Champlain village candidates talk dissolution, beautification

— With other area villages weighing the benefits of dissolving back to their townships, ending the village government is a hot topic among trustee candidates for this month’s election.

Register for village elections Saturday, March 10 at the Village Office, 1104 Rt. 9, noon to 5 p.m.

Voting will be Tuesday, March 20 at the Village Office, noon to 9 p.m.

For trustee

Kevin Triller retired as a State Trooper in 2009. He first moved to Champlain in 1989, when he was transferred here from Malone. Triller's biggest priority if elected is to make sure a village dissolution assessment is run. He isn't sure that dissolving the village is best, but having an exhaustive assessment done is critical to the its future, he said. He knows that people are worried about keeping the village's identity distinct. “It’s not going to take us off the map,” he said. “There’s still going to be a yellow truck plowing the streets. It will just say town on it instead of village.” Triller holds two associates degrees in political science, and sociology and forensics. He's served two years as the Troop B delegate for the NYS Police Benevolent Association's board of directors. He's currently on the board of directors for Champlain EMS, which provides ambulance service in Mooers and Champlain. He now runs a farm raising sheep in a property along the village and town border. He spends spare time helping with maintenance at St. Mary's Church, school and grounds. Triller said the village is in a tough money spot with downtown dying out and little expectation for economic growth. The village needs to be responsible with its resources and take advantage of shared services whenever possible. “I’m vocal and I’ll continue to be that way,” he said. “If you’re not vocal, you’re not heard, and the people you represent aren’t heard, either.” Bruce LeClair is a lifelong Champlain man. He worked many years in agriculture, and said the small-town feel of his home and the honest nature of farmers has made for a pleasant life so far. “I like that idea that everything is close-knit,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody, it’s a small village.” Because of his affinity for that community feeling, LeClair thinks the village should keep its own, distinct government. “I’d like to see the village stay together if at all possible, not that I have anything against the town government,” he said. He'd also like to promote beautification efforts in the village. Rouses Point does a fantastic job of making their streets look vibrant in the summer and decorating in the holiday season. Efforts like that could make Champlain a more attractive place to visit. LeClair's role in agriculture was as an artificial inseminator for cattle farmers. He said he was the go-to guy for many years, so he's had contact with many locals. That networking and the friendliness of small-town meetings on the street or at the store are great for local government. “I know that if I saw a local trustee or the mayor, I could stop them and chat about what’s going on around town,” he said. His time with the farmers of the North Country has been especially rewarding because they're unfailingly honest people with a deep sense of community. LeClair follows that code, too, he said. “I’m honest and a straight shooter.” Amy Gehrig's been a village trustee for about eight-and-a-half years, and has worked to make sure community-driven events help preserve a sense of place for her village. She came to Champlain as a Macy's store manager when she was transferred to work at the former South Mall in Plattsburgh. After the mall closed, she became a stay-at-home mom and full-time volunteer, eventually adopting six children. She's now a third grade teacher at St. Mary's, and making sure kids have activities is important for attracting and keeping young families. “I love community and I love bringing people together.” she said. Efforts include a Christmas decoration contest, a village festival with Champlain Telephone and opening a park in the village. With downtown basically gone now, work will need to continue to make Champlain a vibrant village, she said. Though there’s been a lot of talk of dissolving the village and making it part of the town, Gehrig wants to make sure the village can keep its unique services, like sidewalk cleaning. With many seniors in the community and pedestrian traffic often busy, keeping the sidewalks clean is an important local service that she’d like to make sure doesn’t disappear. She worked in retail management from the time she left college at SUNY Fredonia, where she earned a bachelor’s in business administration. She’s now pursuing a master’s in Spanish education. “I’m very active in my community,” she said. “I care about the people and when I say I’m going to get something done, I do.” Thomas Trombley was approached to fill a vacancy on the village board five years ago, and he was confident he could help lead local government in his home of 23 years.

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