This year we’re giving candidates seeking office in the Finger Lakes the opportunity to let their voices be heard in a special Q&A feature. If you’re a candidate and would like to participate by completing a short Q&A session – click here. Your answers (which can be as long as necessary) will be published directly on FingerLakes1.com.
Philip C Frere Jr. is running for Phelps Highway Superintendent. His answers to our questions appear unedited below.
What prompted you to consider a run for office?
“I have always had the desire to serve the community that I live in. As an active member of Phelps Volunteer Fire Department and Phelps Ambulance I understand the importance of getting involved. If you don’t like the way things are being done or believe you can do better it’s our duty to act , it does no one any good standing on the sideline complaining about it! If you want to make real change get involved!”
What are the three most important issues in your race?
1. Employee productivity and efficiency. Generally employees want to have a sense of accomplishment, to know that they put in a good days work. As a supervisor we should be giving our employees as much information as possible about the work that needs to be completed. Not just at the beginning of their shift on any given day but try to provide them with a schedule for a weeks worth of work that needs to completed, I feel that this will help with a sense of urgency, we also need to make sure that supplies are readily available and when possible already be purchased so that the job doesn’t have to stop and wait for supplies to be delivered.
2. Being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers. As the Volunteer treasurer for Phelps Fire and Phelps Ambulance for the past six years I understand budgeting and working within that budget. I have been on committees that spec and purchased apparatuses making sure that equipment meets or exceeds the need while getting the most bang for our buck.
3. Working together for the best interest of Phelps. Sometimes in government, elected officials need to be able to put their differences aside and work as one. Helping and sharing resources with departments within the town and village. This only benefits everyone.
What roadblocks stand in the way of addressing them? How will you be able to create change?
“All too often we hear “this is how it’s always been done”. As elected officials we need to get away from this mind set. Complacency in Highway department leadership after many years has created a culture that will be tough to change. Having the difficult discussions addressing the issues needs to happen. We need to come up with viable solutions that benefit the residents of Phelps. I’m willing to have these discussions and talk with other highway superintendents to receive input and new ideas.”
Holding local office is often a balancing act between keeping taxes low and maintaining services: How do you plan to achieve both?
“Utilizing budgeted money more efficiently. Using already town owned equipment reducing equipment rental cost. Rental equipment has cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a year, this money could be reappropriated for road maintenance. We also need to stager shifts in the winter months to reduce overtime cost. Why does the town pay eight employees to come in on the weekends for overtime when there is only six plow routes.”
If you were elected tomorrow and given the ability to permanently change one thing about your community: What would it be?
“Open lines of communication. The Town officials need to do a better job at having discussions that benefit Phelps. The bickering between elected officials that the residents have had over the last 20 years is not all one sided. Any one that wins an election should know that we all need to work together for the common goal, the taxpayers and residents of Phelps!”
As a follow-up: What is one thing your community does right that you’d like to reinforce if elected?
“Coming together in a time of need. I see things from both sides as a first responder, when there is a tragedy in our community I’m there to help on someone’s worst day, I also get to witness the bond that strangers have to help a fellow residents even if they have never spoken a word to them. The generosity that people have for strangers is overwhelming. It always strengthens my hope to know that people are willing to reach out with a helping hand!”
Looking at your community over the next 10-20 years: What do you see? Are the actions being taken now good for the long-term sustainability of it?
“The current Highway Superintendent is reaction based. I feel that we as a Town are not planning for the long term. If we know that a road is going to need a major rebuild why are we not planning for that. For example why doesn’t the town have an account that we can put money in year after year like a savings to be used solely for a certain capital project. No one knows what the cost of asphalt or other materials is going to be in 5 years, but starting with tax dollars that have been saved would be very beneficial. My idea is to have a 10 year road repair plan that will have a reserve fund for capital projects. Regular maintenance, oil and stone, will still be performed every year but having this fund will reduce a tax burden every time a capital project is completed. Every year a set dollar amount will go into this fund so that the cost of the repairs will not be a strain on the budget. As of now, no such fund is in place.”
Rural communities in the Finger Lakes and Upstate New York are getting older. This poses challenges on a number of fronts (whether it be related to services or attracting a younger population for that long-term sustainability). What would you like to see happen to make your community better for aging population, as well as a place for people in their 20s and 30s to call home?
“I would like to see the Town Highway department be more helpful for local non profit organizations. If we except a younger generation to settle in Phelps and raise their families here they are going to except activities for their children to participate in. For example if local sports non profits need clay and stone hauled for their baseball fields, the highway department can do this for them. If the school district needs help with a project to save tax dollars and the highway department can spare the help we should be sending resources to assist. The Highway Department should be proud that they can lend a helping hand.”
People want to see change. So, give us the elevator pitch: Why should voters choose you this November? What differentiates you from any other candidate for local office?
“I have always been community oriented! Growing up in Phelps made me realize that I too would plant my roots here! I purchased my first house in the town of Phelps at the age of nineteen, I would make that my home for the next eighteen years! My wife grew up in this town and we have raised our son in this town. I have volunteered in our community with the fire department and ambulance for the past 10 years, I am there for the residents of Phelps night or day in their time of need. I will bring this same mentality to the Highway Department! The safety of my family, friends, neighbors and all who call Phelps home will be my top priority. I know that I can make a positive difference in our Highway Department!”
Have a letter to the editor, op-ed, or other piece of content you’d like to see published on FingerLakes1.com? We’re here to help! Submit it to [email protected] with your contact information and we’ll publish it in our new ‘Community Voices’ section.