“Micron has scared a lot of people in our city.”
Kevin Rudd, a Democrat, ran this year for Lysander Township supervisor, a race he lost twice.
It’s a Republican city that voted for President Donald Trump’s losing campaign in 2020, and a city that elected Robert Weeks as Rudd’s supervisor four years ago by a 2-to-1 margin.
But Rudd won by more than 500 votes last Tuesday, capping a surprise showing that heightened local grievances with Weeks and public concern about growth in the suburban town north of Syracuse.
Rudd said last week he had a lot of questions about Micron Technology’s plan to build a massive chip manufacturing plant in Clay, just 9 miles down Route 31 from his new office in Lysander Town Hall.
“Micron scared a lot of people in our city who saw what happened in Clay, the huge amount of property that was taken there to be allocated to a giant industrial corporation,” he told Syracuse.com after the election.
Rudd’s win suggests that for all the excitement over Micron’s historic choice of Onondaga County, some people still need to be convinced. The call for slow growth by Lysander’s new leader shows some of the work ahead for the provincial government and business officials tasked with building housing and infrastructure to deal with an estimated 125,000 population increase.
Rudd also opposes the size of the city’s proposed housing project, which would include nearly 600 apartments, townhomes and single-family homes. It’s a different tone than that used by local government and business leaders, who are encouraging suburbs to greenlight more developments to address the county’s severe housing shortage.
The shortage, blamed in part on restrictive suburban zoning and planning, threatens to get worse as microns increase.
Weeks said residents will miss out on opportunities and have to pay more taxes if businesses don’t move to the area.
As for Micron, Weeks said, Rudd’s strategy is the opposite of what County Executive Ryan McMahon is seeking. The growth cannot be stopped, Weeks said.
“It’s not a strategy to sit back and bury your head in the sand,” he said.
Weeks said he never knew what Rudd’s campaign stood for.
Rudd, now 47, ran for office for the first time in 2011, for city supervisor on the Road to Progress line. He received 274 votes and lost to Democrat John Salisbury, who received 2,642 votes.
Rode was not deterred. Over the next few years, he ran for city clerk, city council, and again for city supervisor in 2019. He initially became a Republican and then switched to Democrat. In 2021, he was elected to the City Council.
On Election Day last week, Rudd, who was running on both Democratic and Conservative lines, ousted Republican incumbent Weeks, 3,100 votes to 2,538, in unofficial election night totals.
The other two Republican candidates on the ballot (for city justice and city councilman) defeated their Democratic opponents.
Rudd will be one of only four of the county’s 19 Democratic supervisors; Skaneateles also just elected as a Democrat.
“It’s rewarding to win,” Rudd told Syracuse.com|The Post Standard. “But it’s also daunting because of the task ahead of us.”
What made the difference this time? Rudd, who works for Solvents & Petroleum Services Inc., said he believes voters agree with his ideas. He added that he received help from many supporters who sent flyers and hung signs.
Much of his speech was about small town politics.
Rudd said he wants to make himself and the board more transparent and more accessible to residents. For example, he wants to eliminate the rule that speakers at board meetings can only talk about agenda items. He wants to let them speak on any issue. If board members have answers, they can submit them there.
“I want public input,” he said. “Ultimately, this is the only time so many elected officials have been in the same room at one time.”
Rudd said many voters agree with his stance against massive commercial and residential developments in Lysander, whose population has grown from 19,000 people to 23,000 in the past two decades.
Weeks described Rudd’s view as naive. Weeks said the area needs senior housing, so seniors can move out of their homes and sell to younger residents.
Rudd said he was against United Auto Supply’s plans to build a giant warehouse near Route 48 and Hinkle Boulevard. The company withdrew its offer, but Rudd said neighbors were still concerned about what could be built on the property.
He added: “This issue definitely pushed people to the polls.” “A lot of people were unhappy with the direction the city was going in terms of growth.”
Weeks said the parcel of land is zoned for commercial use and that something will be introduced there. He wanted a good project that would bring employment.
As superintendent, Rudd said larger projects are better suited to the Radisson Corporate Park.
Rudd said he has questions about Micron and its impact on taxpayers.
“I don’t want the county or the state to come in and force us to develop 400 or 500 more acres,” he said. “We have barriers here. We don’t have a lot of areas with access to sewer and water outside of the main roads.”
Lysander can’t handle any more traffic, especially through the village of Baldwinsville at rush hour. Larger commercial or residential projects bring in more homes and more traffic, he said.
Rudd said he is not opposed to more housing. He said it has to be in the right places.
He says he’s against the density needed at the proposed Melvin Farms — which would include a mix of nearly 600 apartments, townhomes and single-family homes north of the Seneca River. The project will be on farmland on Hayes and Cold Springs roads off Route 370.
“I’m not a fan,” Rudd said. “It requires too many units and the increased density does not suit the area. The benefits do not outweigh the costs.”
Part of the project also includes more than $2 million for public sewer improvements — paid for by the developer — that would exceed the scope of the proposed development. But nearby residents are concerned that expanding the sewers means all the farmland parcels will be developed, Rudd said.
Extending the sewers would have saved a lot of money for people who needed sewers, Weeks said.
“It will be difficult to keep Lysander intact with Micron six or seven miles away,” he said.
Rudd said the board and community will work together to determine the direction the city will take.
Rudd knows the city well and has been attending board meetings consistently for 12 years, said Vicki Frillo, chairwoman of the Democratic City Committee.
“He asks a lot of good questions, and he has in his heart what is best for Lysander,” she said.
Elizabeth Duran covers education, suburban government, development, breaking news and more. Got a tip, comment or story idea? Call her anytime 315-470-3012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org