Alex Hammond ’18 found himself at an important town meeting in Waddington, New York one evening this summer and couldn’t help noticing the absence of one particular town figure: the town supervisor.
When Hammond began his own investigation, he discovered that in fact many people have not been satisfied with the current town supervisor, Sandra Wright. Yet as the town election approached, Wright was running unopposed, a fact that perplexed the democratic spirit in Hammond.
“If people are unhappy with the way things are, why is no one running against her?” he asked. Hammond then decided to take matters into his own hands for his hometown. He set aside his original plans of going to law school and ran for office.
Hammond, an ILR major, is currently running as a Democrat for the position of Waddington town supervisor. As it stands, if he wins the election in November, he will become the youngest town supervisor in St. Lawrence County in history.
“I may be only 21 years old and by no means am I going to go in knowing everything, but I’m willing to listen,” he said. “Whatever people want to see happen is what I’m going to push for.”
Despite his age and lack of direct political experience, the candidate extolled his military training at the Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Pennsylvania — where he gained commission in the National Guard and got his Associate’s Degree in government and politics — as his qualifications for the role.
“[At the military academy] I learned how to divide and conquer,” he said. “As an officer in a high ranking position, you have a staff much like the president has an administration and a staff and that’s how you can run a town with a town board.”
The Cornell senior also cited his vice presidency of the Seal & Serpent Society, involvement in the mock trial team and his general ILR course load as key factors in his qualifications for town supervisor.
Thus Cornell has prepared Hammond in being “well spoken, well tempered and well mannered, how to make split second decisions, going through the thought process of solving a problem that might seem hard,” he said.
Among other issues that he plans to take on, Hammond mentioned that his main priorities include rebranding of Waddington’s image, bringing in businesses and development, and retaining students after they graduate college.
Hammond is running on a promise of keeping the integrity and character of Waddington while also bringing in “new blood and a new voice in politics.”
In terms of rebranding, Hammond plans to utilize the community’s proximity to the St. Lawrence River to develop an image of Waddington as a place that people would like to stay and hang out.
“What I want Waddington to have is this appeal to people in other towns,” Hammond said of his rebranding plans. “When people want to go to the St. Lawrence River to hang out, to study, I want people to immediately think of Waddington.”
Hammond said he believes this rebranding effort could aid economic development. His plan for development also involve delegating resources to Main Street to make vendors and businesses take stake in the town.
“Our prices are a fraction of the rent cost than in Canton [the next town over] so if we can attract people to just drive 20 minutes down the road, we’d have Main Street market where people are paying less rent and making more profits.”
To some town residents who criticize this plan, the candidate maintained that his plan would result in a win-win situation for everyone, since increases in sales tax would offset residents’ property taxes.
Although the candidate has commitments as a senior at Cornell, Hammond returns to Waddington — three hours north of Ithaca — every weekend to knock on doors, engage with voters and raise awareness about the issues he cares about.
“I love this town, I grew up in this town, this town is great but if we let it stay stagnant, it can’t advance by itself,” he said, and he hopes to be the one to help those advancements.