Supervisor Daniel French will appear on the Democratic and Working Families ballot lines in the November 8, 2011 election.
Dan French was raised in a family that valued hard work and education above all else. In a family living paycheck-to-paycheck, Dan was taught the value of responsibility from a young age. Today, he fights for those same values. The successful Supervisor of Beekman and the Democratic candidate for Dutchess County Executive, Dan defines the progressive and responsible leader needed to bring a new day to Dutchess County.
Carolyn and Jack French moved the French family to Beekman from the Bronx in 1988, hoping for a better life for their two children. In Dutchess County, Dan benefitted from a competitive public education, and played on the varsity soccer team at Arlington High School. His solid academic performance gained him admission to SUNY Binghamton, where he earned a B.A. in History.
It was while earning his undergraduate degree that tragedy struck in Dan’s life. Eleven days after his college graduation, his father passed away after a difficult battle with cancer. Dan moved back home, working double shifts as a server and substitute teacher to support his family. From those troubled times, however, emerged a career in public service.
The following year, Dan mounted his first campaign, responding to a newspaper advertisement searching for candidates. He lost a four-way race for town council by less than two percent of the vote, but was not deterred. Upon enrolling in a Master’s of Public Administration program at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, one of the nation’s best schools for the subject, Dan ran again for town council in a special election-and won.
Dan quickly emerged as an energetic leader on the town council, acting as a leading advocate for open space preservation and standing steadfast in opposition to property tax increases. In 2005, he was reelected to the council with the highest vote total of any candidate, and the following year, he completed his work at the Rockefeller College. Armed with a new MPA, Dan’s career ignited. He obtained work as the Deputy Commissioner of the county’s board of elections, and in 2008, Dan won a gubernatorial appointment to the board of trustees at Dutchess Community College.
Upon his landslide victory to town supervisor in 2009, the French administration immediately began to shift gears on a local government set in reverse. Concerned about the property tax burden levied on middle-income residents, Dan spearheaded a town center initiative, which created plans to bring a commercial base to Beekman. Smart management skills allowed him to balance the budget in the meantime, a process yielding historic results in dire economic times. For the first time in years, Beekman residents saw absolutely no property tax increase, and Dan restored $383,000 to the town’s rainy day fund.
Dan was also making ripples away from his hometown. On the board of trustees at Dutchess Community College, he stood up for the importance of an affordable public education. Working with a majority of trustees, he ensured flat tuition rates through the 2011-12 academic year despite deep budget cuts from the state legislature. As a result, the college boasts the lowest tuition of any state school.
In 2011, Dan French stepped down from his management position in Dutchess County government so he could focus on finishing his term as Beekman Supervisor and campaign full-time for County Executive. This past August, Dan became engaged to Melissa Wessels. He continues to serve as the Supervisor of the Town of Beekman.
What experience and/or training has prepared you to serve in the position you seek?
Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Rockefeller College
5 Years on the Beekman Town Board
2 Years as Beekman Town Supervisor
Appointed by the Governor to the Dutchess Community College Board of Trustees
Please share your thoughts on property taxes and any specific related changes or policies you support and will work to pass if elected.
Eleven days after graduating from Binghamton University, I lost my father after his year-long battle with cancer. I was not yet 22 years old, but I returned home to Beekman, determined to lead my family through this devastating time. Becoming the head of my household at such a young age, and helping our family put the financial pieces together after this loss was difficult, but necessary. Like many of you, we pay taxes as a family, and we have personally experienced the burden that tax increases place on you and your neighbors.
That’s why I will fight day and night against tax increases. There is no simple solution to reducing taxes, however as Town Supervisor, I have been successfully holding the line in Beekman. I was able to put out two budgets in a row with a 0% tax increase in tough economic times without cutting services. We were also able to restore $383,000 to the town rainy day fund. I will bring this proven financial success to the County level when elected your next County Executive, and I will ALWAYS fight for Dutchess County families!
What is your position on the prison overcrowding, jail construction and public safety issue?
The issue of overcrowding at the Dutchess County Jail is not new. The County Executive and the County Legislature have gone for too long without coming up with innovative solutions to this problem. Now county taxpayers are footing the bill to house out our inmates in surrounding counties. This is simply unsustainable.
There are several avenues available to our leaders to provide relief to our Sheriff, our Jail Administrator, and the fantastic corrections officers who have had to deal with the inaction of the current leadership for too long. If I am elected I pledge to actively pursue all of the innovative ideas that have been left on the table during our current County Executive’s tenure.
The first step is to give our full support to our county mental health department and our not for profit agencies here in Dutchess County that deal with our most endangered populations. A decrease in the budget line for mental health might make one year’s budget look more balanced, but it is costing us more in the long run when these populations become incarcerated instead of being able to participate in programs provided by our government and our public partners.
The second step is to reach out to our partners in New York State. A regional approach to the overcrowding issue is something that makes sense to everyone in the know, yet the idea has failed to make it off the starting block. We have state-run facilities all over the area with empty beds and yet there has been a failure to connect with our state leaders to take advantage of this opportunity as well.
I’ve mentioned the possibility to instituting a “Rocket Docket” to speed things up in our justice system as well. The fact that newly incarcerated individuals are spending more time in our County Jail before going to trial is no secret. While the public safety of our county’s residents is and must be our first priority, we need to work with our county judges and their staff to see what it is they need to speed up the process and make sure we are creating the best environment for a speedy trial.
Finally, we need to increase our use of Alternatives to Incarceration wherever possible. If we can increase the use of GPS tracking and home detention for non-violent offenders, this will greatly decrease the burden felt by our jail system. We have a fantastic probation department and we need to make sure we are giving people a chance to get out of our jail system and start to re-enter our communities with their help.
These are the solutions that I will propose if I am elected County Executive. We cannot continue to waste the money of our taxpayers housing out our inmates, and we cannot ask our taxpayers to commit an additional 50-100 million dollars for an expansion of the County Jail. Our next leader needs to bring about new kinds of solutions, not wallow in the inaction of the past.
What is your position on independent redistricting at the county level?
I support the idea of independent redistricting at the county level. When the County Legislature passed the provision for independent redistricting under the Democratic Majority a few years ago I applauded that law. I was very surprised to see the legislature reverse itself after the Republicans regained control. In my role as County Executive I would absolutely support independent redistricting.
Choose one more important issue facing our county today and how you will handle it.
The time for half-measures is past when it comes to the issue of our Resource Recovery Agency. Audits done by both the County Comptroller and the State Comptroller have found mismanagement and wasted money at the RRA. The county is forced to subsidize the burn plant to the tune of $5,000,000 a year just in order to keep it running. This is entirely unacceptable. Our current leadership has kicked this problem down the road for too long. If I am elected I will address our garbage problem immediately and aggressively.
Studies have shown that the burn plant located in the town of Poughkeepsie is more expensive to operate than 14 other similar plants in New York and Connecticut. These studies also point out that the resource recovery agency is free from government oversight, operating as a quasi-public entity. There is little to no flow control and tipping fees for bringing waste out of the county are not regulated. Finally, it is evident that the technology of waste-to-energy is outmoded and dangerous for the environment.
The contract with the private company that runs the county incinerator runs out in 2014. That will give the next County Executive and the County Legislature ample time to develop a detailed plan for disposing of our county’s waste more efficiently. The best suggestion currently on the table in the short term is to ship our waste to landfills out of the county, saving tens of millions over the next several years. In the long term, we need to pursue recycling more aggressively and adopt a policy that moves Dutchess County toward zero waste. We simply cannot afford to burn through our county tax dollars anymore
Why should voters pick you on election day?
For me, public service is an incredible opportunity. Each day, I wake up ready and eager to solve problems, to advocate for those who need help, and to FIGHT for a better tomorrow. This view of public service is why I am running for Dutchess County Executive.
I believe our County is broken, and it needs to be fixed. I believe it is time for a new day in our County government. I am the best person to make that happen.
An effective leader needs to listen. As I campaign across our County I have personally knocked on over 7,000 doors. Residents have shared with me their fears, concerns, aspirations and hopes. They have told me they are crushed by property taxes. They have told me there are not enough jobs. They have told me–for the first time in their lives–they are worried the next generation will not be better off than theirs.
My promise to them and my promise to you is that I will bring positive change to our County government. I will bring an innovative, responsive, open approach to governing. I will fight day and night to make our County a better place.
A strong leader must listen, but also must be ready to lead. As Town Supervisor of the Town of Beekman, I have transformed our Town’s finances. We reversed the reckless practice of spending down our fund balance; we eliminated waste; we improved services and did it with no increase to the property tax levy. That is our record in Beekeman and that is how I will govern as your next County Executive.
As a member of the Dutchess Community College Board of Trustees, I help oversee an annual operating budget of $60 million dollars. Despite no increase in support from our County and a cut in support from our State Legislature, we have found a way to remain the most affordable community college in our entire State, with the lowest tuition. I will bring that same approach to our County government.
I have a strong record of executive leadership, anchored by my experience as Town Supervisor, as a member of the DCC Board of Trustees and the knowledge I gained while earning my Master’s Degree in Public Administration at SUNY Albany.
“A new day in our County government” is more than a slogan; it means that–under my administration–we will tackle our biggest problems, like the over-crowded County Jail, or the mismanaged Resource Recovery Agency.
It means we will craft a lean and effective budget and root out waste so we can restore funding to our senior services, youth programs and not-for-profit agencies–all of which have been cut over recent years!
It means we will work day and night on job creation and economic development. We will invite the Chamber and all its members to be partners so we can spur private investment in our County.
We will fight to abolish the MTA tax. We will market our region as the premier location for the next generation of clean manufacturing, including alternative energy, biotechnology and other technology clusters. We are a great place to live and do business, but we can be better.
That is my vision of a new approach to County government.