Hudson Valley Political Elections 2011: Republican Marc Molinaro and Democrat Dan French Campaign for Dutchess County Executive
Poll position: Two young bloods vie for the job of Dutchess County Executive
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Both you and your opponent are very young. Is that what Dutchess County needs right now?
I think it is more of a coincidence than anything. I started in politics at 18, and funny enough, many young people ran for office after I did. There are a good number of talented young officials here, a significant number of colleges in Dutchess, and we have an intense base of young community volunteers and young entrepreneurs. So I think that in this election, the fact that we share a young age is more coincidence, though an inevitable coincidence.
What is the number one issue facing Dutchess County?
Jobs and economic growth. We need to restrict government to the delivery of core services. That’s the absolute priority. It goes hand-in-hand with reducing the tax burden and controlling government spending, so we don’t end up with a county government that isn’t financially sound.
We also need to position Dutchess County as the most competitive in the state. We have been down this road before, in the aftermath of IBM downsizing. The county reorganized and focused on growing the economy again.
- Marc Molinaro
I think the problem is more complex and severe today, and it’s more of a national and international crisis, but I think by restructuring again we can become not only competitive but also successful.
What else is on your agenda?
I marry economic growth with quality of life and public protection. I want to continue to improve our response to child abuse and child neglect. Domestic violence cases grow in hard economic times, and we need to better identify risks, prevent violence, and have a better response system in place. We need a more innovative model, and perhaps we can create a model that can be replicated elsewhere in the state or the country. I also want to address the aging infrastructure. We need a real repair-and-replacement schedule.
Why do you want this job?
This is where the rubber hits the road. In the current economy, if we challenge ourselves, we can really redefine democracy and government. We can establish a leadership position and show the rest of the state and country that a government that tackles its core responsibilities can be effective. With complex problems, when is there a better time to be innovative? I used to joke that the best part of going to Albany is coming home again. Well, it’s not a joke anymore. There is no better time to come back home and put to use the skills I’ve gained.
What has been the most surprising thing about being in politics?
Two things: one is more social, one is structural. I have seen that too many people are comfortable being partisan and not considering those they disagree with. Even when people agree they tend not to admit it. Leaders can have strong ideas and ideals, but in a democracy it’s about balancing personal ideals with delivering results. The pragmatic approach is what’s needed, because after all we are really a service-delivery organization.
From an institutional point, it’s the challenge of getting government to be more agile and responsive. I have seen that all levels of government are, shall we say, sluggish in nature. It shouldn’t take years to accomplish small goals.
What is your favorite Dutchess County restaurant?
You can’t make me do that! I like all of them! Okay, I will say I have been and always will be a fan of Santa Fe in Tivoli. I also like the Flatiron in Red Hook, and Alex’s in Poughkeepsie. I should also point out that I am Italian, and can eat a good meal anywhere.
What the best part about living in the Hudson Valley and what is the most frustrating thing?
The best is quality of life, no question. We have among the finest restaurants and natural resources, we are a hotbed of cultural and historical centers, and we have proximity to the city. We can enjoy everything that life is about in the valley, and in the city as well.
Most frustrating? Sadly, it’s the high cost of living. It shouldn’t be so difficult to make ends meet. After I pay all our bills, I think, “Why is there no more money in our bank account?”
What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the Valley?
Biking, either with my family or alone. My wife and I have tandem bikes with trailers, and we take the kids. We do all the rail trails or bike around the villages. I do about 25 miles a ride, three to four times a week. There is nothing like biking in the Hudson Valley.
What else do you do for fun?
Fishing, both in the Hudson and elsewhere. I do a lot hiking and wandering around Dutchess with my daughter. She really likes the Walkway Over the Hudson. And when I need to recharge, give me a ticket to any movie theater. I can recharge, quietly.