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Lewisboro Candidates Square Off in Debate

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Candidates for the Lewisboro Town Board, highway superintendent, town clerk and town justice debated the issues at John Jay Middle School Thursday night in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Not surprisingly, the topic on the mind of most of the candidates was money – how to get more of it without raising taxes and the most efficient ways to spend it.

Incumbent Supervisor Charles Duffy (R, C) talked about the tough choices he had to make to reduce staff while coping with a $1.87 million operating deficit as he strove to restore the town’s fund balance. He noted that Standard & Poor’s upgraded the town’s credit rating from negative to stable under his watch. He also pointed out that he reopened the town’s recycling center and reduced the use of road salt by $50,000 to not only save the town money, but help protect the lakes and streams.

Duffy’s challenger, Peter Parsons (D, I, Working Families), said that while he agreed the town’s fiscal challenges were at the fore, he wanted to see the town operate with more transparency.

“I believe Lewisboro needs positive leadership and I will work to unite the town,” he said. “Taxes and expenditures are important, but we need to change the attitude by having a more open government where everyone is welcome to talk.”

Duffy said his background as a CPA have helped him put the town on the right fiscal track, but more work needs to be done.

“I believe I have demonstrated the skills needed in a supervisor,” he said. “But two years is not enough time to address all the issues that we face. We have taken strides in the last 18 months to provide good financial management, which was recognized by Standard & Poor’s.”

Parson said he would look to the community for was to solve problems.

“We need to find new sources of revenue and creative ways to get things done,” he said. “We will look for good ideas from wherever they come from. People need to understand our problems better and be a part of the solution.”

The four town board candidates all discussed the issues and their qualifications. The Republican slate featured incumbent John Pappalardo and newcomer Rhea Mallett. The Democratic team consisted of incumbent Dan Welsh and newcomer Peter Gross.

Welsh, who is finishing up his first four-year term, expounded on his business background and said he’s in favor of a straight-forward approach to dealing with the issues.

“I want to see no-nonsense discussions and take the hooey out of what we do,” he said.

Pappalardo, who had been on the board for six months, said understanding the community is key as well as having the capability to act collaboratively to reach a consensus.

Gross, a former Wall Street lawyer who specialized in mergers and acquisitions said he wanted to bring his skills and background to town government.

“Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any long-term financial planning, no debt policies and the decision making is what we call ‘rushed and hushed,’” he said.

Mallett, an attorney who has worked for both governments and nonprofit organizations, said her background would be an asset to the board.

“I have experience building state-wide coalitions to lobby for change,” she said.

Mallett is a registered Democrat running on the Republican ticket.

“I don’t believe party affiliation should matter on the local level,” she said. We have people on our ticket representing three different parties and that shows our diversity.”

The candidates for highway superintendent, incumbent Democrat Peter Ripperger and challenger Steven Hill, a Republican, both agreed that the highway department needs to figure out a way to do more with less.

“Public safety is my No. 1 goal,” Ripperger said. “I’ve been in office eight years. We’ve paved 15 miles of roadway, but a lack of funds has prevented us from further repair. We have to learn to be creative with our resources. But we will always strive to get it all done. We need to work smart and think outside the box.”

Hill, a former highway superintendent, said that if elected, he would perform an inventory of all equipment and check the ages as well as create a seasonal schedule of catch basin-cleaning and mowing.

“I am a veteran of the construction field and want to be part of a new beginning with new leadership,” he said.

Town Clerk Cathy Cory and Town Justice Susan Simon are each running unopposed and read statement at the beginning of the forum.

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