LOWVILLE — A retired farmer. A practicing lawyer. A wastewater plant operator. A retired businessman. There are two competitive races for legislator positions in Lewis County in the Nov. 5 election, and all four candidates have unique backgrounds and perspectives.
On the District 1 ballot, incumbent legislator Republican John V. Lehman, a wastewater plant operator, is being challenged by his predecessor, former district legislator Philip C. Hathway, an independent candidate running under the Over the Hill party name.
District 1 includes the town of Diana and part of the town of Croghan.
Mr. Lehman, 62, who is completing his first term in office, said he and the board have been able to accomplish a lot and believes he has won people’s trust by bringing his integrity and honesty to the office.
Among Mr. Lehman’s accomplishments for District 1 are securing $2,000 for the Harrisville Fire Department to use toward a truck, which led to every fire department in the county getting the same contribution.
“To me, that was a community service. I hope we can do that again every year,” Mr. Lehman said.
He was also able to gain funding for a computer for Project Safe Community, a grassroots drug abuse prevention group in Harrisville.
“I look out for all of the people in Lewis County. Yes, I represent Diana and Croghan but it’s my job to look out for everyone else, too,” Mr. Lehman said.
Mr. Lehman previously served on the Beaver Falls Central School District Board and as a Croghan Town Councilman.
He said serving on a school board is the perfect training for a legislator as it requires budgeting with narrow margins and managing multiple departments and interests, much like the county.
One of the most important jobs of a legislator in the current climate, Mr. Lehman said, is finding a way to stay under the 2 percent tax cap while not cutting programs.
He also said taking care of senior citizens is extremely important to him.
A “ride along” with the county’s home meal delivery driver last year made an impression on Mr. Lehman. The caring of the driver, the dignity and pride of the seniors served made him determined to guard that program and others that help the county’s aging population.
In the next term, Mr. Lehman said he hopes to continue supporting wind farms and other renewable energy projects but that there also needs to be a focus on job creation in his district and the county as a whole.
The most important project in the works from Mr. Lehman’s point of view is the ongoing discussions to obtain a franchise on the gas pipeline that runs through his district so that natural gas can be accessible for everyone.
Mr. Hathway, 70, said since he decided not to run for the office again two years ago after three-and-a-half terms, he’s realized that being on the outside of the process made him feel disempowered and frustrated, especially when he learned of situations that he believed he could have helped prevent or fix.
“I’m not running against anyone, I’m running for me,” Mr. Hathway said of his attempt to return to office.
He said he has the time needed to give the legislator job its due and he believes his previous experience on the board and his life experience in general, including understanding the financial pressures people face, will allow him to serve the county well.
“I do a lot of research and I was deep in the money issues and budgeting,” Mr. Hathway said, “I would continue that because that’s where my inclinations are.”
Mr. Hathway said that the most important thing a legislator can do is to think about how their actions affect the people of the county.
“It’s not our money. You’re spending someone else’s money so you’ve got to spend it wisely,” Mr. Hathway said.
He also believes it’s important to give department heads the tools they need to do their jobs and those tools can come in many forms, including encouragement.
Although he hasn’t been involved with the board directly for the past two years, Mr. Hathway said he isn’t intimidated getting up to speed because he loves to learn.
The most challenging part of being on a board can be what he referred to as “the ego part,” which involves understanding that he might not be right on every issue.
Mr. Hathway said professionally, he is most proud of his work for 19 years with the Fluor Corporation, a multinational engineering and construction firm where, by the end of his career, he managed several departments on multi-million dollar projects.
In addressing legal documents circulating around his district that indicate he didn’t pay all of his debts when his business, Phil’s Over the Hill store and gas station, State Route 3 in Diana, went under in 2003, Mr. Hathway said he doesn’t know exactly how everything ended up because his lawyers handled the dissolution of his business.
“Stewarts and Nice n’ Easy came in right around the same time and I just couldn’t compete. At the end, there was nothing left to give anyone,” Mr. Hathway said, “It wasn’t the way I wanted it.”
Public records verified that the largest judgment against Mr. Hathway for about $72,000 was satisfied in full. Smaller debts could not be verified.
While Mr. Hathway also believes more jobs are needed in his district and across the county, he takes a broader look at what the county needs to keep moving forward.
“One saying I’ve always liked is, ‘If you can improve 10 things 10 percent, it’s better than improving one thing 100 percent,’ and I think that’s true,” Mr. Hathway said,
Candidates for the District 4 Legislator position being vacated by Bryan D. Moser are Republican Ian W. Gilbert, 31, an associate lawyer at a Watertown firm, and retired farmer Thomas J. Schantz, 68, who is running under The Farmers Party name. Only the town of New Bremen is in District 4.
Running for office was always in the back of his mind, said Mr. Gilbert, but when he heard that Bryan was stepping down and that committee meeting structure had changed making it possible for working people to meet the office’s commitments, he decided to listen to a number of people that encouraged him to enter the race.
Mr. Gilbert said he believes that any type of body like a board benefits from having diverse perspectives and backgrounds; his would be unique as there hasn’t been anyone in his age group on the board for some time and his life experiences give him a different set of insights.
“My approach to a board is as a consensus builder, especially with large, part-time boards,” Mr. Gilbert said, “I tend to be level headed.”
Perhaps the most important responsibility for legislators to Mr. Gilbert is that of passing the annual budget. While that will be a new skill for him to learn, he said he is very comfortable with personnel matters and renewable energy-related issues.
Mr. Gilbert said he also believes it’s important for the board to voice concern about decisions coming out of Albany to those in Albany, a task for which he said he is well-suited.
Going forward, Mr. Gilbert said because New Bremen isn’t geologically situated to be able to host a wind farm, he hopes to bring in solar farm dollars for the district and will advocate and work with the town board to do so in the best way possible.
Originally from Adams, Mr. Gilbert said, “I chose to live in Lewis County because I saw that it’s a good place to be. I’m not coming onto the board with an agenda. I believe in incremental change and legislatively, I’m interested in ways to reform government and try new things.”
In his professional life, Mr. Gilbert is most proud of those cases that he’s written that have gone to higher courts, but just going through the research and writing required to become a lawyer is also a source of pride.
Although Mr. Gilbert would have to recuse himself from any votes that relate to the district attorney because of his employer’s work with criminal cases, the firm’s support of his choice to run for legislator has been complete and he said he is sure that he will be able to honor all of the commitments of the office.
Mr. Schantz’s son took over his 125-cow dairy farm when he retired after 40 years, but he still helps out part-time and rents out a number of apartments.
“The big thing that I feel for this job is that I’m retired so I’ve got the time to do it. I can make the meetings,” Mr. Schantz said, “I asked Bryan Moser why he was getting out and he said he didn’t have the time to do it.”
Mr. Schantz said he first ran for legislator 15 years ago because he believed his experience in farming and as a landlord will allow him to “bring a lot to the table,” and he has run in every election since.
While Mr. Schantz said he feels it’s important to keep taxes low and not raise them unless it’s necessary, there are issues that may require it.
“Nobody wants to see them go up, but they can’t stay at zero [percent increase] forever either. If you’ve got good people working for you and you want them to stay, you’ve got to pay them what they do in neighboring counties,” Mr. Schantz said.
For his district, Mr. Schantz sees solar, including residential and business arrays, becoming increasingly important in the future.
He would also like to get the county more involved with the Adirondack International Speedway.
“He pays $40,000 a year in taxes and what does he get back from the county?” Mr. Schantz said, “I think there’s a lot of potential there and it’s a big part of Lewis County.”
In the longer term, Mr. Schantz said he believes New Bremen needs a gas station that ideally has diesel, being that the nearest options are in Lowville, Carthage and Watson for diesel.
As legislator, Mr. Schantz said he may support the idea of a new building as long as the board “gets all of its ducks in order” and ensures they’ve looked at all of the options before making a final decision.
In the past, there has been discussion about limiting legislators to two terms at a time, Mr. Schantz said, and he would like to see that topic revisited.
Mr. Schantz said this may be the last time people will have the chance to vote for him.
“If I don’t make it this year, I’m going to retire from running, so people have got to check that box.”
The Lehman File
District 1 Incumbent John V. Lehman, Republican
Resident of: Croghan
Education: Electrical BOCES certification
Work Status: Carthage-West Carthage Wastewater Facility, 3A Operator
Time at that job: 22 years
Family: Son, Greg, 36 years old; Daughter Haley, 23
The Hathway File
District 1 Candidate Philip C. Hathway, Over the Hill Party
Resident of: Harrisville
Education: SUNY Canton, A.S., Business
Work Status: Semi-retired; Part-time bookkeeper
Previous job: Mr. Grant Contracting Inc., 15 years, Buyer
Family: Daughter, granddaughter in Augusta, Ga.
The Gilbert File
District 4 Candidate Ian W. Gilbert, Republican
Resident of: Castorland
Education: Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, B.A., Political Science Penn State University, J.D.
Work Status: Conboy, McKay, Bachman & Kendall LLP, Associate Lawyer
Time at that job: 3 years
Family: Wife, Rebecca, four children ages 1 to 11 years old
The Schantz File
District 4 Candidate Thomas J. Schantz, The Farmers Party
Resident of: Castorland
Education: BOCES Air Conditioning and Heating Certificate
Work Status: Retired farmer
Time at that job: 40 years
Family: Katherine, married 42 years; Sons Andrew and Dale (deceased); 3 grandchildren