans County Office Building on Thursday. The class heard from local government leaders and toured local municipal operations.

The class includes:

  • Jennifer Ashbery, High School Principal, Albion Central School District
  • Miranda Bennett, Bookkeeper, Town of Shelby
  • Dawn Borchert, Tourism Director, County of Orleans
  • Gloria Brent, President/Owner, MDS Consultants
  • Gabe Bruning, Owner, Mountain Mule Ciderhouse
  • Christopher Cappetta, CFO, Garden Trends, Inc., DBA Harris Seeds
  • Katrina Chaffee, Director of Community Services, Community Action of Orleans & Genesee
  • Michele Chatfield, Quality Supervisor, Baxter Healthcare
  • Faye Conley, Event Manager, Maison Albion
  • Jim Doyle, Guitar & Mandolin Teacher, Jim’s Guitar Studio
  • Tim Elliott, Axe Manager, 810 Meadworks
  • Mindy Frasier, Operations Manager, Claims Recovery Financial Services (CRFS)
  • Becki Gibson, Senior Client Relations Manager, Claims Recovery Financial Services (CRFS)
  • Nicole Helsdon, Practice Manager, Orleans Community Health
  • Jennifer Hill-Young, President, Art Hill Excavating
  • Matt Holland, Grant Writer, United Way of Orleans County
  • Susan Howard, First District Attorney, County of Orleans
  • Benjamin Jones, Assistant Winemaker, Leonard Oakes Estate Winery
  • Katie Leach, Digital Literacy Program Coordinator, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Patricia Neuman, Administrative Assistant, Millennium Roads, LLC
  • Jerry Pasnik, S.E. Manager, Arc GLOW
  • Marlene Seielstad, Associate Broker, Snell Realtors
  • Cyndi Stumer, Deputy Commissioner of Social Services, County of Orleans
  • Wayne Wadhams, Board Member, Orleans/Niagara BOCES and Albion Central School
  • Dave Warren, Board Member, Kendall Central School District
  • Natasha Wasuck, Owner, The Lockstone