Massena town board candidate profile: Bob Elsner says Massena could be regional hub for educational Services
Saturday, September 21, 2019 - 5:24 pm

MASSENA -- Bob Elsner, a Republican town council candidate, thinks Massena could be more of a regional hub for educational services. He thinks they should work towards getting an electrical trade school, and also expand the town library to a regional entity.

He is a former administrator at Massena Memorial Hospital. He recently retired as their director of imaging services.

“I think Massena would be an excellent venue for an electrical trade school,” he said, suggesting the town look at bringing the Massena Electric Department and New York Power Authority in on the venture.

He said this could stop costly colleges and universities from “siphoning our youth to parts unknown.”

“Not only do we need to maintain and build strong schools, we need to expand educational resources … that means possibly building Massena Public Library into a regional library,” he said.

He said he wants to see the town invest more in “soft infrastructure.”

“I’d like to see the town focus on soft infrastructure issues - security and safety, education and information, healthcare,” he said. “I don’t think people move and stay in a community because we have smooth streets and nice buildings.”

“People move where they feel safe, protected and their basic needs are met cost-efficiently,” he said. “There’s more and more drug activity in town, closer to home. What’s more alarming is the decreasing age of people committing those activities.”

Elsner also believes the town could do more to aid local businesses when more people rely on goods and services bought online.

“We have to find ways to help our local businesses sustain our customer base and grow their customer base in an age where people are flocking to the internet,” he said.

He suggested the town add a “local marketing component to Massena website with search engines and links, online delivery mechanisms.”

“The prevalence of one-stop one-click shopping has greatly altered the retail world,” he said.

The town has been marketing the town as a tourist destination largely revolving around the town’s three rivers.

“One of the things I’d like to see us pursue is commercial development along the structures of the St. Lawrence and Grasse rivers, similar to Alexandria Bay,” he said.

He said he believes that writing these ideas into a strategic plan could accomplish them without raising taxes.

“When you strategically plan and you do it correctly, the strategic plan becomes part of your budget process … look at what things are going to cost … and shift your budget,” he said. “It doesn’t require slapping new taxes everything you have an idea or a new venture.”

He said he sees local healthcare as the biggest issue facing the town, and doesn’t think the Town Council properly handled the Massena Memorial Hospital transition to a private, non-profit entity.

“I don’t agree with the direction of our local healthcare. Our nation’s largest generation, the baby boomers, are reaching senior years. We should be expanding out our healthcare avenues,” he said. “We’re going to have to wait and see what St. Lawrence Health System has in store. I think we need to lobby … our state and federal legislators and tell them ‘look, you’re really hurting, all these cuts, taking away money form programs are just killing healthcare, especially at a rural level.’”

He believes O’Shaughnessy’s approach to steering the MMH board away from Crouse and toward SLHS was “total mismanagement of the process.”

“I don’t care how noble you think your end goal is, you don’t force your will onto the electorate. You don’t force your will onto governing boards that are empowered,” he said. “Our ancillary boards, these boards are empowered to run these organizations and make their own decisions.

“If you don’t like how something is going, you work with them. You don’t work behind their backs. You don’t negotiate behind their back.”

When asked what qualifies him for a Town Council seat, Elsner pointed to his past management experience.

“I’ve been in management for 20-something years in the Air Force, and 20-something years at the hospital level,” he said. “Middle management, which includes managing people, enforcing higher executive decisions, participating in strategic planning, budgeting … I feel I’ve done that successfully.”