Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - September 2014

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Page 8 of 45 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 9 I am a Hudson Valley Parent Tracey Bartels: Advocating for the next generation By KATHLEEN WILLCOX T racey Bartels was a fi lmmaker and screenwriter before she stumbled into politics more than a decade ago. "I came to politics through a friend who asked me to be a place-holder because they couldn't fi nd a candi- date to run in Gardiner," she says. "The legislature was a multi-member district at that time. I didn't even know what a place-holder was. Need- less to say, I kept my name in and ran alone against a full ticket. My win was a big upset." Bartels won her fi rst seat in 2003 running against three incumbent candidates and was the fi rst non-Re- publican to win the district. She served from 2004 to 2007 before taking a break for a few years to travel and start a family. She success- fully returned in 2012 and is current- ly serving her fourth term as Ulster County legislator. 'Polly was a trouper' Bartels' most favorite constituents are her longtime partner Bill Rich- ards and their 3-year-old daughter, Polly. Now more than ever, Bartels is working for Polly and her future, she explains. "She was 9 months old when I de- cided to run for the third term, which seems counter-intuitive, but she is actually what inspired me to get involved again," Bartels says. "Having her and seeing her grow suddenly made the 'next generation' a lot more than an abstraction. I wanted to help make sure she inherited a world that I was comfortable raising her in — and having her raise her children in!" Of course, the business of making the world a better place involves a lot more than feel-good photo ops and glad-handing at local diners. "During my campaign, Polly was a trouper," Bartels beams. "I braced myself for chaos, but she just went with the fl ow when I took her along knocking on doors and introducing myself on the campaign trail. And since then, she has helped focus me. I know I can't plop her down in front of the TV — nor would I want to — while I get stuff done, so I have to manage my time and prioritize very carefully. And she has been with me in Albany at the legislature several times for last-minute meetings and debates. I wasn't expecting that, but hey, we do what we have to do to make it work!" Winning over both sides With a concentration on fi scal conservancy and environmental activism, some of Bartels' most vociferous opponents have become her biggest boosters. During her time in offi ce, she has recommended millions of dollars in cuts and has fought tax increases consistently. Last year, county property taxes were actually lowered for the fi rst time in more than 10 years. More than $27 million in spending has been cut county-wide. The cuts are impressive, but Bar- tels notes that the accomplishment that her constituents most frequently point to is her investigation of cost overruns at the county jail. The bi- partisan commission that she chaired ended up fl agging cost overruns of more than $100 million. Energy & environment She currently has a number of projects in the works, including in- creasing energy effi ciency and requir- ing new county cars to be hybrids. "This term I hope to continue to work toward a new approach to the way that we manage waste," she says. "It's not fi nancially or fi scally sustainable to truck our garbage hundreds of miles away. All over the valley, communities face the same problem. Together we might reach a solution." Bartels says her proudest achieve- ment – and her greatest hope for the future – is increasing the visibility of environmental issues on the radars of legislators and tax-payers, and to reduce their carbon footprint on the landscape. Currently, she is the deputy chair of the County Environmental Com- mittee and has been responsible over the years for a number of innova- tions, including more energy effi cient county buildings, requiring all neigh- bors to be notifi ed if pesticides are applied in residential or commercial areas and the banning of hydro-frack- ing fl uid on county roads. Not bad for an accidental politi- cian. So, what's next for Bartels? She says she hasn't completely ruled out running for a larger offi ce. "I'm taking it one term at a time." Having her and seeing her grow suddenly made the 'next generation' a lot more than an abstraction.

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