Sixteen years ago, Phil Skowfoe decided he better get involved in his town’s government, lest it end up adopting zoning rules that he saw as a bad fit for the rural community where he was born and raised.
“They tried to push zoning down our throats,” Skowfoe said, “and I’m not a proponent of zoning. It has its good points and its bad points. It creates more headaches than it’s worth some times.”
This month, Skowfoe, a 65-year-old retired boilermaker and the town supervisor for his hometown of Fulton, became the chairman of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors — the first Democrat to lead that body in almost 20 years.
“If you want to make a difference, you have to get involved,” he said when asked what attracted him to become involved in local civic affairs.
“You don’t get in this business for the money, not at this level,” said Skowfoe, noting his pay as Fulton’s town supervisor amounts to about $4,500 a year. “You do it because you enjoy helping people.”
Skowfoe said he doesn’t see himself as a highly partisan holder of a public office, noting when he parceled out committee assignments to fellow board members, he put Republicans in charge of eight panels while handing chairmanships to five Democrats.
“If you look at the committee structure, I think I’m fair and bipartisan,” he said. “I tried not to shut anybody out. I tried to take care of everybody.”
As for his immediate mission, Skowfoe said Schoharie County continues to recover from the walloping it took when flood waters unleashed by Hurricane Irene in 2011 damaged many local communities, particularly the village of Schoharie.
“We got to get our county building back up and r unning and we have to get our jail running again,” Skowfoe said when asked about his priorities.