Abrams elected mayor of the village of Kinderhook
Village Board Trustee Mike Abrams has been elected mayor of the village of Kinderhook. After beating Siena College student Quinn Murphy and Barry Knights, the 41-year-old will start his two-year term in early April.
WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Abrams about his victory Tuesday and his priorities as mayor of the Columbia County village.
Abrams: We had three good candidates. I know they all worked hard. They all had really good ideas. The other two were born and raised here. But I just think that, you know, my experience and, you know, some of the ideas I had about, you know, trying to be a little bit more transparent, trying to make the government work a little bit better, more effectively for the residents, I think, ultimately, that's what swayed them.
Levulis: And you mentioned, you are not originally from the village of Kinderhook, I believe you came to the village in 2015 from New York City. What brought you to the village?
Abrams: Well, I grew up in Brunswick, so right outside of Troy, so born and raised in Rensselaer County, and ended up going to school at SUNY Cortland, just south of Syracuse. And then when I was a junior there that's when September 11 happened. And I ended up joining the Marine Corps. And I off on active duty and training, let's see here, it ended up coming to New York City on active duty with the Marine Corps in 2007. And I stayed, got off active duty in 2010. And then stayed in New York for a number of years, while I started a not for profit. And then the 800-square-foot apartment for several thousand dollars a month wasn't cutting it for my wife and I anymore when we decided to start a family. So we wanted to return home. And we just we ended up finding Kinderhook just in our search for homes and fell in love with the village.
Levulis: And you have been a village board member. What have you learned in that role that will influence your approach now as mayor?
Abrams: Great question. I mean, you know, I went into the role, because there was a couple open seats in the neighborhood told me about it, and I thought, wow, you know, this is just a nice way to, you know, serve the community and get involved and get to know people and to help you to help residents. And then, you know, I got into the role there and I realized, it's a lot of work, you know. It really is. There's a lot of just, you know, day to day and week to week, tasks and jobs that, you know, all the trustees have that a lot of people don't really understand or realize. So for me, you know, I was in charge of the I was the water commissioner in the sewer guy, you know, and then in charge of all the roads and the sidewalks and, you know, all the maintenance of those, plus all the legal things that happen throughout the village and the disputes between people that, you know, that they in many instances want the village to help mediate and resolve. So there's a lot of things that go into the job here that, you know, I didn't realize going into it as trustee. And, you know, I think as mayor, you know, I have a really good understanding now just you know, how to manage those things. And I think actually get ahead of them.
Levulis: You mentioned your work on the infrastructure portions of the village. Obviously, Mayor, you're responsible for a lot more, as you mentioned there. What will be your primary focuses as mayor when you take office, then?
Abrams: Sure, so there's a couple things, essential services that we want to shore up and just make sure that we're excellent on you know, so one is the water, water purification and distribution. So obviously, you know, we want to make sure that we've got clean water, and it's reliable, and it's getting to the residents, and also our fire rescue and response. Just want to make sure that when people call 911, that, you know, our fire rescue is going to be there in a timely manner. And, you know, they're trained to do what they need to do to, you know, to help the residents out. So, those are two things that we absolutely want to shore up. And then from a major priority standpoint, it's updating our code and making sure that it's enforced equally. Our code hasn't been updated since 2003. And, you know, a number of disputes and things that we have throughout the village are just due to the fact that there's not clarity in our code. You know, there's things that code says one thing and then another chapter says another and, you know, it just causes a lot of problems. So, I really want to take a look at the comprehensive plan that we created as a built back in 2015-2016, and then take that a step further. And just make sure that our code is actually in line with what was outlined in the comprehensive plan, and then just how we live and work and operate today. So that'll be a major undertaking. And then also just making sure that, you know, once we go through that process and we update everything, that we are then enforcing it equally, you know, across all residents and business owners.
Levulis: To a topic a lot of municipalities across New York are discussing…the village last year decided not to allow marijuana consumption lounges, but will allow marijuana retailers. If I'm understanding your positions correctly, you oppose both on-site consumption and retail outlets in the village. What are your concerns as that industry gets going in New York State?
Abrams: Sure. So when New York State legalized that our town really took the lead on trying to figure out whether or not this is this is good for our town, and the two villages that make up the town of Kinderhook, which is Valatie and the village of Kinderhook. So the town supervisor and the mayors of both villages, as well as members of the planning board, participated in a number of conversations and open hearings to kind of figure this out. So what we ultimately decided as a town, and with the two villages, is that from feedback from the residents was that we do not want on-site usage, you know, we don't want you know a lounge or we don't want people to be in our parks or anything, you know, being able to smoke marijuana. So that's what we opted out of, but we collectively as a town opted into a dispensary. But the idea was to have it within the town somewhere, somewhere where it's not close to any schools or libraries or childcare centers or anything like that, but not necessarily within the villages of Kinderhook or Valatie. So we wanted to find a spot within the town, because there were some residents that wanted it and, you know, had an interest in it. But we also wanted to make ourselves available, you know, for the tax revenue as well. So that's kind of what the conversations were, you know, throughout the past year between the town and the villages. And I think, you know, I think we threaded a nice needle there, you know, most of the folks that I talk to here in the village do not want a dispensary within our historic district. There are some people who think that, you know, we can be able to do it, and, you know, you're able to do it in a discreet way. But, you know, the majority of people don't want it in our historic district or within the village business district there. So I'm opposed to it right now until we understand better what the regulations from New York State are going to be and how we are able to manage it, and what the impact for our village is going to be. Because we don't know what the cost to us is going to be. We don't know if we need another code enforcement officer that we need to pay them more to do more of the moderating it and regulating it. So there's a lot we still don't know. But, you know, we're willing to work with everybody to try to figure out what's best for our town and for our village.
Levulis: So if a marijuana retailer came to you as the mayor and says, you know I want to locate in the village, that's the best spot for us. You would say what to that person?
Abrams: Well, I would say, well, first they have to go to the state. Right? So the state is the one who's they have to go to first to get all the approval and the licenses. But we also have a process. So it's not up to any one person, whether or not you know a dispensary can open up in the village. So I can't, as mayor say yes or no. So we would have to they would have to go through the planning board and zoning, you know, just like any other business that would open up, you know, and just make sure that their operations don't have a negative impact on our village in any way, shape or form. So if someone came to us, we would have to first make sure that they're abiding by, you know, everything that the state is going to require of them. And again, we don't know what those requirements are. But then we have a process within our village that every business has to go through. And you know, they would have to go through the same process.