Lisa Mechaley, Dove Pedlosky and the incumbent, Alan Potts, are the three candidates for two seats on the Nelsonville Village Board. Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong asked the candidates to answer five questions; their responses are below. The term for the position is two years. The polls at Nelsonville Village Hall at 258 Main St. will be open from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19.
Why do you want to be a trustee?
Mechaley: I was raised by my mother and grandparents to put honesty, empathy and service first. I believe that in a democracy every person has a responsibility to participate in the decision-making processes and the well-being of the entire community must be considered for every decision made. Our village has been through a stressful year, with powerful companies and interests aiming to divide us on some issues. I’m well-situated to help forge a new spirit of collaboration and constructive engagement. A core goal is to ensure that everyone is informed and has a voice.
Pedlosky: I’m a big believer in giving back to the community. I was raised to value public service and helping others. Nelsonville is a remarkable village, with more history and beauty in 1 square mile than most places in America. I want to preserve everything that makes us so unique, while helping to ensure it continues as a vibrant community. Updating the village’s comprehensive plan provides a perfect strategy for identifying our assets and opportunities. I will strive to engage many voices. The best comprehensive plans bring together ideas from across our generations, experiences and skill sets. The more people we have thinking about our future, the better our plan will be.
Potts: I like to finish what I start. When I was originally elected, the Village Board came up with an ambitious agenda. Life is essentially pretty good in Nelsonville, but we decided some things could be improved. We began to examine our comprehensive plan, zoning, safety, sewers, parking and traffic. Later, cellphone issues came into play and we were forced to devote time to those. Basic services of the village continued uninterrupted but our ambitious plan had to be set aside for a period. Lately, as the cell tower lawsuits progress through the courts, we have had more opportunity to get back to that original agenda. I would very much like more time to work on what we started — if the residents of Nelsonville permit me the opportunity. I hate leaving things unfinished.
What strengths and experience do you bring to the job?
Mechaley: As education director for the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, I was responsible for managing the education budget, developing new programs, hiring staff, and running a summer camp that complied with Orange County Health Department regulations. At the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation, I work collaboratively with organizations like Mount Sinai, the New York Hall of Science and the New York City Department of Health to develop teacher training in science. I am on the Putnam Highlands Audubon board and the educational advisory board of Constitution Marsh. I am working collaboratively with various stakeholders in Putnam County to make better use of the Cold Spring trolley.
Pedlosky: I work in higher education, where I do everything from fundraising and grant writing to managing projects with multiple teams and many moving parts. I make sure that complex projects get done on time and on budget. I ask tough questions that lead to smart solutions, I listen to my teams, and I volunteer for my share of hard work. A village trustee needs to do all these things. I am a core member of the Philipstown Cell Solutions task force, neighbors who built a comprehensive record to successfully counter Homeland Tower’s Rockledge Road proposal in Nelsonville. We pored over case law and Federal Communications Commission dockets, collaborated with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and other experts, hired an independent engineer with our own funds, retained legal counsel, and responded to every report submitted by the cell company. A consulting lawyer told us he had never witnessed such a substantial body of evidence produced by a community against a cell tower application. I will bring this same dedication to the position of village trustee.
Potts: I have been told that my strengths are integrity, intelligence, a strong work ethic, patience, commitment, loyalty and open-mindedness. Of those, I feel my sense of commitment to Nelsonville is most important for the office of trustee. My concern is the betterment of Nelsonville. I do not have any other motives/influences in seeking re-election as trustee. The job really doesn’t have any perks. I have had a plethora of interesting experiences that have helped shape and refine me. I began working at age 10 and had various forms of employment before settling on my calling as a science teacher. I have been around the world and then some. I paid for my education and managed to collect several college degrees. All these things have contributed to the person I am and the values I possess. Experience is, indeed, an excellent teacher. The experiences I gained as a trustee have, similarly, added to the mixture and fueled my commitment.
What should be done with the village-owned, 4-acre lot on Secor Street?
Mechaley: I want to preserve the shared assets that we all cherish, including the gateway that we and visitors use to access the Nelsonville trails. And many of our children use the path daily to walk to school. The only reason not to put an easement on the Secor property would be to eventually sell it. Although this might provide a short-term economic boost for the village, it is more valuable as open space for future generations.
Pedlosky: I’m in favor of adding the Secor parcel to the Nelsonville Woods conservation easement. I encourage a public referendum on the issue. This land is already in use as public open space, serving as a recreation area, pedestrian passage, and gateway to the Hudson Highlands. The [proposed Open Space Institute contract] addendum preserves Nelsonville’s right to use the land for projects with public benefit but protects the area from commercial development that would impact quality of life and compete with our reinvigorating Main Street commercial core. This is an important moment and we must plan wisely to protect and improve our natural and economic resources.
Potts: The land is village-owned and is a monetary asset of the village. It is zoned residential and thus has value. It is not owned by five elected officials or any special interest group; it belongs to all of us and any decision should be made by Nelsonville residents. It would be irresponsible to cede our rights in such a way that the village would need permission to use its property.
Does Nelsonville need to improve relationships with Cold Spring and Philipstown? If so, what steps would you take?
Mechaley: As a trustee, I would work for what is in the best interests of Nelsonville. This will include working collaboratively with Cold Spring and Philipstown leaders to find ways to solve conflicts. The first step is building trust through open sessions on the issues that bind us at both the government and community level.
Pedlosky: The villages and town benefit from working cooperatively. But all parties need to know that they can trust the leadership of their municipal partners. I will bring that trust and respect back to the Nelsonville Village Board. I will work with my Nelsonville colleagues as well as the Cold Spring and Philipstown leadership to break logjams and work smarter together. I will listen to my colleagues and to the public, even when we disagree. We can’t problem-solve when we’re not listening to each other.
Potts: Relationships between Cold Spring, Philipstown, and Nelsonville can certainly be improved. But that is mutually dependent on respect and cooperation. It often seems that Cold Spring and Philipstown view Nelsonville as the odd, shabbily dressed person in the room. Nelsonville residents are proud that we are a separate entity and will not calmly bow to those who would suggest otherwise. Cold Spring and Philipstown need to be a bit more respectful of our status as a separate village and acknowledge our concerns regarding local issues. As a trustee, I like to think that I was slowly gaining in that area, but I cannot be completely certain.
Why should voters pick you over the other candidates?
Mechaley: I believe that complex interconnected problems are best solved by looking carefully at the whole system. In my work as a sustainability educator, we often start by creating an ideal vision of the community. From this vision we develop an action plan. I would love to know what residents envision for the future of Nelsonville. From this vision we can develop a comprehensive plan. When making decisions, I feel it is important to consider the 3 E’s: economy, environment and equity. While it feels ridiculous to have a cesspool in my backyard, we can’t bankrupt the town to connect to the sewer system. This doesn’t mean, however, that it can’t be done. We can start by finding out how other small villages have raised funds for large projects. The Hudson Highlands is one of the most beautiful places on earth and should be preserved. The green space in Nelsonville is a huge asset for the village. Although the trails are well-maintained by volunteers, the Nelsonville woods would benefit from some habitat restoration. Amphibian and bird populations tend to be benchmarks of environmental health. There is very little bird life in our woods, and the wetland areas were quieter last spring. I am eager to reach out to members of the community through social media or in person. If you see me around town, on Facebook or on Twitter, please say hi.
Pedlosky: I’m ready to work hard, honestly, and cooperatively for and with every Nelsonville resident. I can’t guarantee perfect solutions to every problem, but I promise to listen to your ideas and concerns and think creatively to find resolutions. This is a small place; we know our neighbors. We should be able to work together to improve everyone’s quality of life. From a practical standpoint, my deep knowledge of the present cell tower case and federal wireless regulations will benefit Nelsonville in this lawsuit and beyond, as we plan for the appropriate incorporation of communications technologies in our village.
Potts: I am not confined by political bias, ulterior motives or ego. We have enough of that in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. I believe deeply in public service and consider it a privilege to represent Nelsonville as a trustee. It is not a glamorous position nor does it afford any celebrity — unless you count phone calls — but it is worthwhile to me.