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 maybe there is a need — I know people are ready for someone new, are thirsting for a new approach, a new generation of leadership. People want candidates with proven experience but who are not tied to the old system.
What is the number one issue facing Dutchess County right now?
I think it’s one and one-A. First: property taxes. For years, voters have been looking for someone to put taxpayers first. I’ve done that. I crafted a lean, effective budget that did not raise taxes.
One-A is jobs. We need to focus on economic development and bring great-paying jobs to the county. That takes a multifaceted approach that includes getting rid of some of regulatory burdens to development here, to help developers get through the municipal planning process in a way that lets them invest quickly and in a streamlined manner. And of course, we have to do it in an environmentally sound way.
What else is on your agenda?
This is part of my idea about a new approach — we really need to brand ourselves as a great place for the next generation of clean manufacturing. We are uniquely positioned for this. We have a skilled technology workforce and lots of empty workspace that can be retrofitted for new tech work. We should brand ourselves as the southern pole of Tech Valley, which runs from Westchester up to Albany/Saratoga. There is no reason why we shouldn’t get some of those firms coming here.
Why do you want the job?
I consider myself a public servant, not a politician. When I was young — younger — I didn’t aspire to elected life, but September 11 changed my whole mode of thinking. Not just me but a whole generation of people my age, in their 20s, went into public service. And as I have seen in my work in Beekman, government can have a real, positive impact on people’s lives. If I can play a small part in moving the county forward, I want to do that.
If not public service, what did you want to do back then?
I was looking to be a historian. I thought that would be a great career, learning history, maybe become a college professor and write some books. I was on track for a BA in history at SUNY Binghamton, but after September 11 I started taking more poly-sci courses. I did an internship for Rep. Maurice Hinchey. I would do case work, helping people with federal agency problems, like if they weren’t getting a Social Security check on time — all kinds of things. It was a tremendous way to see how government can help people. I really caught the public service bug.
What has been the most surprising thing about being in politics?
Besides learning what “frenemy” means? (Laughs.) Probably how close local government is to the people you serve. You go to the post office, the store, the gas station, and people come up and tell you what they think. Sometimes they thank you, sometimes they yell at you. But it’s an amazing thing.
What is your favorite Dutchess County restaurant?
Hmmm. I don’t want to make anyone angry here; I guess I have to say Beech Tree Grill, near Vassar. It’s a small, really nice place. They feature local stuff and have different specials every night. It’s a really cool spot.
What do you do for fun?
My top thing is playing soccer, but the hardest thing about this campaign is that I don’t have time to play. I had to hang up my cleats. Once the campaign is over, I am looking forward to getting back to that.
- Dan French
What’s the best part about living in the Hudson Valley and what is the most frustrating thing?
I love the natural beauty of the area. The more I see of the rest of the country, the better it is to come home. And we have everything here — culture, history, wonderful resorts like the Mohonk Mountain House and proximity to New York City. There is no other place like it that I’ve seen.
The most frustrating thing is that the area clearly is not affordable, especially for the next generation. If we are not keeping young professionals here, it will really hurt the whole community. It’s so frustrating that far too many of my college peers and some of my best friends have moved away. This is the Empire State. They should be making their dreams come true here.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the Valley?
Sundays are great. I go to church in the morning, and then if I’m not watching football — I can’t do that anymore either — I go into one of the villages. My sister is in Rhinebeck, and I’ll go check it out there, then maybe do something outdoors. That’s the ideal way to spend a beautiful weekend, especially in the fall.
How did you meet your fiancé?
I got engaged this summer, and it’s a funny story. Her best friend was dating one of my best friends, and they invited us on a double date. Those two cancelled, but we went out anyway, and we hit it right off. We knew it right away. She’s been very helpful in the campaign, coming to events, making phone calls, but the main thing is just to be there as a friend. She’s my best friend as well as my fiancé.