KINDERHOOK — Four candidates will be on the ballot seeking two seats on the Kinderhook Town Council.

The candidates are Sean Casey, Debbie Johnson, Jill Mescia and Melissa Miller. Candidates responded to a questionnaire about their background and positions on issues, and their responses are presented in alphabetical order.

Name: Sean Casey

Age: 42

Family: Spouse Jessica Casey; daughter Madeleine Casey, 12, and sons Jack Casey, 11, and Rocco Casey, 5

How long you have lived in the county: 16 years

Occupation: Columbia County IT department

Are you an incumbent: No

Party line on ballot: Republican

Previous elected offices: Currently Valatie Village Board trustee

College: SUNY Empire

Military service: U.S. Navy

What do you think is the top issue facing your community? What would you do to address this issue if elected?

The top issue facing our community (that we have control over) is the threat of invasive taxes, inefficient spending, and policies that only benefit a small portion of the population.

As a member of the town board I will continue the fiscal responsibility that the Town of Kinderhook has enjoyed under the tenure of my running mates, Tim Ooms and Debbie Johnson.

Why do you think you will be a good trustee? What are you most proud of accomplishing if you hold office? If you are a newcomer, what are you looking forward to accomplishing if elected?

I will be a great addition to this board because I am sympathetic to the needs of our community. I work locally, have three school-aged children, and aim to keep Kinderhook the same prosperous place that drew my wife and I to it. And hopefully, someday, our children will be able to enjoy that same prosperity and raise families of their own here as well.

I am most proud of my part in the re-opening our local senior center and the Martin H. Glynn building (used by the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and numerous local groups). These buildings had been shut down for about a year and I was honored to be a part of having them reopened.

Name: Debbie Johnson

Age: 57

Family: Amanda, 33, Ashley, 29; grandsons Emmett, 21 months and Easton, 7 weeks; granddaughter, Schuyler, 4

How long you have lived in the county: 57 years (entire life)

Occupation: Client services coordinator and title closer for SMPR Title Agency, Inc., Hudson

Are you an incumbent: Yes

Party line on ballot: Republican, Conservative

Previous elected offices: Town board member, 2001-09; deputy supervisor, 2007-09; appointed town board member, 2020; elected town board member, 2021

College: Hudson Valley Community College, 1982-84

What do you think is the top issue facing your community? What would you do to address this issue if elected?

COVID still remains a huge issue in the communty. We are continually doing everything that we need to in order to make our community safe. We have updated our website and actively utilize it in order to keep the residents updated about issues in the town, dates of events, town board minutes, town hall hours and contact information, etc. We also livestream our town board meetings on YouTube so that people who would like to attend the meeting and cannot or do not feel safe, can still participate.

We need to continue to make our highways a priority. Our Highway Department is very responsible with staying within budget and repairing our roads. We, as a board, need to find more funding to allow for the continued repair of our town roads. We need to continue to fight for speed reductions on some of our roads. This is a dangerous situation in some areas and we need to continue to work with the state DOT to grant us speed reductions.

Why do you think you will be a good trustee? What are you most proud of accomplishing if you hold office?

I think that I am a good town board member because I listen to the people. I was enrolled as an Independent Party member and now that the party is no longer in existence, I have chosen to remain NOP. I want to continue to remain an independent voice for the residents of the town. I want people to feel that they can talk to me about issues that are important to them and ask for my support and assistance to help resolve them.

I am proud that we have not raised taxes in the last few years. Our board has been fiscally responsible in not raising taxes while continuing to provide the residents with services that are important to them (i.e. highway maintenance, senior citizen programs, recreational programs for all residents of the town).

My proudest accomplishment is the creation of Volunteer’s Park (Town Park). I love to go to the park and see the amount of people that utilize it and how happy it makes them. There is even a dog park there for our four-legged friends. The park literally offers something for everyone.

Name: Jill Shattenkirk Mescia

Age: 36

Family: Husband, Mike, 49; daughter, Evelyn, 9

How long you have lived in the county: 36 years

Occupation: Senior manager

Are you an incumbent: No

Party line on ballot: Democratic, Kinderhook United

College: Full Sail University

What do you think is the top issue facing your community? What would you do to address this issue if elected?

A need for leadership that promotes well-run local government: effective prioritization, planning and accountability best practices. There are and will be many evolving opportunities to think through and make smart choices around. I’ll bring the due diligence needed to think through the merits, tradeoffs, and challenges of the issues we face, include resident feedback, document them in ways the community understands and resonates with, and ensure the information is shared with easy access through well-rounded communication.

Why do you think you will be a good councilwoman? What are you most proud of accomplishing if you hold office? If you are a newcomer, what are you looking forward to accomplishing if elected?

I know Kinderhook and my professional experience has prepared me to be an active and focused leader who makes an impact. I believe in the power of people to make change happen, and the Kinderhook community deserves a place where their voice matters. I’ll make a difference by working together on issues that matter most to us — from affordable housing to safer streets to jobs and economic development. Party affiliation aside, we’ll work as one community with common goals.

Through my work, I’m the top recipient of Etsy’s “Embraces Differences” Guiding Principle Awards because of the value I find in learning from different points of view. The best decisions for our town will not be based on popularity, politics, or what we’ve always done. The best decisions will be based on meeting the needs of the people who call Kinderhook home through facts, logic, and widespread, transparent communication.

Name: Melissa Miller

Age: 39 years

Family: Husband, Michael Miller, 42; daughters Breonica Miller, 17, Kaylee Miller, 15

How long you have lived in the county: 18 years

Occupation: Independent contractor for a pet-sitting business

Are you an incumbent: No

Party line on ballot: Democratic, Kinderhook United

Education: B.A. in Psychology and Sociology; A.S. in Criminal Justice

What do you think is the top issue facing your community? What would you do to address this issue if elected?

Communication and transparency is the top issue facing our community. A large number of residents are unaware of what our elected officials are doing or not doing for us. I want to work with the board in establishing a Communication Committee, tasked with establishing various information highways for town officials and residents alike to utilize in an effort to bring open and transparent government to Kinderhook. The town board could be using various tools to ensure information is reaching all residents. The town website alone could be a superhighway of information for residents but also for visitors from out of town who are looking for things to do or small businesses to stop into for their needs while they are here. The Communication Committee would also help establish an effective way for people to reach their elected officials with questions, concerns, guidance, etc. With improved two-way communication comes increased community involvement and town pride.

Why do you think you will be a good councilwoman? What are you most proud of accomplishing if you hold office? If you are a newcomer, what are you looking forward to accomplishing if elected?

I am looking forward to working with my community on issues that matter to them while also keeping true to the heritage of Kinderhook. It would be an honor to work with the board and the people of Kinderhook in a systematic review of the town’s comprehensive plan. Our current plan is 20 years old and deserves another look. I also want to ensure our town has a well defined comprehensive emergency preparedness plan so each resident is aware of our town’s emergency protocols, resources, and mitigation actions.

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