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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Top Stories > Politics

District 1 legislative race: Scott Samuelson vs Rob Doherty

Oct 7, 2019

By Isabel Braverman - staff writer

Scott Samuelson
Scott Samuelson hopes to continue economic development in District 1

Scott Samuelson never really saw himself getting into politics. He worked as a professional musical theater actor and dancer in New York City before moving to Sullivan County and opening a bed and breakfast with his husband, Edward Dudek.
They ran the successful Bradstan Country Hotel in White Lake since 1991 and have now sold the business to the owners of the Eldred Preserve, and it will re-open at that location in spring 2020.
It wasn't until 2011 when Samuelson received a text message from a friend saying he should run for county legislature. He was skeptical at first, but then decided to run, and ended up winning.
“I've always been civically involved, I just had never been politically involved, and I had no real desire to become politically involved,” Samuelson said.
“But I care very much about the community because I've had a really great life in business in the county and that's why I did all the civic stuff.”
Samuelson joined the county's Chamber of Commerce and served as the Chairman of the Board from 1998 to 2004. He is also a member of the Catskill Regional Medical Center board and the SUNY Sullivan Dormitory Corporation.
When Samuelson joined the legislature in 2011, he was named Chairman and then served another term. When he first ran for the seat, he said his focus was on economic development, which he saw could be attained through tourism, agriculture and healthcare.
His first term as legislator was only a few years after the recession of 2008 and the county was hit particularly hard. Samuelson said it was a “dismal time” and he felt like the legislature couldn't get anybody to bring jobs here.
“That has always been my focus. I wanted to get involved with economic development and see if there was a way to make something happen in the community,” he said.
And something did happen that Samuelson sees as the legislature's biggest accomplishment—bringing a casino to the county. It was during his first term that he says the legislators lobbied for a casino, which of course is now the Resorts World Catskills casino in the Town of Thompson.
Despite this achievement, Samuelson said that first legislature had its issues. “It was a very tumultuous legislature; I don't feel like we ever gelled,” he said. “This current legislature just worked. The personalities meshed, and a lot of the goals meshed, so I feel like we got a lot more done.”
Now in his second term, Samuelson serves as the Chair of the Management and Budget Committee. He says the legislature has been able to stay within the tax cap every time they create the county budget.
Samuelson says the county's new public transportation system is a big success. The bus route rolled out this summer and covers the areas of Monticello, Liberty and Fallsburg.
If elected again this November, one of Samuelson's goals is to expand the bus route to other parts of the county, such as his district of Bethel, Cochecton, Highland and Tusten as well as Roscoe and Livingston Manor.
“First and foremost let's get people moving around, get them to their jobs, get them to the doctor, get them to whatever they need to get to,” he said. “I think it would be hugely helpful for everybody. That's one accomplishment currently that I have such a good feeling about.”
Other issues that Samuelson hopes to focus on if re-elected include sustainable energy, communications and workforce housing.

Info box:
County Legislator District 1
Running on: Democratic

Political newcomer Rob Doherty wants to make big change in District 1

When asked why Rob Doherty wants to run for county legislature his answer is clear as day: transparency. The way he sees it now, county organizations such as the Sullivan Catskills Visitor's Association and the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) are not open with their policies.
“There's absolutely zero transparency in this county,” he said. “From the Visitor's Association to the IDA, to anything you want to know you have to become an investigative reporter to find out any information. It's shocking to me.”
He says one way to fix this is to have open discussions in public meetings, rather than behind closed doors in executive session. He said many times they come out of executive session and immediately vote, so the public isn't informed on what was discussed.
“As a legislator on the western side [of the county], I would have different issues than the eastern side. But we have a lot of common issues too. But you don't know that because all you see is the vote,” Doherty said.
One of the biggest issues he sees in his district is farming. He specifically mentions the current issue surrounding foie gras. There are two farms in the county that produce foie gras, which New York City is trying to ban.
In addition to those two farms, Cochecton Mills supplies the farms with feed. If the ban was passed and the farms go out of business, it would affect Cochecton Mills's business too.
Doherty is familiar with the agriculture industry, as he owns two businesses—Carmine's Meat Market in Monticello and Sullivan County Farms, a farm-to-table food purveying business that sells local and regional food products, including Brey's Eggs, to New York City restaurants.
As a business owner he believes that employees should be treated fairly. That's another big issue that he sees in the county. The legislature works with unions to create their contracts, and before this year some of the unions had gone years without a contract.
Doherty believes the legislators should be focusing on that, rather than promising $4 million for a visitor's center.
“They would rather build the county on the backs of the workers,” he said.
If elected, he plans on sharing room tax and casino revenue with the towns, which is a longtime wish of town supervisors. He says the towns could use that money.
“We're the second poorest county in the state, so I don't think we should be taking money away from townships without their say in it. The town council should have to vote on it,” he said.
Representing a rural district, Doherty hopes to keep the small town way of life. He wants to see more funding for the Scenic Byway Committee and the Upper Delaware Council, as well as promotion for small business and eco-tourism.
The Bethel resident has lived in Sullivan County for 25 years with his wife, Cathleen, and their three sons who attended the Monticello Central School District.
Although he hasn't been involved in politics in the past, since deciding to run for legislature he has attended town board meetings in his district. He thinks that politics isn't difficult, it's about what the people want.
“If you're honest, fair and up front with people and listen to what they want and go to meetings, since I've gotten into this I've gone to almost every town board meeting in the four townships that I deal with,” he said. “You talk to the people. What are the biggest issues?”
However, he says he will still be prudent in balancing what people want with what is feasible.
“You have to measure that off with what is possible, not what everyone wants is possible. You have to [think of] the greater good for the county,” he said.

Info box:
County Legislator District 1
Running on: Republican, Conservative, Independance

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