Young mom of 3 joins Potsdam council race


POTSDAM — Toni A. Kennedy, a Democrat and a 26-year-old mother of three, handed in 162 signatures a week before the 143-signature deadline, for a spot in September’s primary for Town Council.

She will run against James A. Grant in the Sept. 13 primary, with the winner running against Republican candidate Larry J. Colbert in November.

“I’ve always kind of considered it,” she said when discussing running for office.

Mrs. Kennedy said she remembered watching presidential debates on television and having opinions contrary to her family’s, who she described as being conservative and agreed with George W. Bush’s political views. She described herself as the political black sheep of the family.

In college she became the first freshman vice president for North Carolina State University’s student senate. At school she began an international relations major and a minor in Arabic, as she had hoped to solve the crisis in the Middle East.

“I had big goals even then,” she said.

She later changed her major to nursing, which she completed at Excelsior College in Albany, and is now a registered nurse at Northern Lights.

Mrs. Kennedy continued her participation in politics by volunteering for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, where she knocked on doors and made calls for the senator.

“I was a big advocate for him,” she said.

She then volunteered for Patrick Nelson’s congressional campaign. She said she had spoken to him on the phone, agreed with what he said and then joined, later saying she shared his views on national politics.

But what she believes really pushed her to run was seeing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from Queens and a 28-year-old waitress, upset Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s District 14 primary race on June 26.

“It pushed me to say, ‘if you want to run you should do it and not worry about what people say about you,’” Mrs. Kennedy said.

Mrs. Kennedy is a board member on the Potsdam Central School Parent and Teacher Association, her official title being vice president of Lawrence Avenue Elementary School.

Mrs. Kennedy’s platform includes action with regard to education, housing, local economy and civic engagement, but her primary focus is environmental justice.

“My hope for Potsdam is for it to be a net zero town. We need to establish a solar community so everyone can benefit from renewable energy. I believe climate change needs to be tackled at all levels including local,” Mrs. Kennedy wrote in a press release.

She hopes to make Potsdam a net-zero town. She believes creating a carbon fund, which would financially penalize stores whose carbon output exceeds a certain lime, would be beneficial, regardless if stores reduce their carbon output or not. The money received from stores exceeding the carbon limit would be put in a fund that could subsidize sustainability projects such as a solar garden, of which she is a strong proponent,

“Environmental justice should be on everyone’s mind,” she said

She also hopes to establish a community garden, which would provide cheap, healthy food for local residents.

Voter turnout is an issue she believes to be important.

“I want to get people engaged because that’s how we move forward,” she said.

Mrs. Kennedy believes youth participation is crucial and believes creating a youth town council, which would act similarly to the town council in regards to minutes taken and monthly meetings. The youth council would come up with problems that the town could focus on. Mrs. Kennedy believes a child’s perspective could prove useful.

The Potsdam Town Council currently doesn’t represent the young population of Potsdam except for one member on the council, Sarah Lister. The 2010 census by the United States’ Census Bureau shows that 54 percent of the population in Potsdam is 24 years of age or younger.

Mrs. Kennedy also hopes to find more grants for small businesses, and to create a small business/entrepreneurial resource center that would help create new businesses as well as foster those currently open. For older business she hopes to create a legacy incentive program that would provide financial support for them.

Mrs. Kennedy also believes that the situation of absentee landlords who rent to college students and don’t follow through on necessary repairs is detrimental to the aesthetic of Potsdam.

She also hopes to improve the infrastructure of community housing, an issue she heard a lot about while gathering petition signatures.

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