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.
Tom Scholes is running for an at-large seat on the Seneca County Board of Supervisors. His answers to our questions appear unedited below.
What prompted you to consider a run for office?
“My position at the Health Department required some political interactions that I always found interesting, and I enjoyed having some input on important projects in the county. I had mulled the idea of running for local office in the past but was not actively pursuing the idea following my retirement in 2020. I was approached earlier this year about running and felt that the county has some infrastructure issues that I could have positive impacts on especially in the areas of water and sewer.”
What are the three most important issues in your race?
1) The County Water & Sewer Districts have lacked proper management and staffing for years now and that must change in order for the full potential of both services to be realized.
2) The health of our lakes is a priority and efforts to limit the erosion events that carry untold amounts of nutrients and pollutants into our waterways after every significant rain/snow event must begin immediately.
3) Improving the way information is shared with the general public in order to promote more community involvement and transparency in government business.
What roadblocks stand in the way of addressing them? How will you be able to create change?
“The biggest roadblocks I see is the fear of change to try new strategies when reacting to old issues. My job as a regulator required me to convince a great number of people through the years to do things they didn’t necessarily want to or understand why it needed to be done. A large majority of the time I could achieve this voluntarily without the use of enforcement tools. I believe I can use the skills involved in working out those types of agreements when interacting with fellow Supervisors toward a specific cause.”
Holding local office is often a balancing act between keeping taxes low and maintaining services: How do you plan to achieve both?
“County services at the infrastructure level need improvement. There are many grants available for these types of improvements and Federal Stimulus plans have already sent the County funds earmarked toward those types of improvements. If future federal stimulus plans materialize there will be even more funding available that will not affect the local taxpayer.”
If you were elected tomorrow and given the ability to permanently change one thing about your community: What would it be?
“If I could change one thing in our community, it would be that more citizens would become involved in serving the community, be it volunteering on committees, running for office, organizing/working Need drives or even roadside pickups. I feel it is the best way to share new ideas and perspectives when you get different groups of people together. In Seneca County this year only 4 out of 10 possible supervisor positions are being challenged and only 7 out of 21 town council positions are being contested. This needs to improve to grow as a community. As a supervisor I would not propose some sort of community service mandate, but I will highly encourage our citizens to become involved, attend meetings, voice their opinions and take part in our Democracy.”
As a follow-up: What is one thing your community does right that you’d like to reinforce if elected?
“Seneca County has recognized the importance of mental health and has been a strong supporter of programs aimed at addressing some of these issues. Most recently the role of law enforcement in reacting to mental health crisis has been identified and the County has received a 2.8-million-dollar grant to begin a new program to better respond to those events. I believe this is an innovative and positive initiative that would have my full support.”
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?
“In Seneca Falls, I think that Local Law 3 staying in effect is vital to the long-term sustainability of not only Seneca Falls but also of the Village of Waterloo. Continued growth and expansion of the landfill will only increase odor issues that plague the area presently and will likely increase the probability of groundwater contamination. Tourism is the County’s future and our gateway into the area is dominated by a landfill that will only stunt business growth in the service industries needed to support those tourism-based businesses.”
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?
“Accessibility to offered services and information is a huge challenge to those not living in a village setting in Seneca County. A reliable and most importantly, an affordable means of connecting to the internet is a must for both our younger generation and our elders. Access is not enough for our older generation as many of them need training to navigate the online world. It is easy to become discouraged using technology that is new to you without the ability to get help.”
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?
“Respect, Honesty and Citizenship were values my parents stressed as I grew up. Those values have been the core of my life and how I approached my job as Principal Sanitarian with Seneca County. For over 30 years I have helped protect the citizens of Seneca County’s food, water, and air. Respect and Honesty were my biggest tools in accomplishing those protections and what I will bring to the table as a Seneca County Supervisor.”
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.