Whitehall’s voters face a decision that is as much about style as it is about substance.
Pete Telisky is a likeable lifetime resident who is not afraid to talk up his accomplishments and experience since first becoming a village trustee as a young man — he was just 32 — in 1988. He went on to become town supervisor in 1995 and eventually became chairman of the Washington County Board of Supervisors.
John Rozell, also born and raised in Whitehall, has spent the past 37 years as a self-employed businessman — he is a contractor/carpenter — who has been on the Town Board for the past four years.
Telisky’s enthusiasm can be infectious, and after losing a contentious election in 2000, he took a few years off before getting back into village politics.
“I love what I do,” Telisky said. “I love doing this above anything else. I can’t think of anything that is more gratifying than when you get something accomplished.”
Rozell is also well known in community circles as president of the Whitehall Fish and Game Club and vice president of the Washington County Sporting Club while also playing a key role keeping local food pantries stocked.
“The great part of self-employment is that you know the value of a dollar and how to control it,” Rozell said, pointing out that the town has stayed under the state tax cap in each of his years on the Town Board.
He believes his connections in the community would allow him to get things done without much expense.
“There are people willing to volunteer their time to get things done,” Rozell said. “You just have to find them.”
Rozell believes the tax base is getting stronger with revenue from new solar arrays and the influx of Amish buying land. He also noticed many of the local businesses are looking for workers and believes a job fair might be helpful. But most of all, Rozell promises to hold the line on spending.
But our endorsement turned on what Rozell thought was the difference between the two candidates.
“I’m a doer and he is a talker,” said Rozell.
That stuck with us.
Telisky has a degree in education and regularly substitute-teaches at BOCES. He also is a New York state code enforcement officer. But more often than not, he has served a role in the village or county.
He says he has worked diligently for the town and village to share services with some success, but admits that the village has a “$24 million problem” with water and sewer, and state mandates continued to hinder him from making much progress.
While Rozell embraces the town as a separate entity, preferring to let the village handle enforcement of rundown properties, Telisky sees a future where the two need to work together to make progress.
“I’m super familiar with the town,” Telisky said. “I can make a difference. We need to devise a plan for economic development. We are hooked together. I don’t care what anyone says. I have the ability to do it, but we’re just fighting so many fires in the village.”
“This will be my last stand,” Telisky said. “We just need to get a younger generation interested. I can talk, but I can do, too.”
That brashness turned off our board to some extent, although we still believed Telisky was capable.
We decided the safe vote was for Rozell, but if Whitehall is looking for sweeping changes, then Telisky might be your man.