More from the new Watkins Glen mayor
WATKINS GLEN--After a close village election, there will be several new faces sitting on the Watkins Glen village board. New Mayor Samuel Schimizzi along with trustees Gary Schmidt and Kevin Thornton ousted former Mayor Mark Swinnerton and former Trustee Scott Gibson during the election Wednesday, March 18. The newly elected village representatives will officially take their office at the organizational meeting to be held April 6.
After unseating the incumbent mayor, Schimizzi said he felt surprised when he learned the results.
"The people have spoken," Schimizzi said. "[...] We are going to try to do the best we can for the people of Watkins Glen."
According to the trio's Facebook page, Schimizzi is a lifelong resident of Watkins Glen and has been a Cargill employee for 27 years. He has also previously served for two terms on the school board of the Watkins Glen Central School District.
Schimizzi said he worked as part of a team with Schmidt and Thornton, as each of them ran on the Democratic line during the election. He said all three of them went door-to-door in the village in order to garner support from voters.
Schimizzi said one of the issues he ran on included concerns with the regional wastewater treatment plant to be shared with Montour Falls, along with the accompanying rate increases. He said when going door-to-door, he found many residents not only did not know many details about the project, but were also worried about how much it would cost them. Schimizzi said he does not plan to immediately go into office and try to eliminate the project, adding he and the board plan to look at the issue closer and make the best decision for the village once they know more.
"They are worried about the cost," Schimizzi said. "We are not sure what we are going to do. We need to get in there and see what is going on."
Schimizzi said his concern with the regional wastewater treatment plant was one of the things that made him interested in running for office. While he said he does not know what gave him the edge to put him over the incumbents aside from the voters wanting a change, he did mention voter turnout was lower than usual.
"There was a low turnout," Schimizzi said. "I wish more people would turn out and vote."
Schimizzi said his top priorities upon taking office will center on village infrastructure.
"Our roads are in bad shape, the pipes underneath, we have had a lot of water main breaks. Our sewer pipes leading to the sewer plant, we are getting a lot of rain water and other things in there and causing problems. We have got to start taking care of problems that nobody has taken care of for years."
Schmidt said he also shared concerns about the regional wastewater treatment plant. He said aside from those who attended a few public meetings held on the issue, a lot of the village residents he talked to when he went door-to-door did not know a lot about the project. Schmidt said while he understands the previous board had put a lot of effort into the wastewater plant, he felt as if they were trying to rush it through. Schmidt said there is still a lot more he needs to find out about the project before he can decide what direction to go with the project.
"I don't have all the answers right now, but I will," Schmidt said. "I am ready for it. We will figure it out and do the right thing for the residents and taxpayers."
Schmidt has been a resident of Watkins Glen for the last 23 years and is a former Cargill employee. He said he had to retire when he required a lung transplant. Schmidt said the community came together and held a fundraiser for him when he was in need, adding he wants to be able to give back to the community when in office.
Schmidt said one of his other priorities includes focusing on Main Street in the village, adding he would like to see more focus there before the village moves on toward improving the waterfront. He also describes himself as "a pretty good bean counter," and believes he will have some good input when the village works on its annual budgets.
Thornton is a 20 year resident of Watkins Glen and is employed by Ithaca College as a production facilities manager, according to the group's Facebook page. He said he was excited to learn he had won a trustee seat in the election, adding he felt the residents wanted change after speaking to many of them.
"[I was] overjoyed," Thornton said. "I felt like I was kind of the underdog in the whole thing and I felt like a lot of people noticed that something had to change. We noticed that going door to door. We noticed more than we thought we would notice."