QUEENSBURY — Travis Whitehead is counting on 190 Independence Party voters to put him on the ballot in November.
He is vying for the party line in the June 25 primary, against Ward 4 Town Board member Jennifer Switzer.
It would be his only line in the November election. Switzer has the Democratic line.
Whitehead went to a Republican committee meeting to seek an endorsement, with the intention of running for supervisor against Democratic Supervisor John Strough. But he told The Post-Star Editorial Board that the committee wasn’t interested.
“At one point they said, ‘Why don’t we just endorse John Strough?’” Whitehead said. “It was clear there was not support for a run against him.”
Friends suggested he start by becoming a Town Board member, which he said was a good idea. So he is running for his ward seat.
He decided to run on the Independence Party line because he’s a member — although he, like many, picked it because it sounds like an independent party. Of course, it’s not, he acknowledged. It is usually controlled by certain interests — such as firefighter or police unions — who cross-endorse major party candidates in return for getting support. No one was endorsed by the party in this race.
“It would be nice if it truly was a party for independents,” he said.
He is going door to door to make his case to the 190 registered members of the Independence Party in Ward 4. Switzer said she is not campaigning hard, but instead focusing on her Town Board work.
The Editorial Board questioned Whitehead on how he could translate his analysis of government to a job working within the government.
Whitehead’s research into contracts and spending uncovered several incidents of fraud. His work led to the arrest of Dave Decker, director of the Lake George Watershed Coalition, who is now accused of fraud.
His analysis of energy savings from Warren County’s geothermal and cogeneration projects with Siemens led to the county getting a $500,000 settlement, because the county hadn’t saved as much as Siemens had reported.
More recently, he persuaded the town not to enter into another energy-savings agreement with a consulting firm that would have saved only $1 a year, at best, he said.
Whitehead said he’s good at finding these problems, but would be more effective if he could stop them before they happened.
“If I had been able to vote my opinions eight years earlier when (the Siemens contract) was being considered, we might have saved millions,” he said. “Behind the scenes, and while a resolution is being put together, that’s where the discussion would be.”
He also acknowledged that he and Strough do not see eye to eye, but said he would avoid shouting matches at board meetings. He and Strough have shouted at each other several times in the past few years, and the differences between them remain deep.
At the Editorial Board meeting, Whitehead accused Strough of being deceptive, particularly in asking for a controversial $21,000 payment (to the energy consulting firm) moments after the new Town Board was sworn in and without mentioning the controversy.
“That infuriated me. He was being extremely disingenuous,” he said.
If elected, Whitehead said he also wants to have the next town budget based on actual spending from the previous years. Based on the more than $1 million left over at the end of each year and reported in each year’s audit, he believes the town could cut more than $1 million.
He thinks the town tax should also be reduced. This year, he asked the board to cut the town tax by 33 percent, and Strough defended the tax as necessary in case of an economic disaster. Whitehead doesn’t buy it.
“Clearly, if we’re bringing in a million-plus extra every year, you could make a significant cut,” he said.
On the new septic law, which requires inspection every time a waterfront property sells, he is strongly in favor and wants it expanded to the entire town. He wants to have all septic haulers send letters to customers who have not scheduled a pump-out in 10 years, which strongly indicates a leak.
On climate change, Whitehead is a member of the town’s Clean Energy Committee, and is strongly in favor of reducing usage of fossil fuels. But he is not convinced that human activity is causing climate change. He wants to conserve because fossil fuels are limited, valuable resources that would be better used as a source of plastic than as a source of automobile fuel, he said.
He supports plans such as a greenhouse gas inventory so that the town can measure the effectiveness of future clean-energy efforts, but said he would only support efforts that do not cost a “great deal of money.”
On digital signs, he does not want to allow large signs like the one outside Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.
“I’d hate for our town to start looking like Las Vegas,” he said.