It’s a challenge to encourage development in little rural towns like Greenwich.
“The town needs more businesses” — everyone says that, and of course it’s true.
But how do you attract businesses to agricultural towns nestled in the Washington County countryside? How do you persuade people to move there?
Sara Idleman, who has been the town’s supervisor for 10 years and is seeking re-election, has an answer: Improve the quality of life. Idleman emphasizes her efforts to expand the town’s parks and improve its hiking and biking trails; to coordinate the town’s efforts with those in other communities, including in Saratoga County; and to make regional trail connections, such as to the Champlain Canalway Trail, that will tap into the growing recreational tourism market.
This is a smart and effective strategy that plays to the town’s strengths. Greenwich has beautiful landscapes and a charming downtown. It has miles of country roads through rolling hills with very little traffic. It has an active and impressive local arts scene.
Grants for parks and the development of recreational and cultural opportunities are available, and under Idleman’s leadership, the town has tapped into those funding streams. She makes a persuasive case that improving the local quality of life can attract residents and entrepreneurs to Greenwich. The first priority is to make the town a place where smart, creative people want to live.PauseCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:00Stream TypeLIVELoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00Fullscreen00:00Mute
Idleman’s challenger, Don Ward, has an impressive background as a longtime federal law enforcement officer, including years as a top supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service. He handled budgets, communications, the setting of goals and oversaw 600 employees nationwide, Ward said. In hiring his personal staff, he liked to recruit people from a variety of backgrounds to get a diversity of thought, and he would use the skills he developed — listening to many voices, reaching consensus — in the supervisor’s job.
Ward identified the town’s “stagnant business environment” as a problem and said he would talk to business leaders interested in coming to Greenwich about the town’s friendly business environment and its other strengths. He stressed transparency, too, and pointed to the use of a website program by the town of Chester to continually update and explain its budget as “a great idea.” We agree with him on that.
We are not persuaded, however, that reaching out to business leaders is enough to make Greenwich grow. The town needs a vision, and Idleman has one that fits. Greenwich does not have a lot of money to spend — it cannot, for example, give big companies tax breaks to move to town, because it does not have tax dollars to spare. What it can do is play on its strengths — beautiful countryside and rural charm — to attract tourists and residents.
Idleman mentioned that the town budget now being formulated might exceed its tax cap and also that it includes a 4% raise for town employees. That raise could be reduced to ensure the budget stays under the tax cap, which would benefit all of the town’s residents. Idleman seemed unsure about details of the town’s finances — not ideal in a supervisor.
Nonetheless, we endorse Idleman’s vision for the town and believe she has been guiding it in the right direction. Ward is a good candidate, but we would like to see him get some local political experience, perhaps on the town Planning Board or on the Town Board, before taking on the supervisor’s duties. We encourage Greenwich residents to re-elect Sara Idleman.