New Windsor town supervisor discusses voter turnout ahead of retirement at end of the year
The New Windsor town supervisor is set to retire from government and politics when his term concludes at the end of the year.
George Meyers, 81, has been a member of both major political parties and has equally annoyed people in both camps for his willingness to speak openly about issues that might upset one of the parties.
Meyers served as New Windsor town supervisor from 1994 to 2006, won his seat back in 2019 and was reelected in 2021.
He says his hope is that voters in his community and news media pay closer attention to local elections, many of which fall on odd-numbered years and draw turnout that Meyers finds unacceptable.
"It's very frustrating," Meyers said during an interview in his office Monday afternoon. "Listen, it's not that state, county or federal elections aren't important elections, but by far, the most important election to taxpayers is their local election. There are town supervisors. There are mayors. There are council people. These are the people who impact daily life."
In the November elections of 2019 and 2021, voter turnout in Orange County was just over 25%.
The turnout just in New Windsor was about the same.
In the 2022 congressional and state elections, turnout was about 50%.
In the 2020 presidential election, nearly 75% of all voters went to the polls.
On Tuesday, that number probably won't reach 30%.
Meyers is a retired major with New York State Police and has developed a reputation among some other local elected officials as a pragmatic "straight shooter" unafraid of upsetting opponents or friends.
Meyers cautions that as long as turnout and interest in local elections stays low, voters will continue to run risks of electing leaders who are unable to handle large budgets (New Windsor's is about $50 million), manage large staffs and properly use the millions in emergency federal funds to help municipalities recover from losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Sometimes there's some really sad folks involved in this business. Some of them, I wouldn't even talk to. It's a waste of time," Meyers said. "I've talked to some really good local officials, and other ones I'm like 'Oh my God, those poor people.' Sometimes you need to interact with them (other elected officials) to get things done, and sometimes it doesn't happen because they're just not up to it."
Meyers said he wants Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign recently passed legislation that would move elections in odd-numbered years to even-numbered years.
He said that in addition to having higher turnout, the move may force some candidates to "step up their game."
Meyers said that during retirement, he is still going to work as a security consultant and even help in some of his friends' political campaigns.