Republican incumbent talks with The Paper
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
On Tuesday (Sept. 8), The Paper spoke with Tina Merando, the Republican Party candidate for town clerk. The questions and Merando’s answers appear below, edited slightly for conciseness.
What qualifies you to be town clerk?
Experience. I’m very familiar with all the guidelines for the role of town clerk prescribed by the State of New York. I’ve done it for a while. I was deputy town clerk for 10 years and town clerk for 12. [Along with handling other duties] I prepare the Town Board’s agendas. That’s an important task — just preparing everything. Whether it involves writing the resolutions or [other items], it involves a lot of stuff. I am the grant writer and administrator for the town. … And I am the tax collector.
What are your three priorities as clerk, if you are elected?
I’ve always been mindful of spending tax dollars. We’ve initiated a lot of different things through our office — central purchasing. Before, everybody would just arbitrarily order things. Now, it’s done differently. That’s important. We went on Staples’ Advantage program. At one point we were getting items for a penny and now we get items at less cost.
Of course, records, because maintaining records is very important. It’s the history of our town; it’s the actions of the Town Board. I’m very proud of the fact we’ve digitized so many records. It’s desktop retrieval. You put in a key word, you can usually find it [information], be it planning, zoning and Town Board.
Outreach to the public. I’ve done it through the website, email blasts, the [biannual] newsletter. I want to continue that. And of course the town clerk’s office does the municipal [cable TV] channel programming, the announcements, which is also a part of outreach.
I’m there every single day [in Town Hall] and as it hits my desk, I get it done. The Town Board funds the town clerk’s office; they have nothing to do as far as how the office runs.
What immediate, low- or no-cost steps can be taken to improve the town website?
The website has never been funded. It’s all done manually and I do it. And that’s all very important to me. Would I like the Town Board to fund the website? I would [but] it’s very costly. We’re getting, approximately, between 5,000 and 6,000 hits a month. There’s thousands of files up on the website. There’s a lot of information on there. I’m on it almost every day updating something. It works right, now, with no cost to the taxpayer. If the website is currently working and serving people and their needs, then maybe we can wait and down the line improve on it.
As clerk, what would you do to help Philipstown comply with state demands that municipalities operate more efficiently, consolidate or share services, and save taxpayer money? Or maybe you’re already doing things?
Really, we are. Relatively speaking, we don’t overspend. We’re very mindful of what we do and what and how we order — supplies — and it’s hard. And if ever I can help the other clerks in the villages [Mary Saari in Cold Spring and Pauline Minners in Nelsonville], I’m more than willing. I’ve even covered her [Nelsonville’s] office for a couple of hours. A lot of back and forth [with the other clerks] is information on FOIL [Freedom of Information Law]. I know the FOI Law relatively well.
Should town clerk run in a partisan election as a Republican or Democrat every four years? Or should the clerk be hired by the town as a professional employee?
I believe it was in 1988, the town clerk was appointed. The town changed the law so it would be an elected position. In the office of town clerk, I don’t think “appointed” is a good idea. You don’t want someone put in office just based on an agenda by either party. The role of the town clerk and the office of town clerk is not partisan. My job is strictly by the laws … I don’t care what party you’re in, if you come to the office you’re going to get the same treatment as anyone else, be treated with respect. That’s my job, no matter what. You come in, you need information, I’m there, I’m going to help you. I don’t think party plays any role in the office of town clerk.
Why should voters pick you over your opponent?
I have the experience. I’m accessible, really, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’ve instituted the evening hours on Tuesdays. During tax collection in January, I open up at 7:30 in the morning so people going to the train can come in and pay their taxes. I hope everyone would vote for me based on my record and my dedication. And I love my job.
Photo courtesy of Merando campaign