For the Enterprise
KEENE - Voters will decide on Nov. 8 which of five candidates will fill two available seats on the Keene Town Council.
The candidates are Michael Buysse, 38, an independent candidate; Donna Combs, 67, an independent candidate; Henrietta Jordan, 59, a Democrat and independent candidate; incumbent Marcy Neville, 59, a Democrat and independent candidate; and Jerry Smith, 58, a Republican and independent candidate.
From left: Buysse, Combs, Jordan and Neville (Jerry Smith declined to have his photo published.)
Candidates are presented in alphabetical order.
Buysse said he decided to run because he believes "the town needs a change and a younger, lifetime resident on the board who is interested in making it possible for young people to be able to afford to stay in the town of Keene."
He said issues facing Keene today are a need for more affordable housing so the younger generation can live, work and raise families in the area; a need for more local jobs; a need to decrease the tax burden and stay within the state's 2 percent tax cap; a need to focus more on the town's Youth Commission Program; and continuing the cleanup effort after Tropical Storm Irene and putting in place preventative measures to lessen the impact of any future disasters.
"Being a community member of the town of Keene for 38 years, I know the struggles and needs of what it takes to be able to live here," Buysse said. "I want to see the community and townspeople be able to thrive in Keene. I will listen to my fellow voters and see to helping them the best way that I can. This will be a great experience for me, one that I am willing to work at and continue to learn."
Buysse works for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve-AuSable Club in maintenance, has been a member of the Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department for more than 20 years and has been on the fire department's Board of Commissioners for 10 years.
Combs said she decided to run because she would like to have more of an input in what happens in the town and see that some changes are made within it.
"I would just like to see things be a little more open," Combs said. "I go to town board meetings now, and I don't think a lot of people show a lot of interest in what's going on in the town."
Combs said the town issues she's most concerned with are the Irene recovery effort, taxes and affordable housing.
She said she has skills she believes will be useful on the council, such as the fact thet she's a certified mediator.
"I've gone in and mediated cases and kept them out of court by getting two people to some kind of agreement," Combs said. "I think that's a useful skill, and just the fact that I know so many people and know the town so well."
Now retired, she used to work for the North Country Legal Services as its pro bono administrator. She also served as town assessor for a year, has served on the Keene Valley Library Board of Trustees and is a Literacy Volunteer.
Jordan said she decided to run to serve the community she loves and to help Keene to be "a vibrant, healthy and diverse community where families, working people, small businesses and older folks thrive."
Jordan said the biggest issues facing Keene are becoming more self-reliant in maintaining town services and infrastructure in light of less federal and state funds, thinking about the long-term needs of the community, creating economic opportunities to attract young families, ensuring that aging residents have the support and services they need, and preserving and encouraging the development of small businesses, especially home-based ones.
If elected, Jordan said she would make sure the town got all the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other funding it is eligible for to complete post-Irene recovery work, continue stream restoration, develop a sustainable budget and retain post-office services.
"I'm an extremely hard worker and particularly skilled in grant writing and developing solutions for difficult problems," Jordan said. "I am also an experienced advocate, a skill that can be helpful in obtaining resources and policy changes in Albany and Washington that can benefit our town. Having served on numerous policy committees, I am skilled at identifying the important questions and helping to build consensus around solutions and plans for action."
Jordan owns and operates a small consulting business that serves nonprofit organizations, is the coordinator of the Keene Central School Community Education Program, assisted in organizing the Keene Flood Recovery Fund and previously served two terms in the Vermont House of Representatives.
Neville is seeking her third term on the town council. She said she decided to run again because she enjoys the job and feels she can be more effective in helping address the issues facing the town by being on the board.
She said some of the issues facing the town include a lack of a postal service in Keene Valley, the continuing flood recovery effort, the debate over river restoration, the budget and the limited availability of affordable housing.
Neville said, as of right now through her involvement in the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County, she is trying to secure six housing units for Keene and wants to make them available to people who were displaced by Irene.
"The struggle with government is to keep costs down, and one way to do that is to have an efficient infrastructure," Neville said.
She said the quality of approachability is important for town council members, and she believes she has it.
"I think it's being a person that is approachable in the community and is available in the community for people to reach out to," Neville said. "I know the community well, and people know me. That's a plus."
She operates a small farm and owns a painting and land-use consulting business, is the chair of the Keene Affordable Housing Committee, and is on the Keene library board and the Essex County Historical Society Board of Directors.
Smith said he decided to run to be part of the town's future direction.
"In the coming years our town will face many financial and regional challenges," Smith wrote in a prepared statement. "I would like to work toward their solutions. We should take pride in how our community worked together during the tragedy of Hurricane Irene. I would like to see that spirit continue."
Some things he would like to like to see are more open monthly meetings, a focus on bringing in the younger generation, expansion of services that support the aging population, affordable housing and support for local businesses.
"Federal and state monies are shrinking rapidly, and it is becoming more critical than ever to work together as a community to see that needs are meet and projects completed because as the sign says on our town hall, 'We're all in this together,'" Smith wrote.
Now retired, he was head of transportation at Keene Central School, where he worked for 32 years. He's also a member of the Youth Commission Committee and has served as chair for four of his more than 20 years on the committee.