Evidenced by the onslaught of signs advertising candidates on most corners in and around Poughkeepsie, election season is here. On Nov. 3, Dutchess County will host general elections for County Legislature in all 25 districts.
On the ballot for District 7, inclusive of The Town of Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park, is twenty-year old Marist junior, William G. Truitt, opposing incumbent Richard Perkins.
“Never underestimate an honest and earnest young candidate,” County Executive Marc Molinaro said of his former apprentice, Will, adding that he himself was 19 when he first ran for office.
In an ordinary day, Will is tasked with tending to his job at the campus post office, attending class, and campaigning door to door to his constituency. “It’s tough,” Will says through a smile about his full time schedule, “I’m taking 13 credits this semester, working 15 hours a week, and campaigning for about three or four hours every night.”
County Legislature, responsible for a 7,500 person constituency in District 7, works part-time by attending meetings, answering constituency mail and vocalizing their districts collective desires through policy. Terms for County Legislature last two-years, and there is no cap on re-election.
Marist junior, Collin Geshwindt, on the first day of history class freshman year, remembers an icebreaker exercise that asked everyone in the class to share what they intended their future career to be. “It got to Will and he’s like ‘I wanna be president’,” Collin said, “He’s very driven, and I respect that.” Two years later, Will has become president-of the Marist College Republicans– a club on campus that seeks to engage students in local and national political conversation. Collin, Vice President of the group, works closely with Will on the executive board to facilitate discussion, enlist speakers and encourage students to vote. “Will definitely tries to promote a lot of involvement, not in his campaign, but in the other campaigns,” Collin said, crediting Will for the heightened sense of professionalism in the club since he became president last spring. Local politicians Rob Rolison, running for mayor of Poughkeepsie, and Ben Traudt representing Marc Molinaro, running for county executive, were both brought in to speak this semester as a result of Will’s personal connections.
“Last week we talked about gun violence [with Rob Rolison], and Will asked ‘How are you as a mayor going to combat gun violence?’ and Rolison went into his points,” Collin described, enhancing his statement that Will is engaging an inquisitive. In addition to leading conversation, Collin admires the way Will often steps back and lets other people talk. “Sometimes,” he says, when the group hosts a speaker, “Will whispers to one of us on the e-board to ask a question, just to keep the conversation going.”
In addition to his involvement in Marist Republicans, Will, a business administration and econ duel major, has served as Vice President of Toastmasters International, and as an executive board member of both the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Emerging Leaders Program. Off campus, Will is a member of Hyde Park Republican Committee and Dutchess County Youth Board and Coordinating Council.
Assistant Director of Emerging Leaders, Melissa Lulay, presided over Will during the year (2014-2015) that he worked on the board, before he took off to focus on campaigning. As a general board member, Melissa said, Will’s job was to reinforce the rest of the board and act as a resource to members, though he did things that “absolutely weren’t his job.” Using the example of Will taking it upon himself to assist the board member in charge of the tedious task of transcribing the contact information for 150 students from a sign in form and uploading it into a spread sheet, Melissa said, “It doesn’t matter how big the task is, how little the task is, Will is just there for whatever program it is that he’s working on. He is always there to do things for the benefit of the team,” she added.
A conservative, Will sees his unusually young age as an asset and even necessity for his success as a prospective Dutchess County Official. “We need younger representatives in political office, because it is our future that is at stake,” he said, “We are the ones who will be inheriting the future of this country, along with the job market and debt that has piled up.” If elected, Will said he would focus on spending taxpayer’s dollars conservatively while keeping as much money in the hands of those who worked for it as possible. “The only way to help the people in our local communities succeed is by easing the way for small businesses so that job creation is maximized,” he said.
Incumbent Perkins, a democrat, has served for two terms as County Legislature; wherein he helped passes a series of legislative bills aimed at reducing tax dollars and making roadways safer. In the most recent legislative resolutions approved on Sept. 16, Perkins, in conjunction with eight other districts, passed a public works project to appropriate federal funds to improve the roadway from US 9 to CR 94, along with several other motorways. Additionally, resolutions were passed authorizing the execution of grant agreements for funds allocated to Dutchess County under the Federal Home Investment Partnership Program, a program designed to provide affordable housing for low and moderate-income families, a $644,860 budget.
After four years serving the community of District 7, Perkins feels a strong connection with his constituents, and thus sees little threat in his opponent. Of the legislation he is eager to work on, Perkins priorities lie in the two acts of lowering the speed limit on a local, narrow road, and vetoing the placement of jail pods for the re-location of county inmates to a larger plot of land that would ultimately render itself unlivable and thus un-taxable. “I don’t have anything to say about Will. I have no clue what his standing us, but here’s the big picture,” Perkins said about his republican opponent, “All government should be checks and balances, so if you have a republican executive (as Marc Molinaro is) and you have a super majority in the legislature, you don’t have a balanced government.”
Political views aside, Will’s supporters cite his character as what makes him right for the job. “Hardworking” was a word unanimously used to describe Will throughout three, unrelated interviews. Marc Molinaro, who hosted Will for 11 months as an intern, described his managerial skills as “impeccable.” Melissa Lulay summarized his best quality as his reliability. “In working with him, I never found that is was me me me– not once,” she said, “He genuinely cared about the program and wanted to be involved in it.”
Classmate and co-leader, Collin Geshwindt, said that Will was socially known as a “good guy” amongst classmates and friends.
Molinaro laughs remembering the time Will was sent to represent him at a senior picnic, and took it upon himself to also deliver meals to the seniors and join in on the dance floor, neither of which were expected of him. “I wish I could say he reminds me of myself at that age,” Molinaro said, “but he actually reminds me of a better version.”