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G-Man takes over in Monticello

First black mayor in village history

By FRITZ MAYER

MONTICELLO, NY — When a reporter from The New York Times travels to Sullivan County to interview a local politician, it means that something unusual is happening. And that’s just what happened to Gordon Jenkins after he won the race to become the mayor of Monticello.

Jenkins, who was a village trustee for a term before running for the top village office, ran on the Republican line. He also ran on the G-Man line, which is also the name of his shop on Broadway. He beat current Mayor Jim Barnicle, 523 votes to 462, and got more votes on the G-Man line than the Republican line. He is convinced the strategy helped bring him victory.

“There are a lot of Democrats here,” he said, “and some people have trouble pulling that Republican lever. I just told those voters to go with the straight G-Man line, and it worked.” The strategy also led to victory for Carmen Rue, who ran on the G-Man line for a trustee position.

Ironically, when Jenkins first explored a run for public office, he was a registered Democrat. But after starting the process, it became clear to him that the Democrats didn’t welcome his candidacy and preferred someone for the seat he wanted. He approached the Republicans who endorsed him. Now, John LiGreci, chairman of the Sullivan County Republican Committee, calls Jenkins a “rising star” in the party.

Jenkins has been a fixture on Broadway in Monticello for 18 years with a shop that sells shoes, clothing and beauty items, and hosts a steady stream of visitors from the neighborhood who drop by to chat. Jenkins, 47, also works full time as a corrections office at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Woodbourne.

One of Jenkin’s top priorities as mayor will be to revive Broadway, a street with numerous empty storefronts. He said, “I sell the same stuff as they sell in Middletown, but they keep taking their money to Middletown.”

It’s clear that the village faces numerous challenges. And the owners of Monticello Gaming and Raceway are planning to move the facility out of the village, which could mean a tax revenue loss of up to $800,000 per year. Barnicle’s plan for facing that loss was to consider dissolving the village and joining the Town of Thompson.

Jenkins doesn’t believe that’s necessarily the way to go. He said he would first consider sharing services with the town, and then try to attract more light industry to the village, which, he feels, hasn’t been done aggressively enough in the past.

Another priority for Jenkins will be stepping up the enforcement of recycling operations in the village. He said trucks that bring in recyclables mixed with garbage-even trucks belonging to the village-should be fined. The Village of Liberty has made great inroads into increasing recycling and Monticello should do the same.

Another area where Jenkins promises to remain vigilant is in enforcing building codes. Deputy village manager John Barbarite, who ruffled some feathers of powerful landlords while pursuing code violations, was fired in February allegedly for using a racial slur. Some of those landlords contributed to Barnicle’s campaign. Barbarite, however, worked hard to help Jenkins win the election and he will be hired as the new village manager after Jenkins is sworn in on April 7. Jenkins said Barbarite will continue to aggressively pursue code violations.

TRR photo by Fritz Mayer
Monticello mayor-elect Gordon Jenkins, left, discusses career options with a resident at Jenkins’ store on Broadway. (Click for larger version)