December 2, 2021

New faces dot Cortland council races

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A sample ballot is shown Friday inside the Cortland County Board of Elections in Cortland. Election races this November feature many returning candidates along with some newcomers.

Expect nearly half of the city of Cortland’s wards to have a new representative on Common Council next year, as three wards have no incumbent and two others have a contested race.

Wards 1, 3, 4 and 5 will feature a new representative compared to the beginning of 2021 as Kat McCarthy (D-1st Ward) resigned in September, Bruce Tytler (D-3rd Ward) is running for mayor and John Bennett (D-4th Ward) and Jacki Chapman (D-5th Ward) are not seeking re-election.

Ward 8, between incumbent Republican Tom Michales and Democrat Melissa Kiser is the only ward to feature a contested race involvingan incumbent.

This year’s election also features a diverse field of candidates, including two Black candidates and an LGBT advocate.

WARD 1

Republican and Conservative Wayne Schutt II challenges incumbent Democrat Samantha Adams.

Adams is a project coordinator with Cortland Prevention Resources’ LGBT Resource Center.

She has served as councilperson for the 1st Ward since September when Kat McCarthy resigned to move out of the ward.

Adams said she wants to work on giving voices to underrepresented groups, focus on improving city roads and improve accessibility and understanding of Common Council meetings.

Adams noted how she was part of the process to make the city charter gender-neutral to improve inclusivity and by running, she hopes she can help “make this a place people can feel safe calling it home.”

Schutt is a project consultant at Crown Construction and serves as a member of the Disabled American Veterans Cortland Memorial Chapter 153.

The biggest item Schutt wants to focus on is the reconfiguration of the Guthrie Cortland Medical Center parking lot and the closing of a part of Alvena Avenue, he said. Schutt said he wants more details of how things are changing to be brought to the public and how that will affect the ward and city.

Additionally, he wants to be able to work out a way to get more details and information to the public about events affecting the city.

WARD 2

Incumbent Democrat Kathryn Silliman is unchallenged.

WARD 3

William “Bud” Diescher, a Republican and Conservative, faces Democrat Mary ClarePennello to succeed Democrat Bruce Tytler, who is running for mayor.

Diescher works at Gator’s Tavern and is working on starting a barbecue catering business.

He has lived in the 3rd Ward for more than 35 years and has coached for the Cortland Youth Bureau and the Cortland Junior High School. He is active in fundraising efforts, including school PTO events. He was active in 2020 in Cortland’s Back the Blue movement.

Diescher decided to run as he wants the city to be great for its kids and remain great as they raise their families. He said his main priority is to listen to and solve the concerns of the ward’s constituents.

Pennello works in the urology department at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center.

She has been an English teacher in the DeRuyter and Homer school districts and was the director of special education in the Dryden Central School District.

She is treasurer for the Cortland YWCA, is on the St. Mary’s School committee and is a member of the Zonta Club.

Penello ran for the Cortland County Legislature in 2007 but lost.

Her priorities are to strengthen city zoning enforcement, especially around SUNY Cortland, collaborate with city police to make sure they get the support and training they need and continue to oversee and research funding opportunities for city infrastructure projects.

WARD 4

Democrat Pat Lane faces Republican and Conservative Francis Endler in a campaign to succeed John Bennett.

Lane is a tutor in Homer with the Liberty Partnership Program through SUNY Cortland, helping support at-risk students. She was a special education teacher at Cortland High School for 25 years, retiring in 2014.

Lane said she became involved in politics in 2016, volunteering in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and then in Anthony Brindisi’s 2018 Congressional campaign.

Her priorities include fixing city streets and sidewalks, getting the Parker Elementary School project going, getting SUNY Cortland students more involved with city projects and working to divert tractor-trailer traffic from Route 13 to 281, ifpossible.

Endler, who did not respond to requests for comment, is the owner of Fran Endler Professional Service, a home appliance repair business and maintains service contracts with major appliance manufacturers for warranty work, according to the Cortland County Republican Committee.

He is a U.S. Air Force veteran and plays trombone with Dixieland groups and in the Old Timers Band.

WARD 5

Republican and Conservative Wayne Rivers faces Democrat Seth Thompson in a race to succeed Democrat Jacki Chapman.

Rivers is a self-employed general contractor and an assistantcoach with the girls varsity basketball team at Cortland HighSchool. He also has experience coaching youth football in Homer and the CNY Heat Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, he said.

Rivers said he’s running because there is a lack of interaction between members of the council and city residents. He also wants to get more people involved with community events like youth athletics and wants to help beautify the city with work like fixing sidewalks and roads.

As a contractor, he’s worked with people from all different backgrounds and viewpoints,which he said will help him on council.

Thompson is the associate vice president for student services and senior diversity officer at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Staying connected within the community will be a main platform item, he said. He wants to address poor street conditions and inadequate broadband access.

Thompson said he believes his job with the college, which requires lots of listening to students and faculty and making sure to follow up on their concerns, will help him.

WARD 6

Republican Thomas Guido has dropped out of the race, leaving incumbent Democrat William Carpenter uncontested.

Carpenter is a police officer with the Cornell University Police Department. He retired from the Cortland Police Department in 2008 after 21 years.

Carpenter was a 5th Ward councilperson from 2015 to 2019, and since 2019 as the 6th Ward councilperson.

His priorities include overseeing the reduction of the 40 mph speed limit on Route 13 near Morningside Drive to 30 mph and fixing water and drainage issues. The area, he said, needs new catch water basins.

Guido has withdrawn, but too late to remove his name from the ballot, Cortland County Republican Chairwoman Connie White said.

WARD 7

Incumbent Democrat Troy Beckwith is unopposed for a seat to which he was first elected in 2017. He said he hopes to focus on Cortland’s economy, including growing tourism.

WARD 8

Democrat Melissa Kiser challenges incumbent Thomas Michales, the Republican and Conservative nominee.

Kiser owns a business thathelps make sure people with disabilities get state funding they’re entitled to, she said. She also helps people get connected to support services like therapy.

As a lead organizer of Cortland’s Black Lives Matter group, Kiser said police accountability, continued reform, community engagement and addressing national issues at a local level will be key components of her platform.

Kiser, who was a part of the state-mandated community task force to bring insight into police reform in Cortland following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, said plans approved in April were realistic, but work remains.

Michales has represented the 8th Ward since 2003. He retired in April from Intertek after 34 years as a senior safety project engineer.

One of his top priorities is to keep taxes low while still providing services. Additionally, he wants to continue to work and keep the neighborhoods in his ward safe and drug free.

Michales noted when he first started representing the ward, there were problems of drug creation and selling in the neighborhood, and he said hebuilt connections with his constituents that focused on the “see something, say something” level of communication.

He also wants to revitalize the tennis courts and field next to the Randall School.