ITHACA, N.Y. – Recently elected Dryden Town Supervisor Jason Leifer wants to make the town a premier destination in Tompkins County.
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A 7-year veteran of Dryden's Town Council, Leifer won the town supervisor seat over his opponent, Craig Schutt, in the Nov. 4th election. Leifer is looking to make Dryden a tempting Tompkins County destination by promoting the town more heavily to outsiders and focusing on specific avenues of development, particularly in the agriculture sector. Agri-tourism is one of the main angles Leifer wants to help grow Dryden's economy and raise its profile in the area.
Leifer cited the Hopshire Farm and Brewery as a prime example of the types of businesses he'd like to encourage in Dryden. That establishment's unique character and products, he says, sometimes draws people from as far off as Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Leifer believes businesses like Hopshire can serve as a focal point for the local economic eco-system, working with other local businesses and suppliers to help keep money flowing through the community.
Leifer feels that Dryden is a town that is ripe for this kind of development due to its particular location. "We have a small town feel, but we're not so small. We're sandwiched between 3 colleges, so there's a lot of diversity here," he says. "You can go down one block and meet a lady who raises sheep who graze in the neighborhood. Down the road from there is a guy who started an electronics company who is building robots."
Leifer is an attorney by trade, an occupation which he feels has well prepared him for the challenges ahead. He compared the political maneuverings of local politics to the types of situations he'd sometimes have to deal with in family court. "It can be contentious, but even if the parents don't like each other, you've got to do what's best for the kids." The "parents" in the analogy presumably being disagreeing politicians; the "kids" being the town.
One of the strengths Leifer says he brings to the table is an ability to come up with creative solutions to problems. He explained the role that he played as an advocate of using zoning laws to keep fracking out of Dryden. He emphasized that controlling fracking in this manner helped to keep the ultimate decisions about fracking in local hands.
This argument proved persuasive even to fracking supporters, leading to a unanimous, bipartisan decision to ban fracking. The decision and subsequent legal battles helped to establish a new precedent for towns seeking to fight against fracking. Leifer says that the ban has ultimately been positive for the town, with some people relocating to Dryden because of it.
Originally from Maryland, Leifer, his wife and two sons came to Dryden in 2005. He quickly became involved in the community, volunteering with several local organizations. He began serving on the Town Council in 2008 and has also worked with multiple county-level boards and committees. Leifer begins his two-year term as town supervisor on January 1, 2016.
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