Rochester native junior political science and history major Matthew Cook and Geneseo native freshman Spanish major Mary Rutigliano are running as independents for trustee positions on Geneseo’s Board of Trustees. Cook and Rutigliano are running against Democratic incumbent Trustee Bob Wilcox, Democratic former Chair of the Livingston County Democratic Committee Phil Jones and Republican Geneseo resident Leslie Carson. The election will be held on March 15 and polls will be open from 12–9 p.m. According to Mayor Richard Hatheway, the trustees’ main concerns are that of public safety and public works. The trustees meet with the public safety committee—which includes the fire and police departments—and the public works committee, which includes the street department and dealings with water and sewer systems. Additionally, trustees are in charge of the court and administrative offices, as well as collecting taxes.
Both Cook and Rutigliano’s campaigns are managed by junior Samuel Larkin and senior Sean Perry. According to Cook, the students decided to run together so that their campaigns appeared more professional. Both students noted that they have not been able to attend trustee board meetings, but have been reading the minutes to remain informed.
The candidates described the lack of student participation in the town’s government as their main reason for running.
“What I’ve noticed is that there’s basically a wall on Main Street. A lot of what you won’t see are students from the campus going up the hill and members of the community coming back down,” Cook said. “There’s no dialogue; there’s no discourse between the two. So what I wanted to do was put the two together and really form one Geneseo.”
Rutigliano expressed her optimism that her experience living in the town of Geneseo can serve to help break down this wall.
“I lived in Geneseo my whole life and I think I can see issues from both sides of Main Street,” she said. “This is both my home and my college.”
Hatheway, however, said that he believes that the collaboration of the College and Village has never been an issue.
“The collaboration between the Village and the College has always been excellent. We have regular meetings with officials of the College; the Village is included in a lot of the College responsibilities,” he said. “There’s a lot of communication that goes on already. I would say that of all the college towns that we’ve ever heard of, this is the closest village-college community that’s around.”
Trustee Bob Wilcox cited such collaboration with regards to his position as co-chair of the Healthy Campus Community Coalition, which works with the college and the community in regards to issues concerning alcohol and other drugs. According to Wilcox, this is where the Social Host Law came from.
Cook and Rutigliano both agreed that the issue of the Social Host Law is something that they hope to tackle if elected as trustees. Rutigliano—who attended last week’s panel—noted that she believes that there has been a lack of effective dialogue between the community and the college about the law, citing the recent Social Host Law panel discussion on Feb. 2 as a clear example.
“What struck me about the forum was that it wasn’t necessarily dialogue-based,” she said. “The village, college administration and students need to come together as advocates and equals for public health and safety.”
Wilcox and his campaign manager Chairperson of the Geneseo Town Democratic Committee Susan Bailey said they consider the Social Host Law as an effective deterrent of underage drinking.
“The heavy fines are really designed to deter people because apparently before the Social Host Law, when people got arrested for underage drinking, they just sort of flip over their credit cards,” Bailey said. “So the idea behind the large fines—and it’s $250 first offense, $500 after that—was to get attention but not to make it part of the criminal record.”
Wilcox added that the student candidates have neglected to seek support from the town’s Democratic or Republican organizations. “Let’s say that a student wanted to run and our caucus nominated them and they ran,” he said. “They would have a body of 12–15 older, more experienced people who would serve to guide them and help them.”
Cook, however, said that he does not have faith in the capabilities of these organizations.
“What we’ve noticed in the last few years is that those organizations really haven’t represented the majority of what the Village is feeling,” he said. “They’ll pass things and they’ll initiate programs that people don’t really feel are the big things that they should address.”
Cook and Rutigliano added that in order to gain the support of fellow students and civilians, they have created a Facebook group, met with a variety of student organizations and knocked on townspeople’s doors.
Hatheway emphasized that during the election, he hopes that everyone keeps in mind that the position of a trustee is serious.
“Serving as a trustee is not a frivolous thing … As long as people are willing to take it seriously and accept responsibility and offer their thoughts, that’s good,” he said. “If people are interested in being in a collaborative environment where we work together, we welcome them no matter who they are or what their age. But again, it is serious.”