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New hat in the ring

Panza to run for Town Board seat

by George Pattison
July 07, 2011 03:02 PM | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Ken Panza
The field of candidates seeking to fill two vacancies on the Woodstock Town Board in the fall election gained a fourth entrant on July 4, as longtime local resident Ken Panza, a vocal critic of the current administration’s policies and actions, announced that he was entering the race.

“An understanding of zoning matters and financial systems are part of my background,” said Panza, a retired computer industry executive who worked in marketing and engineering for IBM and Oracle. The 35-year Woodstock resident was an unsuccessful Town Board candidate in 2005 and 2009.

In recent years Panza has assiduously attended Town Board and Planning Board meetings and conducted independent research on prominent local issues, circulating his findings by e-mail to town officials and fellow residents. He has also been an active volunteer, serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Telecommunications Committee.

“The current Town board hasn’t moved forward on issues like proposed zoning changes and the Comeau easement and stewardship plan, which should have been resolved years ago. I’m up to speed on those issues and think I could make a contribution toward getting them resolved,” said Panza in a July 5 interview. [A letter in which Panza formally announces his candidacy appears in the Feedback section of this issue.]

Panza criticized the current Town Board’s vacillation on the related questions of whether to renovate Town Hall or, failing that, to settle on another location for the three municipal departments — police, emergency dispatch, and justice court — that inhabit cramped and unsafe quarters at Town Hall. “We’ll have to do a total review of that issue because all of the information accumulated over the last four years hasn’t been made public, while a tremendous amount of money has been spent,” he said.

Like the three other contenders — incumbent councilman Jay Wenk, Planning Board member Peter Cross, and Woodstock Environmental Commission chair David Gross — Panza has collected signatures on a designating petition, toward the goal of securing a place on the ballot in the Democratic Party primary election on September 13. The petitions must be submitted to the county Board of Elections by July 14.

All four Town Board candidates are registered Democrats. The two top vote-getters in the Democratic primary will have the party’s endorsement for the November 8 general election — a putative advantage in Woodstock, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly four to one among registered voters. Town Board members serve a term of four years. (Another Democrat, town historian Richard Heppner, who previously stated that he was seriously considering a race for Town Board, could not be reached on July 6 for comment on his plans. Heppner has reportedly decided not to run.)

The outcome of the primary will also determine which of two registered Democrats who are running for town supervisor, first-term councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum or four-term former supervisor Jeremy Wilber, will gain the party’s nomination for that position. A third candidate for supervisor, Lorin Rose, is an unenrolled, or unaffiliated, voter. Rose plans to bypass the Democratic primary and run in the general election under the banner of an ad hoc party of his own creation. The supervisor serves a two-year term. The incumbent, Jeff Moran, is not seeking election to a third term.

GOP to wait out the Dem primary

The Woodstock Republican Committee (WRC) will consider the matter of candidate endorsements at a caucus to be held soon after the Democratic primary, reported the WRC chairman, William West, in a recent interview. “My suggestion to the committee was to wait and see which issues develop,” said West, who added that no candidates had yet approached his committee seeking its endorsement. Meanwhile, did the WRC expect to field a full slate of nominees for local office? “It’s premature to make that decision,” West responded.

Incumbents are running unopposed in the other local races on the November ballot. The rival-free candidates are five-term town justice Frank Engel, four-term town clerk Jackie Earley, and three-term highway superintendent Mike Reynolds. Engel is a Democrat, who appears certain to secure his party’s nomination, and perhaps others’, for a new four-year term. Earley and Reynolds are Republicans. Also running unopposed in 2009, they received both the Democratic and Republican nominations; the same scenario seems likely to unfold in the upcoming election.

The November ballot will also contain a proposal to increase, from two to four years, the terms of the town clerk and the highway superintendent. A proposal to similarly extend the term of the town supervisor failed to pass muster with the Town Board and thus will not appear on the ballot in the general election.

Panza supports Wilber

Panza supports Wilber’s bid to reclaim the position of town supervisor, which he held from 2000 to 2007, and Wenk’s candidacy for reelection to the Town Board. “Jeremy did a good job before, handling controversial projects,” said Panza, noting that he has assisted Wilber, Wenk, and incumbent county legislator Don Gregorius in the circulation of their designating petitions. The Woodstock Democratic Committee (WDC) has reportedly performed a similar service for the other Democratic candidates.

In response to a question Panza said he had not yet considered whether to seek party endorsements other than the Democratic nomination. With the exception of Rosenblum, who has relinquished her position as chair of the WDC and will pursue only the Democratic nod, the other candidates have expressed a willingness to consider endorsements by other parties.++

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