Cambridge voters must choose between two lifelong residents who have both served as supervisor.
We found clear differences in how they approach the job.
Beaver Watkins, a retired state worker who served four years as supervisor before current supervisor Cassie Fedler took over, is a staunch fiscal conservative who would fight tooth and nail over every nickel spent. He criticized the current supervisor for being over the tax cap each year since she was elected.
“I run a municipality like I run my own home,” Watkins said.
Fedler, who owns a dairy farm she built from the ground up with her husband over the past 22 years, blames Watkins for spending down savings accounts for new equipment purchases that have left the town in a hole.
“I was on the board for four years and Watkins cut salaries and cut back on the equipment fund to balance the budget,” Fedler said.
Fedler expects this year’s budget will be over the tax cap as well.
Watkins also criticized Fedler for not accounting for $23,000 in snow removal revenues the county usually pays to the town for plowing County Route 60.
Fedler explained the Washington County Board of Supervisors has not made the decision to spend that money yet. She says if they do, those monies will be put into the new equipment fund.
Watkins was critical of just about everything Fedler has done as supervisor, including giving the highway superintendent — her brother — a raise. Her brother was actually elected as highway superintendent and the raise, according to Fedler, had been approved before he won the election. It was less than $5,000 and the salary is not excessive.
“I make sure all decisions by the highway superintendent go through a highway committee to avoid any conflicts,” she said.
The longer we talked to Fedler, the more impressed we were. We found she had a good grasp on the town finances and a plan for the future.
“I don’t believe in being a supervisor that makes all the decisions.” Felder said. “I pass on the information to the Town Board. Same with the budget, we go over everything together. I walk them through it.”
Fedler says stagnant revenues continue to be a problem and pointed out that the mortgage tax was off in the first half year of this year, so she has cut back projections for the rest of the year.
Fedler joined the Town Board shortly after a comprehensive plan was proposed to provide the town protection from over-development.
But the plan was not received well in the agricultural community.
“You can’t say zoning in the town of Cambridge,” Watkins said. “But you can say plan.”
Watkins talked about “plans” that might protect the town if a large development was ever proposed.
Fedler still does not think the time is right to revisit the issue.
“It was very restrictive,” Fedler said. “It is still a sore subject.”
When we got to county issues, we also found differences between the two candidates.
Fedler believes the new marketing for tourism the county is using is fine for now, while Watkins believes tourism marketing is a waste of money.
“I don’t see what they (tourists) are going to come here for,” Watkins said. “To pick apples.”
It appears that Cambridge is in a tough spot economically with stagnant revenues, and it doesn’t appear that will change anytime soon.
While we liked that Watkins was proactive about the comprehensive plan — the town has to address the issue at some point — and realistic about tourism, we believe Fedler’s planning-for-a-rainy-day approach to town finances is what is best for the community right now.