Newly elected Potsdam town councilors see urgency in economic, environmental issues

Nov. 8—POTSDAM — The town board will see three of five seats changing hands on Jan. 1. Two town councilor seats will be held by David A. Sanford and Christine M. Paige, both Democrats.

They replace Nicole A. Kennedy, who is not seeking another term, and Marty G. Miller, a one-term councilor who successfully ran for town supervisor. He'll replace Supervisor Ann M. Carvill, who did not run for reelection. The board will remain entirely Democratic.

A newcomer to the town board, Sanford says his immediate priorities upon taking office will be supporting decisions he sees as making the town more business friendly.

"I think when new businesses want to come in, they need to be welcomed, and the process for getting permits and things has got to be streamlined," he said.

He believes the current process of applying for necessary permits to open a new business can make business owners feel like they're "getting stonewalled."

"I'm not throwing rocks at the way they're doing it now. We've got to make it easier," he said.

Sanford also wants to prioritize improving town roads that see frequent use, but don't have striping and also have narrow shoulders. He wants to make them safer and also improve roadways in anticipation of more people moving to rural areas like the north country.

"I think the town of Potsdam could see ... an increase in people coming up here to live because of climate change, because of working from home, and it's relatively sparsely populated," he said Wednesday. "I think the town needs to consider that in a long-range vision."

On the safety side of road maintenance, he would like to see roads that were once "farm to market, or a local residents' road" like Morley-Potsdam get striped and have wider shoulders installed. It's often used as a cut-through between Potsdam and Canton to avoid Route 11.

"I think we need to first count the traffic on the road ... we can do a few improvements to roads that don't cost a lot of money, like striping or better shoulders," he said.

Sanford said he's spoken to incoming St. Lawrence County Sheriff Patrick R. "Rick" Engle about doing more speed enforcement on back roads, but the department has its own staffing problem.

"He fully understands that, as far as enforcement goes," Sanford said.

Paige, another newcomer to town government, says she's coming in with an open mind and a blank slate.

"I am not a politician, until now. I am obviously becoming one," she said Wednesday afternoon. "I haven't formed any opinions yet. I think for myself and I have to get information before I can make an opinion on the best or worst way to go about things."

Despite taking a tabula rasa approach to beginning her term, Paige says she sees urgency in taking local action on environmental issues.

"When I go through Potsdam and I stop at all those lights, I look around and see all the gas and energy that's being wasted, including mine. That bothers me so much," she said.

She says she wants constituents to feel free to approach her anywhere to discuss town issues.

"I want them to feel free to approach me because that's what I'm there for," Paige said.

The village board of trustees is also seeing turnover for three out of the five seats. Alexandra M. Jacobs Wilke, a one-term trustee, was elected mayor after Mayor Reinhold J. "Ron" Tischler decided not to run again. There are also two new incoming trustees — Sharon V. Williams and Lynzie Schulte. The village board will also remain entirely Democratic.