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Cantwell, Hughes vying for Jefferson County Board seat

Clayton Republican Robert W. Cantwell III, who is running for the District 1 seat on the Jefferson County Legislature, said there’s one question he has been asked the most throughout his campaign.

“People are wondering what a county legislator does for them,” he said. “My response is always connectivity – connectivity between state level governments and your towns and villages.”

Mr. Cantwell, who owns his insurance business – Cantwell & Associates – in Clayton, is running against Cape Vincent Democrat Hugh “Joe” Hughes for the District 1 seat. The two will face off in the general election Nov. 7. County Legislator Michael J. Docteur, who currently serves in the District 1 seat, is retiring at the end of the year.

“For me, it’s about trying to find consolidation and efficiencies,” Mr. Cantwell said, adding that much of the county’s expenses go toward unfunded state and federal mandates. But there are expenses under the county’s control, he believes, that can be whittled down for cost savings.

“If I can bring some ideas or thoughts on processes, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

Mr. Hughes, a social studies teacher who used to teach at Thousand Islands High School, said one of the most common concerns he has heard from locals in the district is the future of Fort Drum, as talks of troop cuts at the federal level continue.

“Everybody on the county level realizes how important it is,” Mr. Hughes said.

The wind power issue, he said, is another common issue among local residents. The town of Clayton has long been embroiled in a fight against a wind farm being planned by Avangrid Renewables. The turbines would be built in the towns of Clayton, Orleans, Brownville and Lyme. The issue is no stranger to Mr. Cantwell, who has served on the Clayton Town Council since 2009.

Both candidates said they would have backed the county’s recent resolution that supports any effort to prohibit wind turbines within a certain radius of Fort Drum. Officials there have said wind turbines could cause interference with radar systems.

Another issue more immediate to the district is flooding along the St. Lawrence River that has plagued shoreline communities since this past spring. The flooding has resulted in millions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses. Though the state has allocated $45 million to help residents recover, many have said it won’t be enough to support everyone.

“A lot of the people show me damage, and it seems as though those things aren’t going to be covered with assistance,” Mr. Hughes said. Even Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently said victims will likely need more funding, and he would support a special session of the state Legislature to pass an additional flood recovery package.

In the near future, the county board is scheduled to continue discussions over whether it will soon transition to single-stream recycling. The board will release a study of different transition options later this year.

Mr. Hughes said he would support any efforts to start a single-stream system in Jefferson County.

Mr. Cantwell said he’d also support these discussion if elected, but noted that he would support the most efficient option that saves jobs, even if that means keeping the county’s current dual-stream system.

“Do we continue to do it on the public side, or does it become a private thing? I hate to see someone lose their job,” Mr. Cantwell said.


Age: 47

Family: Wife, Kelly; Daughters Ivy and Lydia

Education: Associates degree in Business Management, SUNY Canton

Work: Owner, Cantwell & Associates since 2009

Experience: Clayton Town Council, 2009-present; Thousands Islands Central School District Board of Education


Age: 67

Family: Wife, Kathleen; Daughters Sonya, Kaley and Amanda; son, Adam

Education: Masters degree in teaching, SUNY Oswego.

Work: Thousand Island High School social studies teacher, 2000-present (now semi-retired)

Experience: Board member, Greater North Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. Board member, Lyons Club of Cape Vincent