Town Council candidates share their views
Seven islanders are running for the Jamestown Town Council. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, registered voters will go to the island polls to select five of those candidates to serve on the council. We’ve asked each of the candidates to write a short statement for publication. Next week, the Press will publish statements from the School Committee candidates and the Town Moderator candidate.
I decided to step into the Town Council race out of a desire to continue to serve Jamestown.
Managing the island over the next few years will present some challenges. The state fiscal situation will result in less support and we should try looking outside the box for ways to maintain our tax rate at a sustainable level. One way to do this is to look at other sources of income to the town. The work done by the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee toward a source of renewable energy is one such mechanism. The results of the recently completed wind power feasibility study show a wind turbine will not only pay for itself but also generate income for the town.
We have been successful as a town in completing some major projects. The highway barn has been completed, we have a new Town Hall, and we have preserved three of the farms on the island so they will never become developed. We need to continue this trend of land preservation with the recently acquired lots in the Jamestown Shores by finding a permanent steward to save them from development and we need to address affordable housing in the village.
Preserving our farmland has been successful, but access to the water is why a lot of us are here. We need to continue enhancing public access and closely evaluate the best way for the town to utilize the old highway barn. We should be thinking broadly about Ft. Getty as open space for public recreation. For example, development of a sailing center might better be presented as the development of a center for marine recreation and education, with sailing as a component. Let’s not limit our vision, but think broadly and long term about what is best for our town.
William H. Murphy
I believe in community service and giving back. Community service comes in many forms and is whatever people can do to make their home a better place to live. I have dedicated most of my life to service. I enlisted in the U.S. Army, served 20 years and retired as a major. I have been active in numerous volunteer organizations, including the Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department, Jamestown Lions Club, St. Mark Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Jamestown Affordable Housing Committee, Jamestown Emergency Medical Service, Jamestown Community Theater and Jamestown Shores Association.
If elected, I promise to be dedicated to the betterment of Jamestown, to maintain our quality of life and to be an asset to the community. I will protect the environment in Jamestown and the surrounding bay. I plan on working on an accessory apartment ordinance to help address affordable housing needs. Some of our ordinances need to be reviewed and updated; Ft. Getty needs updates and a decision on the former town barn property at Ft. Wetherill needs to be made. Projects such as the sidewalks for Narragansett Avenue and an addition to the community center for the recreation department are also a priority.
My experiences as our state representative and former town councilman mean I will be able to be productive quickly and understand how to work with agencies, both locally and at the state and federal level. As the former owner and operator of three small businesses, I understand the challenges facing our local businesses. As a government purchasing agent, subcontract administrator for multimillion dollar programs and a board director for a major charitable organization, I understand the difficulties in managing large and complicated budgets. If elected, I pledge that whatever budget items come before the council will be reviewed with the overall benefit to Jamestown foremost in my mind.
Michael F. Schnack
I am a candidate for Town Council and I am asking for your support. My work experience and experience in town government provides me with a great understanding of the issues that the town faces and the tools needed to address them. I have the ability to get things done, ask direct and pertinent questions, not take issues personally, work cooperatively with people with opposing viewpoints and look at issues from all angles. When I don’t have enough information, I am not afraid to seek out those that do. I am approachable and listen; fair and objective. I don’t make decisions based on the popular opinion. I believe that these are the traits of a good public servant.
I work for a leading water services company, which operates municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment plants throughout the country. As director of labor relations, I deal with a variety of personnel issues on a daily basis. I am responsible for all of the company’s labor relations across the country. The nature of my work can be adversarial in nature, but I have been successful in maintaining positive relationships with those that I face across the table.
During my term on the council, 2005 to 2007, we completed the new town hall; resolved the highway barn issue; preserved the center island farms; and started the process of acquiring lots in the Shores to protect our water resources through tax sales. All projects were accomplished without excessive tax increases. We still have other issues to tackle: taxes and declining revenue sharing from the state; rising costs of our water system; affordable housing; and maintaining our infrastructure. We also need to decide what level of services we expect from the town, what we are willing to pay for those services, and build our budget accordingly.
Suppose Jamestown held an election and no one participated?
That was my reaction when I read the Jamestown Press in early August and realized that for the first time in Jamestown’s electoral history, there was a chance that the voters would have no choice in candidates.
I talked to many of my friends and acquaintances and urged them to run for office, but they all just threw the challenge back at me . . . why don’t you run again? After lengthy discussions with my wife (my biggest supporter), I decided why not? Who is better qualified? Well, in all humility . . . no one who was willing to step forward.
So, here I am, ready, willing and eager, warts and all – the same kid who stepped off the Governor Carr Ferry back in 1954. My first teacher in Jamestown was Miss Pinto in fourth grade in double sessions at the Grange Hall.
Since that time, I have been blessed to grow up and come of age in Jamestown. It is my goal to leave this place better than I found it. Jamestown is the sum of all the people who have gone before us, those who chose to move here and make a home, and those growing up here and preparing to take the reins of adulthood. It’s a pretty unique place, isn’t it?
With your support, I look forward to working with like-minded town council members to put Jamestown on a positive path for the future. I will look for balance in arriving at conclusions and making decisions to move forward.
There are seven good candidates for your council. If you think about Jamestown the way I do, then I’d like to urge you to select three from that list – Bob Sutton, Michael Schnack and myself, Mike Smith – the three “S” candidates.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Robert W. Sutton Jr.
I believe that local government policies should be inclusive, pursue goals and objectives that recognize and elevate the potential of Jamestown as a sustainable community, that define and protect the fragile natural environment of the island, and that help to maintain a community of diversified interests and incomes.
I believe in the concept of strong local political leadership that recognizes the value of common sense over ideology, that provides a forum for hearing all sides of an issue, that makes a decision in a timely way and then makes it happen.
I believe that I have the skills and experience to be this kind of a councilman. My wife and I have lived in Jamestown 39 years, raised two children and have three grandchildren. I have served the past two years on the Jamestown Town Council. I presently work full days as the volunteer farm manager at the Jamestown Community Farm, master of the Conanicut Grange, and chairman of the Jamestown Bike Path Committee. Before retirement, my career involved over 38 years of government administration in Rhode Island, including 18 years as town administrator in Jamestown and 15 years as chief of the Division of Planning and Development at DEM.
Some of the issues needing resolution during the next council term are: reuse of Ft. Wetherill highway garage property, the wind energy program, affordable housing initiatives, Ft. Getty Master Plan, downtown zoning, safe bike paths, hiking paths and safe routes to school, and resolution of employee contract negotiations that are fair to the employee and affordable by the community.
Michael G. White
When I first thought about running for Town Council, I thought it would fun and interesting. It has been. I also thought it would be relatively simple. It hasn’t been.
My life journey, like most, has been one of many twists and turns; from my time in the service and my experience in Vietnam to my 30 years working for the Department of Veterans Affairs to my marriage and the births of my sons and granddaughters, I have learned much.
My experience for more than a year on the Planning Commission and the last two years as a member of the Jamestown Town Council has been eye opening.
We have a town that ends each fiscal year in the black.
We have the fourth lowest tax rate in the state.
We managed this year’s budget without an increase in the taxes.
We have a new updated water system that saves us thousands of gallons.
We have a sewer treatment plant that is used to irrigate one of our gems, our golf course.
We have protected farm and neighborhood land so when people come from other places in the northeast, they wonder at the fact that a “development” hasn’t sprung up on that farmland they saw as they drove into town.
We have a wonderful town here. As citizens, we want those we elect to be honest and forthright people that we can trust. Elected officials that will preserve the richness of character that is Jamestown.
The job of this council and the job of the next council is to help our fine town administration with legislative guidance for the future to protect the improvements of the past. With dedication and vision, we must become stewards of the fine community that we live in. I have done this in the past and will continue in the future.
To deal with our current economic vulnerability, I advocate for a fiscally conservative budget, proactive Town Council leadership, with public involvement in open and responsive government.
I will push for a budget committee to work with the council all year to evaluate not only what the town spends but what we could save, while also looking for income from sources other than taxes.
The School Committee’s budget is 60% of the town budget. I want Jamestown children to shape America through their education in academics, music, the arts and extra curricular activities. Questions arise, however, does our fi- nancial investment “as is” serve the children best, and how do we break through impediments?
I will foster our island’s commerce, protect our natural resources (from deer too) and spend taxes wisely. I support alternative energies: these will pay our town budget back dollars over time. Ft. Wetherill and Ft. Getty belong to Jamestowners, something foremost in my mind as we explore their uses and benefi ts.
I advocate for our historic village character, strong business community, vibrant waterfront and marina. The New York Times listed Jamestown in the top 10 of second home communities; yet, my goal is Jamestown businesses thrive year-round.
A water and sewer commission working with the council is needed to find solutions for the $12M debt causing rising bills.
I support our volunteer organizations: EMT, volunteer fire department, and the countless appointed committees laboring on issues, providing the council with valuable information.
I advocate for recycling, because we can reduce our state fees plus generate discounts.
I believe I do have the experience to be a good counselor. My B.A. in economics, magna cum laude with distinction, stock analysis, and finance courses, over more than 25 years make me perfectly capable of fostering financial solutions for Jamestown.