CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Off-year elections, when high gloss flyers touting local municipal candidates arrive at homes daily, can get testy if one is tuned in to the contests.
There was a threat of arrest last weekend in the Town of Ballston over the distribution of campaign literature.
However, to have a contest there must be at least two candidates and in southern Saratoga County this year that is simply not the case. Most of the political contests are uncontested.
In the Town of Halfmoon, where five positions are up for election, there are just five candidates. All are incumbents and all are Republicans.
In the Town of Clifton Park there are seven positions up for election. In six of those races there is just one candidate running for office. The lone political race at the local level this year that is being contested will determine which two candidates from a field of three will sit on the Clifton Park Town Board come January.
Town Board members serve four year terms. In Clifton Park, board members will receive $16,503 annually for the part-time position according to the town’s Preliminary 2020 Budget.
The three candidates vying for the two seats are Amy Standaert, Kerensa Rybak, and James Whalen.
Standaert and Whalen are the two incumbents. Both are Republicans and will appear on ballot lines for the Republican, Conservative and Independent parties. Kerensa Rybak is the challenger and will appear on the ballot’s Democratic Party line and the Working Families Party line.
Standaert earned an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from the College of St. Rose and a graduate degree in Educational Psychology from the University at Albany. Prior to holding a Town Board seat she was a legislative aide in the state Assembly, an elementary school educator, a member of CAPTAIN’s Board of Directors and a member of the Clifton Park Zoning Board of Appeals.
She is currently the Clifton Park Youth Court Supervisor and the Town Board’s liaison to the Parks, Recreation and Community Development Department.
Standaert has been a member of the Town Board six-and-a-half years after accepting an appointment to fill the unexpired term of former Councilman Scott Hughes. She is running for her second full term on the Board.
Kerensa Rybak is a professional photographer who studied pre-medicine at Arizona State University before choosing to become a stay-at-home-mom. She has volunteered in local schools, chaired many school events, performed the duties of PTA president at two schools and many of the same duties as vice president at a third.
She was a member of the Board of Directors for Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation for several years and currently chairs the Clifton Park Mom Prom, an event that raises funds for local charities.
Whalen received his undergraduate degree from the University at Albany and went on to earn a law degree from Albany Law School. While in the U.S. Army Reserves he held the rank of Captain. He is also a former Board President of the Troy Boys and Girls Club. Before being elected to the Clifton Park Town Board he served on the town’s Environmental Conservation Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
As a member of the Town Board he serves as liaison to Clifton Park Historic Preservation Commission. He is completing his second term of office.
The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County posed questions to all candidates running for office in the county as part of the organization’s Vote411.org effort. The candidates for Clifton Park Town Board were asked to respond to three questions each. The Community News has reproduced one of the questions here and the candidates’ answers.
LWV question: How will you reach out to the community to assure broad based community support and involvement?
Amy Standaert: I have been actively serving the Clifton Park community my entire life. That service has continued in my role as Town Councilwoman. Every day I am in the community with my fellow residents. Every year I organize the Town Clean Sweep day which brings hundreds of residents out to clean-up winter debris. My GREEN Committee partners with Habitat for Humanity in providing a service to residents to donate gently used items which are sold for profit to build homes for folks in need. Most recently, the GREEN Committee has joined efforts with the International Repair Café initiative which promotes fixing things instead of throwing them away. I have developed and currently supervise the Town’s Youth Court program. I train youth on how to become peer mediators with youthful offenders who need a second chance. My community interactions are constant as I am available every single day, day or night, holidays and weekends. Residents have my personal cell phone number and can reach me any time.
Kerensa Rybak: I do not believe there is a wealth of transparency in our local government at this point. There have been decisions made in recent years that have come to light only because of citizens with inside information, who then spur the public into action. There needs to be more communication between the town and its taxpayers. I would like to hold open office hours one Saturday every month to encourage our citizens to come and speak with me their suggestions and concerns, and to ensure that our more pressing and controversial issues are placed at the beginning of our meetings to ensure the public's ability to participate.
James Whalen: The rest of the Town Board and I have always reached out to the community for support. We support community involvement and strive for consensus-based decisions. One of the hallmarks of this Town Board has been the open public processes we have conducted for large scale projects, such as Town Center zoning and the current Town Center Park initiative. In both cases, we have worked with consultants to help guide a formal, very public process with public meetings and continuous opportunities for public comment. I have always enjoyed listening to and receiving public comments from Town residents and will continue to do so.
The other candidates running for elective office in Clifton Park this year are: Teresa Brobston, who is campaigning for Town Clerk, Philip Barrett, seeking his 11th term of office as town supervisor, Jonathan Schopf, seeking reelection as Clifton Park County Supervisor, Dahn Bull, running for reelection as Superintendent of Highways, and Robert Rybak, (no relation) who is seeking reelection as one of two town judges.
Rybak is a Democrat. All the others are Republicans. All but Brobston are also incumbents. Brobston, the longtime Deputy Town Clerk, is seeking to fill the Town Clerk seat to be vacated by Pat O’Donnell who is retiring.
In the Town of Halfmoon, incumbent Town Councilmen John Wasielewski and Eric Catricala are running to retain their seats on the Town Board. Wasielewski is a longtime board member but Catricala is running for the seat for the first time. He was appointed to fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Daphne Jordan after she was elected to the state Senate.
Incumbent Supervisor Kevin Tollisen is another candidate running for reelection in Halfmoon as are Town Clerk Lynda Bryan and Superintendent of Highways John Pingelski. All the candidates are Republicans and all have no opponents. As of Tuesday, none had responded to LWV requests to take part in its 411 Candidate profile.
Saratoga County voters will also have the opportunity to elect a county coroner as well as fill four seats on the bench of the New York State Supreme Court’s Fourth Judicial District.
There is only one candidate for county coroner, David Decelle, a Republican. However, there are six candidates running for the four seats on the judicial bench. Those six candidates are Michael Cuevas (R,C), Dianne Freestone (R,C,L), Julie Garcia (D), Rebecca Slezak (R,C), Michael Violando (D), and James Walsh (R,C).
To view all the questions from the League of Women Voters and the answers from those candidates throughout Saratoga County who chose to respond, including the responses from Robert Rybak, Philip Barrett, Teresa Brobston, Jonathan Schopf and candidates running for the State Supreme Court Fourth Judicial District, go to: https://www.vote411.org/ballot.