Voters elect local representatives to office

Livingston County residents flooded to the poll booths to elect their local representatives on Tuesday Nov. 5. After months of campaigning and a contentious primary election, Sheriff’s Office Investigator Tom Dougherty defeated Undersheriff Jim Szczesniak for the office of Livingston County sheriff.

Republican candidates Patti LaVigne and Robert Irwin also landed the two available spots on the Geneseo Town Council, beating Democrat candidate John Zmich.

The path leading to Tuesday’s victory was not a smooth one, especially for the candidates for sheriff. Dougherty announced his candidacy in December 2012 and Szczesniak in February 2013, but both men had campaigned tirelessly from June 2013 to election night.

As sheriff, Dougherty said he plans to implement the closest car concept, meaning that, when the police are called in, the closest police car in the area will respond to the call, regardless of whether it’s a county or state patrol car. According to Dougherty, this will “increase public safety, increase better response times and be more fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ money.”

In outlining his qualifications for the position, Dougherty described himself as a “positive person that leads by example” and stands by his conviction that “it’s much easier to lead when you have people willing to follow.”

While Szczesniak said he is disappointed by the outcome of the election, he also said he would not have changed anything about his campaign in retrospect. He said he enjoyed the opportunity to demonstrate to voters what the sheriff’s office is all about, and that his main priority now is to “see that the sheriff’s office is unified once again and to refocus on the task of public safety.”

LaVigne, who has experience on the town planning board, will be a new addition to the town council. She said she believes her background as a nurse practitioner will help her assimilate to the new position, since her already-developed skills of listening to people will apply nicely to a job on town council.

“I will work very hard to serve the people that have elected me and shown their faith to me,” LaVigne said.

LaVigne said her top priority as a council member will be to upgrade the zoning code, which has been in place since the 1970s. This system operates on the Euclidean model of keeping different aspects of the town separate, although LaVigne said that mixed development is better for fostering a community atmosphere. She said she wants to continue to foster the relationship between the village and town governments in Geneseo, as well as maintain the aspects that make Geneseo unique.

Overall, LaVigne’s goals include a desire to be an effective and accessible public figure and to offer a fresh set of eyes to the town board without bringing in any preconceived ideas.

“I hope to be available, accessible and open-minded,” LaVigne said. “If I’m going to be a change agent, then I have to walk the walk.”

In addition to the Sheriff and town council elections, state residents also voted on six pieces of proposed legislation Tuesday. Five of the six passed, including a proposal for seven new casinos in New York State, a grant for additional civil service credit to disabled veterans, a proposition to exclude from the debt expense accumulated from the construction of sewage facilities, the resolution of competing claims regarding a stretch of land in Hamilton County, and finally a proposal to allow NYCO Minerals to continue mining in Essex County. The final proposal, which increased the maximum age of judges on the Court of Appeals from 70 to 80, was the only one to fail.