Two in race for Margaretville mayor's post

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By Geoff Samuels
Lauren Davis and Diana Cope both filed petitions to run for the position of mayor of Margaretville. The deadline for filing petitions was February 13.

The winner will succeed Bill Stanton, who decided not to seek re-election after spending 10 years as mayor. Profiles of each candidate follow. Davis has run for the mayoral post on two other occasions. This is Cope’s first campaign for public office.

Lauren Davis
“To be mayor gives you credentials to do things that you can’t do as a private citizen, that’s the driving force,” stated Lauren Davis in his recent interview with the News.
Davis said up front that he’s seeking those credentials because he feels that over the next couple of years, with the amount of money flowing into flood-related projects in Middletown, there will be very good opportunities to improve things in the village itself. He said further that the village needs an advocate to make sure that the correct things get done, and that he is probably the most qualified person in the area for that purpose.

“I strongly believe that our community has a lot going for it,” says Davis, “and my strength is in project management. The key is communication…and every time there is a controversy, I will make a concerted effort to try to help people differentiate between facts and strong opinions.”

Village native
Davis was born in Margaretville and lives in an old farmhouse on Main Street where his family has lived since 1918. He attended Clarkson University (formally Clarkson College of Technology) and became a chemical engineer. From there, he joined the Airborne Division of the Army and was sent to Germany to be in the 4th Armored Division where was engaged in the construction of floating bridges for two years.

After returing from his tour of duty, Davis went to work for Monsanto in Springfield, MA. Once he became established at that company, he continued to work for them in various other locations such as Cincinnati, OH and Long Beach, CA. After 32 years of work as a project engineer, he returned to the family home in Margaretville.

If he becomes mayor, Davis says one of the issues he intends to concentrate on is flood preparedness, and what happens in the immediate aftermath of a flood. Davis has had firsthand experience here, as the house that he called home for so many years suffered extensive damage in the recent flood from Hurricane Irene.

“This house is not my home anymore” he said, as he pointed to the high-water mark almost half way up his living room wall. “All of the books and stuff were ruined…that experience is very powerful.”
He went on to say that he was now living kind of sparsely, alluding to the fact that he has not replaced many of the items that were destroyed.

Davis praised the Middletown Flood Commission for the excellent work that it is doing, but says there is still more work to be done to make sure that the smaller, individual situations can be taken care of more rapidly. He used the juxtaposition of the phrase “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” with “I’m your neighbor, what is it that you need?” to bring home his point.
He contends that the cost of flood cleanup depends a lot on what happens during the first 24 to 48 hours after the event, and that if you can get a home cleaned up and dried out within that time, the cost is far less than if the clean-up is delayed.

“Once the mold sets in,” he said, “the cost is out of hand.”
Another issue important to Davis is the Route 30 traffic through the village. He noted that it is sometimes very difficult for truck traffic to make it around the corner from Route 30 to Bridge Street, but that he has no pre-conceived notions of how to solve this problem.

“The Route 30 issue is something where there are absolutely no facts yet,” he said, “so my job would be to go out and get the facts.”

Noting that flooding issues and Route 30 issues go together, Davis said it was his strong opinion that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be replacing the Route 30 Bridge within the next five years, and that his idea would be to gather up a “want list” from the business community and present it to the DOT with the hopes that they would accommodate the village’s needs as much as possible when the new bridge finally gets built.

There are other problems that aren’t facing us right away either says Davis, but we just can’t afford to let them slide. For instance, the Freshtown Market is a very valuable resource that needs to be protected.

“That’s a decision that cannot be ignored,” he said. “If we can’t protect it, then we’ve got to make sure that it is moved in a way that it’s beneficial to the village.”
When it comes to community issues, Davis says that it’s about how the community members themselves take responsibility for the long-term success of their families that counts. He feels these are things that must be addressed through the school board, the Interfaith Council, the Rotary, and the hospital.

One example he gave would be to bring kids over to the hospital on a routine basis and whisper in their ear, “This is a good way to spend your life…helping people.”
These kinds of things can be taken care of as the opportunities present themselves, says Davis, but things like flooding and Rt. 30, those must be “pro-active.”
When asked about the absence of the “Holiday Express” parade over the last few years, Davis replied that those types of things weren’t the function of the village. “The function of the village is to support and facilitate,” he said, “but it is not the primary organizer…there are some issues that only the business community itself can solve.”

Davis says he’ll be running on the “Community” party line. The election is to be held on March 19.

Diana Cope
“I think I could do a good job…I think I could make a difference, and I’d like to see some of the projects that the mayor and the board have been dealing with completed,” said Diana Cope in a recent interview with the News.

Cope recounted how the mayor had impressed upon her that he didn’t want to run for another term and that he thought she should “try it.”

“One day” she explained, “I just said to myself, I can do this, I can put my energy into this village that I love very much…and I have the time.”

When asked about her vision of what lies ahead, she says that it’s now a matter of putting into place the groundwork that Mayor Stanton and the board have been working on.

“What I would like to see is a completion of everything that’s been laid out…all the hard work that was put in by Bill and the board… I’d like to see that come to fruition…the bulkhead, Swart Street, the sidewalk project…I would also like to see something done about Bull Run, because people up there are losing a lot of their yards (to erosion).”

Cope was born in the town of Nashville, IN and moved to Brooklyn at the age of 17. Ten years later in 1984, she and her first husband bought a second home in Fleischmanns. After spending one summer there, they decided not to go back to Brooklyn. In 2001, after going through a divorce, she married her second husband, Bruce Schwarz, who had been coming to the area since the 1950s, and they settled into a house on Orchard Street in Margaretville.

One of the main motivations for moving to this area said Cope was her four daughters, all of whom have graduated from Margaretville Central School. She says they loved the idea of living in the country, of having the freedom of the outdoors, and being able to go to the park or have friends over.

“You can’t find a better place to raise children” she said.

Sense of community
Another reason Cope is happy to be here is the sense of community which she says is another big plus for the area.

“Your neighbors aren’t just your neighbors,” she says. “They are your family; these are the people you see all the time that you depend on and they depend on you. In almost 30 years,” she said, “I’ve never felt alone living here…even when I was living in a place where I didn’t have a lot of neighbors.”

Cope has most always been involved with some type of community work. While living in Brooklyn, she was employed at the Union Center for Women, a non-profit organization offering residential and support services to women in need.

Since coming to the Catskills, she has worked for the Office for Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, (now the OPWDD) as well as the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). She also worked with local orthodontist Dr. William Cole for 14 years. She recently completed a three-and-a-half year stint as director of the Fairview Library. At the suggestion that she was a “people person,” she laughed and said, “Absolutely, I’m told that’s my strong point…we’ll see.”

Cope says the village has gone through a lot in the past year, but she’s optimistic, and thinks everyone has done a spectacular job in terms of recovering from the flood. She pointed out that a year ago, the Freshtown market hadn’t opened up yet; people were starting to lose hope, nobody knew what was going on with some of the buildings on Main Street, and there was still a lot of talk about whether some businesses were going to stay or leave.

Bouncing back
“Here we are a year later,” she said, “and it almost looks like Margaretville again.”

Cope is also concerned about when the Swart Street Bridge will be replaced. She considers it a safety hazard because of the extra distance the fire trucks would have to go to put out a fire in that neighborhood. The problem she says is that, legally, the bridge measures just a few inches too long for the village to be responsible for it, and therefore it’s up to the county to replace it. She said that she had heard the bridge would be replaced sometime in the spring, but that “it seems like a lot of things are supposed to happen this spring.”
In terms of our relationship to New York City, Cope says it’s hard not to feel like we’re getting the
short end of the stick. But on the other hand, she emphasizes that we really do need to keep moving forward.

“You would like to think that we could get along and work this stuff out,” she said, adding that we should go back to the original premise of why the city did this to begin with. “They did it because it’s cheaper for them…and if we’re going to keep giving, I think the city needs to keep giving also.”

Need cooperation
Cope says she doesn’t see how the city loses anything by living up to its word, and she doesn’t see how they could challenge the assessment on the sewer plant.

“You’re telling me that this plant is worth less now than it was worth a few years ago?” she said. “It’s not as though they shut it down, it’s still going, and they need it.”

With all the problems that this area faces, Cope still looks at the future optimistically.
“Even if we had another catastrophic event and Freshtown were to leave…do I think Margaretville would fold up and die, no,” she said. “I think we would be very different, but there are other places where people could build.”