Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I Like Mike

This was my nominating speech for Mike Nielson at the Democratic caucus.

My name is kt Tobin Flusser and tonight I have the honor of nominating my friend Mike Nielson for Town of New Paltz Highway Superintendent.

Let me tell you why I like Mike.

Last winter, Mike told me he intended to run for Highway Superintendent. At that time I knew very little about the job and wondered why Mike would consider this a goal to aspire to.

Looking back, less than a year later, I have to ask: who would have thought that we could all get so excited about a Highway Superintendent candidate? Who would have thought we all would know so much more about what the job entails and how significantly the highway department impacts our daily lives?

Mike made that happen. He has energized and informed the public about the vital role the Highway Department plays in so many areas - and he has clearly outlined its specific impacts on our economy, on sustainability, and on recreation in our community.

For the past few months, we have been reading in the newspaper and hearing from many of our friends about Mike’s accomplishments. And from Mike himself we have learned his clearly articulated goals for our Highway Department.

Mike grew up in New Paltz and his wife Nikki hails from Gardiner. They are raising their adorable daughter Norah, a fifth generation Nielson, only four doors down from Mike’s great grandfather’s original house on Plains Road.

I like Mike because he is a life-long resident who knows our roads well — as a driver, a runner, and a cyclist. Our community is so blessed that someone with these varied perspectives and knowledge of our roads is running for this position. Plus, Mike is an approachable guy with a can-do attitude who has pledged to work towards providing pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle-friendly sustainable roads in our community.

Mike is a courageous person who has already served New Paltz for many years in our volunteer fire department. He is also a successful local business owner. I like that Mike will take a balanced approach to infrastructure challenges with a focus on the environment and our local economy. I believe he will be a great leader for the employees of the highway department, which is one of the largest in our town.

Mike has a wealth of experience directly relevant to running a Highway Department. Through his work in his own business which he has appropriately offered to set aside for the duration of his term, his volunteerism, and his athleticism, he offers a unique combination of skill sets that are truly suited to the job he is seeking.

The fact that he is a parent, a local business owner, a life-long New Paltz resident, a firefighter, a union member, a homeowner, a taxpayer, a runner, a cyclist, a civic volunteer, and a person who is concerned with both our environment and our local economy, proves he is exactly what we need in a Highway Superintendent.

Our community needs intelligent, thoughtful, and visionary leaders to meet the specific challenges facing New Paltz. Mike Nielson will be such a leader and because he possesses the strength of character and all the necessary qualities and skills needed for this position, he will be an exceptional Highway Superintendent when elected.

It is time to rethink the road ahead.

Vote for Mike Nielson on Tuesday November 3rd!


Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Phil Johnson is certainly an arrogant asshole, but he does seem to get the job done well. This new I like Mike guy expects to continue working full time in Kingston, has a private business and I heard he is also going to school in Dutchess county and has young children at home. He also does not have ANY significant management experience, large scale project experience or political experience. Is he going to be another one of Toni's puppets? Maybe that is OK with you KT, but not for many other in the community.

Terence said...

I don't get it, Anonymous. If you support a candidate, why wouldn't you want to admit who you are? Doesn't Phil deserve better? It's bad enough the man has to deal with people drawing unfair connections between him and his sister who's being indicted for embezzling a half a million or so, now because of you people might also say that Phil's supporters aren't willing to admit their names in the light of day. Neither statement is more than a logical fallacy, but you could have prevented folks from saying the second one by just signing your name, just like I always do. Give it a try sometime.

Martin McPhillips said...

I can't tell whether Phil Johnson is an arrogant asshole or not. I don't know him. I did briefly meet him once and he seemed fine to me. It strikes me that it can't hurt for the lord of the highways to have some roughneck in him.

The roads seem to be in good shape in all seasons, and from Don Kerr's (actually quite good) public access documentary about them, the road crews seem sharp and professional.

In fairness to Nielson, he doesn't seem to have been raised to be anyone's puppet, but he might not understand what the Teamsters are going to expect from him.

I would spare him the experience of finding out and reward Phil for doing a good job.

Billy said...

Will someone please tell me in practical terms how Nielsen will do the job given all his other committments. He seems like a good guy, but I can't see how he'll manage. All his supporters seem to raise this issue only long enough to dismiss it. They dance around the question. Nowhere have I seen him or his supporters say "this is what a typical day will look like for me" and break down how much time he'll be able to devote to the job.

Martin McPhillips said...

You raise a good point.

Nielson is on duty in Kingston. A classic upstate winter storm hits. The New Paltz highway crew goes to work without the boss.

That's a workable situation, one supposes, but is it optimum from a public safety point of view.

Suppose the situation were reversed, and Nielson's first obligation was to the highway job during a winter storm and he doesn't go in to the Kingston fire department.

That wouldn't be tolerated.

So, the question is, in a situation like that, if a rank and file fireman is essential to his shift in Kingston, then how can the superintendant of highways be unessential to a highway emergency (the winter storm) in New Paltz.

It's asking a lot to simply believe that those responsibilities can all be delegated, and that the person who hold those responsibilities need not be on the scene.

Mike Nielson said...

It always interests me that in today's day and age we still view a winter storm as an emergency. These "emergencies" are forecast a week ahead and before the first flake as fallen, we know with a high degree of accuracy how much snow we are likely to get. Coming from a Fire/Rescue background, I guess I just have a very different view of what constitutes an emergency.
That being said, I have been clearing snow commercially with Arcady Tractor Works for eight years now, and for years before that as part of MA Nielson Lawn Care. Since I have been employed by the Kingston Fire department I have not yet missed a storm in New Paltz. I believe that winter road safety is a paramount concern of the community, and I expect to continue my record of being available during winter storm "emergencies."

As to the work issue, I will point you all here:

See you all at the polls :)

Martin McPhillips said...

A snow emergency has that name because of the impact a winter storm can have, not exclusively but largely, on highways. Schools, sometimes businesses, must close. Driving at all has increased risks. There are dangerous conditions against which the activity and responsibilities of normal life must compete.

A great deal is at stake for people, including their livelihoods and their safety.

A highway team gets maxed out under those conditions, and a lot of things can go wrong.

It's not a specific emergency like a house fire or a cardiac arrest. It's a general emergency, where the issues faced by all responders and the public are increased. Ice and accidents. Power outages. Ability to respond to ordinary emergencies.

I've certainly never heard a fireman pooh-pooh the difficulties of firefighting under winter storm conditions, for instance. I've been led to understand that it's among the most exasperating situations they ever face on the job.

So excuse me if I find you saying, "Coming from a Fire/Rescue background, I guess I just have a very different view of what constitutes an emergency," just a tad too glib.

Also, you say at your website that being a fireman has never caused you to miss a snow storm in terms of your snow removal business. But that is a wholly different thing than managing an entire highway system.