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Smith says she has the knowledge for Orange selectman post

ORANGE — Linda Smith says her long-time involvement as an official and volunteer in town gives her the knowledge she needs to earn the votes to become selectman in Monday’s election.

As a citizen and official, she has attended “many, many meetings and talked to many people” about the challenges and opportunities Orange faces now and in the future, she said in a candidates night this week. “I know what people need and want,” she said. Smith considers the town’s citizens to be its primary asset as they are “caring, hardworking people … with good values.”

Smith is running against David Ames for the three-year seat.

Smith has been a member of the Finance Committee for the past 16 years, a member of the Human Resource Board for 10 years, and is also a member of the Orange Taxpayers Association.

Smith has roots in Orange dating back six generations. After graduating from Mahar Regional High School, she and her husband chose to stay in the community they love to raise their family, she said.

According to Smith, the town’s biggest challenge is financial. “We need to be more stringent — or cheap — in our expenses and create more efficient ways to provide services,” she said in an interview.

In answer to what changes need to be made in town government, Smith said the Finance Committee needs to be empowered. Over the past three years, the committee “has not been strong enough to make the cuts that have needed to be made.”

She would also like to see selectmen move forward more quickly on concerns brought up by residents and others. Too often, she said, issues linger without resolution.

Smith said she believes the best way to get people more involved in town meetings and governance is to give them greater voice on committees. She said committees are often filled with employees and department heads, which may discourage residents from volunteering.

And several committees spent years studying important issues only to have their reports gather dust on office shelves, she said. For example, the Department of Public Works committee report may contain answers to questions about whether Orange should consolidate several services into a single public works department. According to Smith, the town governance committee’s recent report needs more serious consideration. “They presented their findings and then it was just dropped.”

Smith said selectmen, School and Finance committee members should meet more often to get a better understanding of issues facing both town and schools.

On the prospect of a new school building, Smith said that years ago residents were told the Central School wasn’t safe and a new school was necessary. Now she said the Central School building seems to be doing fine and residents are told the newer schools need to be replaced. While a new school may be needed, she contended the issue should be thoroughly studied this time before the project moves forward. She acknowledged current school buildings are “very much in need of some repairs.”

A committee that explores the needs of all buildings in town “is a great idea. I’d like to be on that committee myself.”

Smith said the senior center in the armory also needs work. As a member of the Finance Committee, she helped increase funding for the senior outreach program.

Looking to the future, Smith said it is critical to make investments in education and have good schools.

She believes that officials “need to work harder to encourage tourism …” as the natural beauty and quality of life in Orange are high and attractive to both visitors and businesses.

Smith sees a bright future for Orange as “we have a brand new town administrator with a vision for the Town of Orange. The new community development director is also critical to finding grants.”

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